This is a follow up to the last post, “Never Do That Again“, in which 36” of snow fell in 36 hours. If you’ve been following the story, it ended here:
John had to abandon the Jeep about a mile downhill from our home because it just couldn’t push the depth of snow anymore. He walked in thigh high snow the rest of the way home. Our trail cams captured these images as he finally made it to the gate of our property (after a couple hours of walking).
In the light of day, even after more snow had fallen, we could still see the tracks he left walking home.
In the days following the snowstorm, John and I worked on recovering the Jeep and clearing paths to make life easier around here. Returning to the Jeep, of course, we found it more covered than when he had left it. Break out the snow shovels…
Well, snow shovels and snowblowers, actually.
John used our snowblower to clear a path from the house to the Jeep and, from there, it was smooth sailing – compared to walking, that is.
Standing atop the hill, we could see the tracks he had made trying to drive up. No, he wasn’t drunk nor was he fishtailing! The snow was so high, it accumulated on the hood as he drove so he had to swerve back and forth continually to throw the snow off so he could see. That’s some fancy driving, John! And, I’m sure, he was having some fun, too.
Although he had chains on all four tires (the no-shit, spikey, dig-in snow chains) and the Jeep was in 4-low, sometimes that isn’t enough. Sometimes, you end up walking no matter how much you prepare. Good thing he had his snow boots with him.
Speaking of preparing, when we moved here, we knew the area was prone to heavy snow. The family who sold us the property told us that snow can start as early as October and last until April. They explained that, in winter, they parked a vehicle at the bottom of the road (2 miles down) and used snowmobiles to get around. And we believed them.
One of the first things we bought upon moving here in 2020 was a snowmobile. John found a used one for about $500 and then, later, we bought a larger utility sled for hauling groceries and such. We’ve used it to haul everything from solar panels to stained glass windows…
True, the snowmobile didn’t do us any good a few days ago when the snow was too high and light to ride on. The snowmobile just sank and there it sat, foiling my rescue attempt.
If you find yourself in this kind of snow, you’d better be well stocked and prepared for a wait as the sun comes out and hardens the snow layer by layer. You could be waiting a while, but it will happen.
Other options include having a plow attachment for your vehicle or a snowblower. Snowblowers come in many sizes, from the size of a garden tiller to industrial behemoth-size. In our case, we opted to purchase a snowblower attachment for our tractor. The snowblower allows us to keep our road clear and flat with almost no berm. Once we clear a path, we can drive a vehicle or the snowmobiles.
Snowplows vs. snowblowers: While snowplows can push just about anything and are pretty much indestructible, snowblowers can move snow directionally. Snowplows push snow left or right as they clear a path. All that pushed snow can leave tall berms. One strong windstorm and these berms can easily undo all your work as they drift your path closed.
Snowblowers pull the snow into an auger which chews it up and throws it far from the path you’re making. Naturally, your path can be drifted in again but not as quickly as when you’re fighting tall berms.
Disadvantages: While the snow blower pulls in snow, it can also pull in other things like large rocks, fencing… anything on the ground, really. Last winter, John unwittingly came across some barbed wire in the field. It got wrapped around the auger and bent it. Another time, he came across a large rock buried in the snow. Bent again. Needless to say, John spent a lot of time outside in the cold with his blowtorch and sledgehammer heating and straightening bent steel. Fortunately, we learn.
In the spring, we bought a second auger because two is one and one is none, right?
We’re a lot more conscientious now about moving rocks off our road and keeping the fields clear of wire and buckets and other obstructions. Cows like to move things around in the summer so it’s a constant battle.
This is something to keep in mind if you’re buying a device for clearing other people’s property or for helping your neighbors who might not have planned so well. If they have cluttered property (meaning they have junk piles around), or the path to their house is hard to distinguish under snow, you should weigh the potential risk to your equipment before offering to help.
While they’ll be happy to let you dig them out, they may not be so willing to help you repair your equipment when it gets damaged in the process.
Don’t let someone else’s lack of planning become your emergency.
Most people who don’t own heavy equipment don’t realize the time and expense it takes to maintain it. They don’t consider the cost of the equipment itself, the fuel to get to the work site, the year-round upkeep, or that professional, working plow trucks have to carry liability insurance. All of these aspects factor into the cost of hiring someone to come plow you out.
Most plow trucks for-hire aren’t expensive because they’re greedy, they’re expensive because it costs a lot to run a plow truck responsibly. But, I digress…
If you’re considering living in a place where this kind of snow is a reality, prepare. Whether you prepare to get yourself out with your own equipment or hire someone with your own money, prepare. Even if your plan is to stay put and wait, you can prepare with plenty of food and supplies.
It may sound trite but, failing to plan really is the same as planning to fail. In this environment, being unprepared can end very badly.
For our part, we continue to plan. This experience taught us to err on the side of caution when a winter weather advisory is issued. While we’ll probably stay home next time, we’ll definitely stay together. We’re stocked up enough to stay here for a very long time, if need be.
For my part, I’m going to learn to drive the tractor with the snowblower attached. I’m scared because you have to drive it backward and I don’t like driving in snow anyway. It’ll be a challenge, but this is where we live.