When 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. Plowing 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 keep 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.
Add 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.
Pull 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.
Only 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.
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!!