I promised myself that I would add one of these stories here every time I told one. I tell them at one point or another throughout the summer. There will be no chronology - not yet anyway - nor will there be much of a schedule. You never know; I might add a story every day and I might not. This is my life. Every day is an adventure.


Friday, January 14, 2011

Snow, Snow and More Snow

You all know what snow is - that's that white stuff that comes to cover the ground every winter for most of you, but how much thought do you give it, really? Warm days and cold night can cause snow to melt and then freeze, making your streets and highways slippery and dangerous. Many cities keep fleets of snow removal equipment, massive snow-blowers, plows and dump trucks. Even cities in Alaska have such equipment. I really don't know all that much about how cities deal with the snow aside from what I've seen, but out here we don't have any of that equipment.

Many of us out here have some sort of groomer for making our trails nice and smooth, but still there is no snow removal involved, it is merely rearranged. There are many different styles of snow groomers, but in general they are a long piece of construction with some sort of cross-piece in the middle and at both ends for stability. The center cross-piece can have some sort of reinforcement - one we used to have had a heavy metal blade. What these contraptions do is scrape snow off high spots and drop it into low spots along the trail, and in the even that you have finally scraped all the high spots down, the snow then filters over the grooming board and onto the trail behind, of course by that time, it's quitting time - there's no real point in grooming the trail any further.

As our need for a smooth trail diminished, we traded off our long groomer. Now, our biggest concern is a smooth runway so we use a drag of some sort. Most of the time we borrow our neighbor's old steel bed-springs. It's mostly his runway and it works quite well. Our keeping it packed and groomed allows him to come and go freely whenever he wants so he doesn't begrudge us it's use.

Well that's trails and the runway, but what about the rest of the yard? The yard, like all the rest of the trail gets packed, either by the snowmachine driving round and round the house or by foot as I make at least one trip a day to the woodshed - no need to mention the outhouse. Outside of that, there's the assorted roofs.

Our generator shed is our greatest concern because it's the flattest roof we have. It is slanted but since there's no heat to help, the snow will never slide - not until we start running the diesel generator again sometime in the spring when it gets above freezing for the greater part of the day.

The woodshed is the next roof we worry about. Though build sturdier, there's no point in pushing luck and with mineral paper on top, it'll never slide. If we get some really heavy snow, I have to get up there and shovel it all off.

Our bedroom roof is also nearly flat but since the house is heated, the snow up there generally creeps off by itself, so aside from keeping an eye on it, I don't worry about it much.

The task of shoveling roofs is mostly decided by what kind of snow we are getting. Have you ever gone outside after a nice fresh snowfall and thought, "I'm going to make a snowman today."? When you have lots of snow every winter, it's something kids love to do. Now you all know how to make a good snowman. You scoop up a big two-fister of snow and start making it bigger, pretty soon you're rolling this big ball around and watching it get even bigger by the moment. But have you ever tried and had the snow just sift away between your fingers? Refusing to make a ball without a lot of force and maybe even the heat from your bare hands? This is dry snow, and dry snow doesn't pack worth a darn. It also doesn't weigh much and that's because, though it's wet and white, there's not really much water there. It's the nice big fat snowflakes that make the great snowmen.

To give you a little perspective, if you've not read earlier posts, I collect snow in buckets to melt for washing and drinking water. Nice wet snow packed into a bucket generally gives me about a half a bucket of water. So far this year the snow has been really quite dry and I'm only getting a little more than a quarter of a bucket worth of water. So, because the snow this winter (so far) is so dry, I'm not worrying about shoveling roofs (yet).

In my totally non-professional opinion, we are having something of a drought. Yeah, there's snow, and yeah there's rain in the summer. Everything is green and growing healthy, but once was the time when ten feet of snow wasn't unheard of. I've seen it twice in my time out here. I'd say average (since I've been here) is around five feet of snow. I think we're a little behind here, though I don't know what the professionals say. There's only around two feet of settled snow out there now and the temperature has been bitter cold for a long time, far longer than normal (again in my opinion), hence the dry snow.

When the temperature drops, the air can't hold as much moisture. That moisture squeezed out of the air shows up as frost coating most any surface - it can leave the trees looking really quite beautiful. Therefore, when it warms up, suddenly there's room for moisture and, wallah, snow, very dry snow. Eh, I probably have it all wrong but that's what it seems like. All I know is, when it goes from a long term of minus teen something to a degree or two above zero Fahrenheit and then it dumps two feet of snow, it's always really dry. The best snowman snow falls when it's much closer to freezing if not slightly above.

So what do you do with snow?


Nicole said...


Debbie Maxwell Allen said...

Here in Colorado (on the Front Range, at least), we've had very little snow. It gets us worried about fires in the summer. At least you're not having to get up on the roof much!


Shell said...

I can't imagine having snow all the time like that. Here is Bellingham, WA we get about 1-2 weeks of snow and not always in a row. It can easily dump ten inches of wet snow-man snow and be gone the next day. My boyfriend has a job shoveling off a flat roof downtown as snow weight can cause cave-ins. Glad you haven't had to shovel this year, yet. Interesting, too, about the "drought". We are having the opposite problem.

Anna L. Walls said...

Hello ladies. Thanks for stopping by. Debbie, my sister lives north of Denver and I grew up out there in the Great American Desert so I know about forest fires. I remember my dad worrying whenever there was a thunder storm. And Shell, at least you get to make a snowman if even only for a day. haha

Anna L. Walls said...

Facepalm moment here - my sister lives SOUTH of Denver. Gaaa I feel like such an idiot sometimes.

Mary said...

I grew up in a little town called Chardon in Ohio. We were what they the 'snow belt'. I remember having snowy winters start as early as end of Oct and go through April sometimes. Now, I live in TN. Up until this year, we saw spotty snow falls, but never lasted more than a day or two and to have enough fall to cover the ground was a real treat! This year has been different though. Today is the first day I have seen the ground without snow on it since the week before Christmas! And very cold temps for our neck of the woods! As much as I loved snow as a child, I have to say that I have enjoyed it long enough and I am ready to have spring come around again:)

Anna L. Walls said...

Thanks for stopping by, Mary. I think I would miss the snow if it only snowed once in a while and lasted for a day or two. haha But then I love winter. You drive careful this winter. Roads get icy before they look like it.

Steven said...

I use to live in Indiana when I was a child. I remember it would snow before Christmas and stay on the ground till spring. I loved playing it. My brother,sisters, and I would make the bottom part of the snowman so big it took all of us to roll the boulder around the yard. As children, when it was the powdery kind we thought it sucked. It was the question we would ask of the first person who came in after a snow fall: Is it the packing kind or the powdery? I live in South Carolina now, and almost never see snow. I actually miss it. Thanks for the memories.

Anna L. Walls said...

Thanks for stopping by, Steven. I remember doing the same thing, though I didn't have much help from siblings. They were 'too old' for such things. I lived in eastern Colorado as a kid and there almost was never enough snow for a snowman. There was one winter - I must have been only five or six - there was a huge blizzard - enough snow to bury some of the fences in the corrals around the barn. Me and my brothers all jumped off the roof of a shed into one of the drifts there. It was a lot more fun than jumping down from the loft into a pile of hay. hahahaha

Debra said...

North Carolina snows have been plentiful this year. Nothing like Alaska, of course, but enough to shut down traveling and close schools on occasion. We've never had to shovel the roof though. Nor have seen five feet of snow. I guess natives of Alaska get used the weather there.

Anna L. Walls said...

Snow is a given here, at least out here it is. Weather update: Since over the last ten days or so we've accumulated three more feet or so. The bedroom has been scraped off, as well as the generator shed. The woodshed is next on the list. Maybe tomorrow.

Mathew Bridle said...

Just how many sites do you have Anna, I'm finding you everywhere. lol

Anna L. Walls said...

haha - Hello Mathew. I have quite a few corners to my world. 3 blogs and a website. Facebook and a fan page. Half a dozen writing groups or sites. But, I still have to Google my full name to find me. haha Welcome to my life in the wilderness of Alaska.