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?