Thursday, February 25, 2021

No Fool Like An Old Fool

Anyone living in this part of NYS does not need to hear me whine about the lack of a midwinter thaw.  This year our snow cover has been continuous since the first December storm.  Every native knows the dangers of failing to clear the entire driveway.  This area was driven on before it was plowed.  The packed snow held the melt water creating an icy area that simply cannot be safely crossed.  Vehicle tires may be firmly held by the ice.  We are staying here today.

Yesterday Becky and I cleared the ramp leading to the basement.  We had considerable help from warm sunlight since nothing was done here for two full weeks.  Our vacation was the result of following the doctor's instructions concerning the time required for new skin to form on the back of my hand.  Most of another week must pass for the healing to be complete.  The ridges in the snow pack behind me show the strength of yesterday's day long sunshine.

For the first time ever, night winds blew over our trash cans spreading recycling over a wide distance.  The photo does not show the length of time necessary for me to bend far enough to reach the ground but the contents of one hand show that I was able to return to an upright position.

Both cans usually reside near the shed wall hidden from view.  The ice field likely made them easier to move but the recycling can was nearly full.  No way was I going to return them to their usual placement.  For now they are upright on the clear ground in front of the plow.  Only most of the liberated recycling was returned to the container. The larger tractor stored inside of the shed is my usual way to make the trek down the hill to the mailbox.  The ice field that extends to the door is why no mail will be sent today.  There are places in the lane where ice might prevent the tractor from climbing back up the hill.  If it got stuck, I would have the choice of walking on ice or sitting on the tractor waiting for the next thaw.

 The snow cover has been unmarked and pure white.  Apparently last night's wind snapped off the ends of pine branches which now litter the ground.  Still, this is a beautiful place to live.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Snow, Ice And Stones

In this part of New York State, a midwinter thaw is common.  It is so common that it has an easily recognized name, the January Thaw.  This is the first winter in my memory to have completely missed that event.  We have been denied the experience of walking our garden paths and inspecting just how our treasured plants are dealing with this period of hidden plant activity.  Our Cardinal Flower plants are now growing  low rosettes of brilliant bright green leaves but we cannot see them this year.

The pictured stone wall was built on a north south line with its exposed side facing west.  Since our eastern horizon is much higher that the western, more daylight warmth is captured on the western side of the wall.  This difference in the amount of sunshine can be described by our habit of walking to the base of the lane to see moon rise.  From that location we see the rising moon nearly one full hour earlier than what can be seen from this garden.  Add to that the observation that our morning skies are usually cloud filled while sunshine sometimes fills our afternoons.  This explains the relative lack of snow on one side of the top of the wall.

This edge of the wall into our basement also has a western exposure.  Since the feeling in my lower legs is growing weaker, I have developed the habit of seeing each step before I take it.  Not only does this help keep me from falling, but sometimes I see interesting stones.  Our bedrock is mostly formed of fine mud washed westward from enormous mountains that are now long gone.  The gray sedimentary wall stones show a general lack of any interesting feature save occasional marine fossils.  When the glaciers formed our river valleys, they brought with them metamorphic stones frequently of a more interesting color.  I simply cannot resist picking them up.  The long thin gray stone might have been a Native American scraper.

Fossils can be seen in the top wall stone.  I have tried to get help identifying the composition and names of these different colored stones.  The occasional chunk of coal was most likely carried here by the New York, Ontario and Western Railroad  that ran a branch line on the opposite side of the Unadilla River.  So far the identity of these colorful stones remains a mystery.

My editor may remove this last paragraph.  I had other timely photos that might fit here but I decided to keep them between my doctor and me.  At nearly seventy-seven, many changes have happened.  One is the purple bruises that frequently mark the backs of my hands.  Until last week I have avoided tearing any of this weakened skin.  That changed when the back of my hand lightly contacted the bottom of a freezer shelf.  A photo sent to my doctor resulted in a same day morning appointment.  His repair work wildly exceeded my expectations  but he said that three weeks would be required before the healing would be complete.  So I sit and wait but one week in everything looks great.


Thursday, February 4, 2021

Big Job Small Tools

To date 2021 has featured nearly nightly snowfall, no January thaw and Covid induced isolation.  Three times the snowfall was sufficient to exceed our ability to remove it leaving us trapped on site.  The recent storm required hiring the plow truck again to give us access to the highways.  That was followed by overnight small snowfalls that were well suited to our machines.  Bright sunshine followed their use revealing some of the gravel surface of the lane for the first time in weeks.

A snow blower may likely have a problem with this gravel surface.  Wishing to avoid replacing shear pins, high heeled skids were fabricated to raise the blower one inch above the ground.  Broken pins are rare but a strip of firmly packed snow is always left behind when this machine is used.  Our system is to plow the snow to the center of the lane.  Then the blower throws it well beyond the plowed snow bank that closes in on the lane.  Additional trips with the plow scrapes remaining snow away.  Today the sunlight is exposing the gravel.  A freeze will follow overnight creating strips of smooth slippery ice.  Having previously lost my footing landing on the back of my skull, I will not walk here until the ice is gone or covered with new snow.  The tractor provided safe passage to the mail box.

Our land is on the eastern side of a south flowing river.  To gain land that sloped to the south for our home, we had to cross nearly one quarter mile of messy glacial till.  When we were younger and felt that we were invincible, that long driveway did not seem like a problem.  Indeed, I frequently hand cleared the entire distance using a people powered hand pusher.  This reverse curve at the top of the long hill gives some the chance to power slide around the curves.  The child within lives on.

This third curve curve moves us to the top of the hill where the house and gardens were placed.  The huge piles of snow are the work of the plow truck driver.  He plows the lane wider than usual so that my garden tractor has a place to deposit the snow that it moves.

Our vehicles and the house are next to an area that is kept clear for no logical reason.  Winter hungry deer and birds feed here while the distant snow pile leaves room for the next snowfall.

 This is our plow tractor.  I am certain that the target market for this machine is suburban homes with short flat asphalt driveways and small lawns.  Moving straight ahead, this machine can move quite a mountain of snow but pushing it to the side is where it falls short.  The tan wooden handle behind the center of the plow is not original equipment.  As sold it was possible to change the angle of the blade while seated.  That feature failed soon after we bought the plow.  This replacement requires leaving the seat of the tractor but has otherwise worked well.  The continuous snow cover has admirably protected our plants but we would welcome enough of a thaw to clear the lane making it safe for foot traffic.