As ye shovel, so shall ye reap

You might have heard that it’s been a wee bit cool in New England this year so far.

Negative 1.3

Sometimes I’m a little slow to get going in the mornings. This morning I noticed that the “Min” 24 hour temperature was higher than the current, and the “Max” 24 hour temperature was lower. Huh? That’s totally backwards? Then I noticed the little “minus” sign.

Brutal man, brutal.

It’s almost enough to make you look forward to the next twice-a-week snow storm we have scheduled. At least when it’s snowing, it’s rarely below 20 degrees. Which… the difference between -1 and 20 degree is the same as the difference between, say, 50 degrees and 70. So 25 sounds pretty decent on a negative morning. There’s just one problem

Taken from inside where it's warm

GOOD GRIEF we have a lot of snow. And in our old New England neighborhood there is NO WHERE to put it. The last snow storm I was reduced to moving shovels-ful across the street, or walking half a mile with a loaded shovel to a narrow strip of of cleared space to dump it into my back yard. (OK ok… maybe only a quarter mile but after your first bajillion trips it gets tiring.) All the places we normally shovel our snow to are piled not only above my head, but above my flagging arm strength. I have become fearful of the avalanche danger inherent in walking out my front door.

The only consolation is this: we were sufficiently New Englanders to prepare for it.

See, the first few years I lived here I figured if I didn’t shovel, well, big deal. It would just melt tomorrow or the day after anyway. This is true, by the way, for the West Coast. Even at my homestead’s 2000 feet of elevation, it was a rare snowfall that lingered in shade for more than a week. So back in the old days (pre-kid) we might get 6 inches of snow in late December and I’d do a partial job, or I’d ignore it, or plan on “doing it later”. I can hear my fellow New Englanders chortling in Shadenfruede at the inevitable outcome of that decision. I mean, maybe… MAYBE there will be a warm snap in December that will, like grace, wipe away your snow-sin. But the more LIKELY outcome is that those slushy footprints of snow will become as hard and calcified as dinosaur footprints. The partial pathway where you dragged one shovel’s length of clarity will be the only path you can possibly walk for the next 3 months. As you hit berms of unhandled snow for the next several infinities of winter, you will curse your previous profligacy.

After a few winters, you get the idea. You tackle December and January snows as though any flake on the ground after 24 hours will be a permanent addition to your home — a lasting testament to your good character and ability to exit the house.

This year, however, Christmas threw us a curveball. As we luxuriated in the 5 star accommodations that my mother-in-law provides, a good 18 inches of snow was falling, untended, on our driveway. A late December snow. Untackled. My kind neighbors dug out our walk. (Quoth one, “Wow, you really don’t have anywhere to put the snow, do you?”) The driveway, however, was the kind of Arctic wasteland that might cause sled-teams to despair. And two weeks ago the forecast was for a snowpocalypse (rightly, as it turned out).

So we set about to right our wrongs. We went to Rounds Hardware, bought 50 pounds of rock-salt, another shovel and an industrial-strength ice-breaker. My husband and I spent an entire Saturday naptime chipping away at softened snow and walking it three miles out to the back yard to dump it. By the time our kids woke up, our driveway was bare and dry. And then we got two feet of snow. We were, my friends, justified by our work.

I think of that, as I equip my children with long poles and whistles on their way out the front door. We may be suffering, but at least it wasn’t for our stupidity. And even if we get the horrifying predictions of a foot or two of snow, at least there’s a clear path to the glacier in the back yard.
In an ironic twist of fate, I was called upon to temporarily abandon my blogging (which, seriously, if this blog gets any more abandoned it may start crying itself to sleep at nights) in order to fix a frozen water pipe. Apparently -2 degree weather can freeze pipes inside your heated home! Fun fact!

All I have to say is: hair dryers. Your best friend for insulation AND plumbing work!

At least little boys like playing in snow

Thane just likes to eat snow, and tries to make a late breakfast of the snow he gets on his shoes in the morning

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Brenda currently lives in Stoneham MA, but grew up in Mineral WA. She is surrounded by men, with two sons, one husband and two boy cats. She plays trumpet at church, cans farmshare produce and works in software.

5 thoughts on “As ye shovel, so shall ye reap”

  1. Also, salt doesn’t work at below about 21 degrees. All it does is lower the freezing temperature of the water — no heat involved. Get two dishes of ice cubes. Put rock salt on one and none on the other. Leave them for about 15 minutes and take their temperature — gazooks! That is amazing. Also, measure the water melted off. Science rules!


  2. If my grandsons get any cuter it will be illegal. Seriously. Great shots. The new camera was more than justified. Give them and yourselves huge hugs for me. Just wish I was with you instead of all that snow.


  3. OMG. Good for you for tackling that driveway, as woeful as that must have been. Hope no more pipes freeze, and STAY WARM up there!


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