Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Long Driveway

This photo requires an explanation as few clues about its subject are obvious.  The S curve of our lane passes between a hedgerow and a thicket of wild berry bushes.  A white arching plume of snow can be seen but the machine moving the snow is hidden from view.  When our move here was in the planning stage, I intended to live here happily until I was found face down in the garden.  Actively working right to the end was the plan.  Absolutely no thought was given to the possibility that a long slow decline might precede my final exit.  Now some things that were once taken for granted are presenting a challenge.

In the beginning of our time here, a hand snow pusher was the only tool used to remove modest snowfalls from the driveway.  A hired plow was called in for deeper storms.  After he stalled at the top of the hill leaving a mountain of snow blocking our road, a better solution needed to be found.  A small lawn tractor with plow served us well for years until the transmission failed while pushing snow up that same hill.  The repaired tractor still serves for small snowfalls but a tougher tractor equipped with a snow blower handles larger storms.  This picture would be more impressive if the snow plume was in a higher arch. Cold windblown snow stinging my face would be the result of a more impressive  snow discharge.  A close look at the volume of snow leaving the chute is worth an audible "wow".

Siting the house at a considerable distance from the road seemed like the logical choice at the time. We own only a tiny amount of road frontage so there was really no other choice.  The first gap in the snowbank is the shared lane that marks the spot where our land opens up.  The town road is near the top of the photo.  Sometimes I lure delivery drivers in by sanding this slope.  If they think that they can drive all the way to the house, they are committed once they crest this hill.  Now the dark gravel is beginning to peek through the snow.  It will warm with trapped sunlight and the lane will soon be clear of snow here.

Our S curve cannot be seen from the road but to date every driver that has reached this point has made it all the way to the top.  I clear enough width so that two vehicles can squeeze by each other here. When we leave the house we cannot see if someone else is driving up the lane.  If conditions warrant it, sand is also spread here but I tend to be miserly guarding the sixty gallon sand stash stored in the basement.  It must last until the spring thaw.

This final curve leads to the meadow that we call home.  Two days and two machines were required to handle the recent storm of unusual size.  The snow blower  can move an impressive amount of snow but it seems to be always on the verge of getting stuck.  Its rear wheels move downhill into untouched deep snow whenever the going gets hard.  One pass was made during the middle of the storm so that the tractor could move snow without becoming stuck.  A second effort followed the end of the snowfall.  We only almost became mired several times as learning how to operate this machine is ongoing.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that the tasks that must be completed in order to live here are tending toward becoming beyond my ability to complete them.  If my customary good luck continues, I will leave here just before nature overwhelms me.  The two decades that this land has been ours have been filled with a lifetime of encounters with the natural world.  When we do leave, we will take this blog with us so that we can revisit the happy years spent here.

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