Saturday, February 9, 2008

The whole book, not just a chapter --"Snowblowing 101"

“No job is too small or too big for a snow blower. From the humblest light powdering to the heaviest blizzards, there’s a machine designed to clear the way.” I read that on a snowblower advertisement. And have we got a machine-not just a snowblower, nope. It is a John Deere 924DE Snow Thrower!
My experiences with snowblowing are fairly vast.

We have had record snows this year. People are saying things like: “This is like the winters we used to have when I was a kid.” To me, that says lots because usually nothing compares to “when I was a kid.”

Bob travels every week—usually just barely getting out before the snow storm arrives and returning just after the driveways have all been cleared.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I actually like to snowblow our driveway. It is one of those things that gives you a sense of accomplishment. You can see where you have gone. Bob used to ask me to fertilize the grass with our 12 inch wide (Bob says 18 inches) push grass spreader. Now I really did not like doing that! I told him that if the grass got greener, right behind me, I really wouldn’t mind. It is when you can’t see where you’ve gone that it is discouraging. Not only can I see where I have gone but our snow thrower makes a 25” path—I know. I have measured it.

Following the snowblower around reminds me that I am not a wimp that calls “Jerry and Co. Snow Removal”. Those are a couple of boys in our neighborhood that we use when we are going to be out of town. They are available other times but I like knowing that I can do it myself. (Oooh, I don’t like how two year oldish that looks on the screen.)

Another thing is that I get really warm doing it. But I don’t really sweat like when I try to exercise. It is a cold kind of warm. Still there is this sense that, “This is really good for me and I can probably eat a tiny more today.”

Our machine is an excellent piece of equipment. It sort of makes you smile just following it around and watching how far and high the snow goes. It has five gears forward and two reverse. Usually it even plows right through the end of the drive where the city plow leaves huge mounds.

This snowblowing experience did not come naturally to me. For the first couple of years, I would come in looking like the abominable snowman and wonder why my neighbor Jim was smiling at me rather knowingly after my admirable job of clearing the driveway. That was before I learned about not blowing the snow into the wind.

Then I used to think that if I used it in the 5th gear forward, it would blow the snow farther and I would do a better job. I did that a few times with the snowblower whipping me around corners. I noticed that drew a crowd of smiling neighbors as well so now an enlightened me does the driveway in 3rd gear. I notice also when I go a bit slower, my hands are not all tingly after I finish.

One time the snow was quite deep and I ran right over a newspaper near the end of the driveway. It took Bob days, not hours, to remove that newspaper in very small pieces. Now I carefully look for dimples in the snow that could be newspapers. I have even been known to go kick around a bit in the snow just to make sure we are all clear.

I really am quite proud of my expertise. Just recently I couldn’t help wanting to give my hubby a bit of advice telling him that I start by going down the center of the driveway and then just do circles around to the left so that I don’t ever have to crank the way the snow blows. He didn’t even respond.

Even that pattern that I have worked out had its own pitfalls early on because I used to always accidently blow snow into the garage. There is a real knack to knowing when to release the lever in the one hand to stop the snow blowing/throwing and when to use the lever to start again.

This year I have been more effective at getting the snowblower started. Hubby pointed out the electric start and I wrote directions and laminated them and hung them in the garage. I have had no shoulder problems since then.

The snowblower is kept on this little board inside the garage door and I am getting better at remembering to release that lever when getting it up so I don’t entirely chew up the board.

Also, hubby Bob, pointed out that there is a neutral position that makes it much easier to push 8 inches to the outlet for the electric start. For a long time, that was the hardest part for me because it is heavy and I was muscling it while in gear.

I thought I really had the whole process mastered and I love getting new snow to freshen everything up again and did I mention that this is a year of record snows. However, this week I learned another valuable lesson.

The snow was really really wet. It was so wet that the John Deere 924DE Snow Thrower choked a few times at the end of the driveway but recovered when I got out in the street and then choked again as I headed back to the garage. This had never ever happened to me before. I discovered that underneath that snow was a veritable lake—due to the drain at the end of the street being completely clogged and the water having no place to go. Rather than throwing out this nice proud spray of snow, it sort of dripped out over the edge and then on one of the last trips, nothing at all came out. Hmm. . . thinking that unusual, I stopped and looked. We used to read a book to the kids called, Katy and the Big Snow. I knew then that our JDST was no Katy.

Needless to say, the snow was totally packed tight in the funnel where it usually came out. So I muscled JDST to its resting place in the garage. I went in and had something to eat which always makes me think better. I really did not want to call Bob and tell him that I broke the snowblower. I knew now, and had great empathy for people that put fingers and hands in snowblowers to unclog them. It is so very tempting but I was wise enough to resist the urge. Reaching up to my wet hair was inspiring and I ran and got my hair dryer. I held it for many minutes making slow progress on melting the frozen lump. It finally loosened enough that I could take a stick and lift out a big hunk of frozen icey snow. I could see though that more work needed to be done. As I was getting tired of holding the hair dryer, I remembered that I have a heating pad. It is not used frequently but I keep it tucked away in case of a sore muscle or cold feet. I knew that would take awhile so I plugged it in and lay it on top of the JDST and went and almost forgot while I watched a movie. After the movie, I went and checked and to my delight, the big chunks were loose. I started the machine and sure enough it blew the remaining snow right out of the funnel. I was quite relieved and happy.

The next morning, I tried again—avoiding our lake and quite adequately cleared our walks and a light dusting of snow on the driveway. I even entertained the idea of driving a zamboni sometime.

Bob returned soon afterwards and later that day said with a question in his voice, “Brenda, the heating pad is plugged in and hot on the side of the garage?”

Woops! Sometimes in my excitement, I forget important details. After explaining the whole story to Bob, he smiled and generously said, “Thanks, Babe, for doing the driveway.”

And that, friends, is another reason why I love him.

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