Friday, December 22, 2017
It is unusual for the ground here to be bare this late in December. Much of our snow is delivered by winds coming from the northwest. Cold polar air sweeps across Lake Ontario stealing moisture from the still liquid lake. Our lake effect snowfalls fail to make the news headlines most days since the one hundred miles separating us from the source of the snow limits the amount that falls here.
This is the first curve as the driveway exits the pasture where the house was placed. There was not even a path here when we bought this land. The truck would be parked some distance away and the gardening tools were pushed uphill in a wheelbarrow. Following the scheme of the ancient Romans, cobblestones removed from what would become planting beds were dumped here establishing a base for the lane. Many wheelbarrow loads of gravel from the nearby borrow pit were pushed uphill to create a usable road surface. This summer the birthday bobcat was used to spread and smooth this surface since rainwater erosion carries away the surface fines. When I was in my mid fifties this work was completed with hand tools. Now in my early seventies I need huge machines.
The mystery of an S curve is visually appealing. Robert Frost may have written about the call of the unknown that lies just around a corner out of sight. Part of the Fall leaf harvest can be seen piled in front of the stone wall rebuilt along the property line. The huge cherry tree is on the other side of the wall. Sadly it is dying. Since it is owned by my absentee neighbor, the nearly dead tree is his responsibility. That fact will be of little comfort if the tree falls across my road. Perhaps I should buy a chain saw. The hand powered bow saw that has carried me this far will be of no use on a tree of this size. I did recently contract with a tree removal service to remove several large lower branches that grew over the curve. Small fallen branches frequently litter the lane but none have hit me yet. The tendency is to move quickly here.
I was still employed when we first came to this land. Arrangements were made to have the driveway plowed but that service would kick in only if the snowfall exceeded four inches. I used a hand snow pusher to clear lesser snowfalls. That task took the entire day but school would be closed because of the storm so the day was mine. A snowfall never made be miss or be late for work. I was once closely overflown by a bald eagle while outside clearing snow. The presence of that majestic bird and the silence created by gently falling snow made for an unforgettable experience.
Here the lane drops to the county road. This was part of the road that was used to reach the gravel bank. It was deeply rutted and narrow when we first found this place. Hand tools and many years were required to dig the ditches that now line both sides of the lane. Most of that work here was done by torrents of rain water. Venturing out with my potato hook during heavy rainstorms was seen as a boy playing in the rain by the woman of the house. As is usually the case, her analysis of my behavior was right on.
This road surface is maintained using the lawn cart pulled behind the garden tractor. A recent discovery is that water added to a load of gravel to make what resembles mortar results in an easily smoothed substance that packs rock hard under the wheels of the pickup truck. Timing is a critical part of the packing since wheels sink into the surface if it is excessively wet. This surface has frozen twice so far this season. If it remains frozen for the plowing that must be close by, this road surface will remain in good condition.
If you are sharp eyed, you likely saw a leaf on the road surface in picture number two. This is not the former location of that fallen oak leaf. Winter wind just blew this leaf away. We really try not to stage our pictures.
This smaller lawn tractor has no home in the shed. It rests under a custom cover but is exposed to exploitation by the furry critters that are the true owners of this land. Field mice build nests in open areas of the engine. Entry is found next to the starter motor with the nest located on top under the screen cover that spins when the engine is running. Clearing the fluff from under the screen is within my skill set but removing the cowling and cleaning the starter requires a mechanic. The tractor is parked on fresh gravel intended to limit easy access to dried grass. A mesh bag containing moth balls hangs just under the hood. So far so good. The tractor was uncovered and the engine started today. This preventative action has never been required in the past. More frequent snowfalls kept the machines primed and ready for action.
The larger lawn tractor does exist under a roof. This shed was built for a single tractor. Rugged winters made us see the need for a larger machine. Keeping this beast moving in the intended direction is a major problem. It wants to slide to the side into deep snow. It has taught me that a machine stuck in the snow when moving downhill is really stuck. Now the plow is used to push snow into the level center of the drive. Then the blower is called in to move this snow far away from the lane.
There is no snow cover for the plants. My decision to leave the fallen pine needles in place has proven uncharacteristically wise. The flower buds that presently exist here are nestled in an open coat of cover. Still, snow cover would really help the plants.
Becky saw this sedum growing in the stone wall near the house as a Christmas star. Despite the hand numbing cold of the season, this is a wondrous place to live.