Farm Life: “The snow plans it”

IMG_2385When debating whether to hire a contractor to plow our association’s roads, purchase a truck with the plow or a tractor with a blade, I consulted with my local sources: heavy machine operators who do road work for us and nearby farmers.  They all agreed, even the guys who get paid to plow, that we would do better getting our own equipment rather than waiting for them to be available after a storm.  “Miserable work”, “I’m not looking for more roads to plow”, “I’d come over if you couldn’t get someone else”.  So, if you are regular reader, you know that last summer I purchased  Kabota 5740 tractor with front plow and back blade.  In one of my conversations with a farmer in which we analyzed snow density, storm directions, wind speed and other factors that would determine what type of snow load, he cut through my overly-educated taxonomy with the phrase, “The snow plans it.”  Short and right on.

Since winter has set in, we have had three sequential storms with eight inches of snow each in a one week period.  We have had a Polar vortex spin down from the Arctic north.  We had an Alberta Clipper and Nor’easter collide over us.   Not only did they bring snow, snow, snow, but bitter cold.  We are used to January and February having a couple of weeks when our mountains stays around 20F.  But these two systems dropped the thermometer to -8F and -5F at night, with sunny 15F and 10F days.

If you are observant, you may notice that my tractor has a sun shade, but no enclosed cab.  I get all the thrill of elements while driving back and forth.  That could include those ambient air temperatures, snow falling, snow blowing off branches, and wind chills.  IMG_2423Plowing the whole association takes 4 to 6 hours.   I can break the day up into segments with time near our or a neighbor’s woodstove with a cup of tea and soup.  But, I may still be outside for a couple of those hours at a time.  Here is what I have learned about keeping warm (thanks to numerous Christmas gifts from those who were concerned about my lack of body girth).

Layers and quality gear are the secret.

Before setting out the line up of clothes, open a par if boot warmers.  These are one-use packets that you expose to air, shake up, and drop into your boots to IMG_2409keep your feet warm.  They last for 6+ hours, so I put them in my boots about 20 minutes before going out to let the process start before I am ready to put my feet in the boots.

Socks are next.  Two are best.  My wife has fancy-out-door-sports sock liners.  I just used a light weight sock inside a heavy sock.

Between the socks, don your long-johns, tucking the ankle section between sock one and two.  Layers, layers, layers.

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IMG_2413Add your long underwear top, preferably with a mock turtle neck collar.  Santa brought me some ultra-trendy Under Arm bottoms and tops.  With all that spandex, even I can feel like the mighty Hulk about to explode out of them with every muscle contraction.  No wonder athletes wear these.

Tuck the long underwear top between the long-john and the fleece pants that you got for skiing.  Layers, layers, layers.  Add a long sleeve shirt and sweat shirt to your liking.  You better prepare to be outside in about 10 minutes least you pass out from heat exhaustion.

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IMG_2424Pull on your insulated coveralls from the farm store.  I go for the suspender style so that I can wear a separate insulated jacket over it.  This lets me take off the jacket when warming up at a friend’s cabin, without having to explain the fleece pants.  And, I find the coveralls front pockets are good places to tuck jerky and other snacks.  Cold air uses a lot of energy.  Between the sweat shirt and jacket, a scarf stops any drafts around your neck.

Now, put those boots on, positioning the boot warmer under your toes, arch, or heel depending on what you find comfortable (none are to me, but under the arch is the least annoying).

For the hands I were Thermoskin arthritis gloves, then oversized gloves.  While this is a bit bulky, I am not doing any detailed coordination tasks.  Turning the ignition key is the most difficult task with two layers of hand-wear.  I can easily turn the wheel and operate the plow/blade hand levers.

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IMG_2425Only your head now had the possibility of being exposed.  A face mask with removable mouth/nose cover, and hat with ear flaps leaves only about 8 square inches of skin expose, 12 when you need to blow your nose.

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With all these layers, forget the snow bunny look.  Troll is more descriptive.  But, I’m plowing a road, not trying to find a date at the sky lodge.

Mid-January… Three major storm systems so far.  Four more predicted through February by the Almanac.  And those are the BIG ONE’S!!

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About hermitsdoor

Up here in the mountains, we have a saying, "You can't get there from here", which really means "We wouldn't go the trouble to do that". Another concept is that "If you don't know, we ain't telling." For the rest, you'll have to read between the lines.
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12 Responses to Farm Life: “The snow plans it”

  1. The Vicar says:

    It must take an hour to get dressed to go out and plow the roads for 4-6 hours, and then peeling off the layers must be quiet a process too. Oh ya, then there is the stopping at the neighbors to warm up. That’s a full day! If you have to go to the bathroom anytime during the day, then you are looking at overtime.

  2. Barneysday says:

    Just about the time I’d get all layered up, as the “Vicar” suggests, I’d have to go, and then its a scramble to get out of everything. I think the fact that you do this in the open air without any kind of cab or even windshield is incredibly brave, and obviously a young man’s job. Interestingly, I purchased some of these winter articles in preparation for the winter here, and what I should have purchased was sun screen! Go figure.

    • hermitsdoor says:

      While your are out working on your winter tan, you could read about the Donner Party’s attempt to cross the Sierras in winter. Nineteen feet of snow? What that how deep it was that year?

      • Barneysday says:

        Actually, two years ago there was 13 feet at Shaver Lake, 2000 feet higher and 6 miles away. Houses were actually buried. And now, plants are blooming in mid-January. But don’t worry, the Repubs and El Rushbo assure us there is no global warming.

  3. Those of us experiencing this crazy winter can really appreciate this post! Happy plowing – you certainly seem prepared.

  4. Mother Suzanna says:

    I had a good laugh…I thought you were putting that stuff on to go fly fishing!!! Thought your scarf was particularly nice! Do you REALLY do all the roads in the community of Cove Creek? or are you just practicing?

  5. The down-side of that beautiful white stuff. Put a down jacket over all that and you could go to Ukraine.

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