Wednesday, February 2, 2011

How To Remove Snow - When You Don't Own A Snowblower

In case anyone has missed it, there was a massive amount of snow dumped on pretty much the entire United States in the past twenty-four hours. There are all sorts of great posts by people out there having fun in the snow, but we had a slightly more practical matter at hand.

Where we live, we received in excess of 20 inches of snow. And it had drifted. A lot. We also own no snowblower. My husband called me hard core this morning, pointing out that since this snow didn't make me want to go buy a snowblower, nothing would. He's right. Except for possibly living in Buffalo where snows like this are de rigeur.

Instead, I've compiled my lessons learned over the past ahem years living in cold climates from Minnesota to Chicago to Connecticut. And yes, our driveway and sidewalks are now cleared.

Top Ten Tips For Clearing Snow

10) Choose your instrument wisely. I love my shovel. First, it has a lifetime guarantee, so I don't worry about breaking it. Second, it's the right size for me so I can get enough snow picked up with each scoop to be effective without getting so much that I can't lift it and risk a heart attack. Did I mention that it has a metal blade at the bottom for scraping all the way to the bottom? Oh, and it has sides, which means snow doesn't fall off as you're lifting, unlike the wee ones' shovels.

9) Don't wait until the snow has stopped falling to start clearing. Yeah, it's no fun to shovel multiple times, but it is so much easier to shovel three inches than it is to shovel twenty. Of course if your snow is later turning to freezing rain, forget I said that. It's easier to shovel ice encrusted snow than it is to remove straight ice from your driveway.

8) When you're shoveling, figure out which way is downwind. It was windy today when we were shoveling. The wind was blowing north to south. Our driveway runs east/west. Shoveling the south half of the driveway was breeze (pun intended?). The north half of the driveway? I kept forgetting to not throw the snow and instead carefully place it on our ever growing pile. The end result? Snow in my face and down my jacket, making me very cold.

7) Shovel early in the day. I don't say this simply because it's better not to procrastinate and yadda yadda. When you get most of the snow off your driveway and you have a blacktop driveway, the sun quickly heats up the surface and will melt the "leftover" snow, making things so much easier for you.

6) Figure out where the edges of your driveway are early on. If you don't establish your boundaries when you first start shoveling - especially if you live somewhere that produces more snow before your first snow melts - you'll slowly lose ground. Your ten foot wide driveway that is plenty big enough to get in and out of will become a nine and a half foot driveway when you just get it mostly shoveled. Then it will melt and freeze and harden and snow again. Your next shoveling gives you a nine foot wide driveway, and so forth. Not that this has ever been a problem for me. Nope, not here!

5) Try to shovel before walking or driving on your snow. It's much easier to pick up fresh snow than it is to get snow or ice that's been ground into your driveway, especially if it's concrete and not blacktop. If you have to drive, shovel your tire tracks as soon as possible so they don't freeze into a slippery mess you can never remove.

4) Enlist help in your shoveling. The wee ones have their own shovels, and they actually sort of enjoy helping out. Of course, their version of "helping" frequently means putting snow back where I just removed it, but they're learning. Slowly. My husband is fortunately a much better help. Or I'm good help for him. We help each other. It makes the shoveling go that much faster, especially when we're both determined to show the other that we're working harder and shoveling more.

3) Make sure you clear out the area in front of your mailbox that your local snowplow "accidentally" forgets to plow. We learned the hard way that Mr. Mailman will not deliver unless there is a clear path to the mailbox from ten feet before to ten feet after the mailbox itself. Because he left a nasty government note and refused to deliver our mail two years ago after the snowplow stopped plowing about two feet from the edge of the street for some unknown reason. Granted, this year I'm debating simply picking up my mail daily until April since there is 20 plus inches of snow six feet out from my mailbox because our village has apparently decided we only need one lane in our neighborhood. And I simply can't shovel that much snow.

2) Don't forget to have fun with the snow once it's cleared. This time around, we had enough snow for the wee ones to build an igloo or two. They thought it was the coolest thing ever - far cooler than the snow angels we usually do (we found out it was literally too deep to make snow angels this time around) or snowmen, which we may yet do.

And the number one way to get rid of snow when you don't own a snowblower?

Make friends with your neighbors who own snowblowers. Today, a neighbor saw us struggling to shovel. After he'd finished his (larger) driveway after having started before we did, he walked over with his two stage snowblower on steroids and asked if we wanted help. Given that the snow was deeper than the intake on even his massive snowblower, we weren't about to turn that down. He was a huge help and a major reason it took us only two hours to do the driveway and sidewalk today. I've had other neighbors come by before - generally the boys down the way who this year opened a business to do your driveway for $5 per inch (they cleaned up today!). That said, I've also had the nice village snowplow man - who was nowhere in sight today - see me pathetically shoveling on my own and do a detour to clear out the bottom section of my driveway. It's always appreciated, and yes, we thank people with a case of nice beer. Ok except the neighbor kids. We find alternate thank you gifts for them!

So how was your snow day today?


Susie February 2, 2011 at 7:58 PM  

Our snow day was awesome!! We just bought our snowblower this fall. Smartest thing we ever did:-)

Kimberly February 2, 2011 at 8:02 PM  

My 14 year old officially stated that he'd donate allowance money toward a family owned snowblower!

Hyacynth February 2, 2011 at 8:59 PM  

We have a snowblower. And our neighbor came with a GIANT snowblower and helped. I guess I need to give him a case of beer. ;)
We would have been out there for hours.
Glad you have a generous neighbor!

As Cape Cod Turns February 2, 2011 at 9:23 PM  

Excellent snow shoveling advice! Love the igloos and am jealous that you have enough snow for them! Yup, I said it, JEALOUS!
The Cape got lot and lots and lots of rain. Kind of hard to go sledding on it, but there was no need to shovel! February 3, 2011 at 9:40 AM  

It was crazy. Pat was stranded so I was alone but Justin helped a bit and then the neighbors pitched in near the end. My back is ACHING!

Joanna Jenkins February 3, 2011 at 6:22 PM  

Whoa! That is A LOT of snow but it looks like you've figured out how to move it around and have fun.
Cheers, jj

Unknown February 4, 2011 at 9:03 PM  

We have a snow blower and had a little clean up party on our street. Eight houses done in a little over two hours, but there was no beer involved :(

Pat February 5, 2011 at 9:48 AM  

Makes me glad I live where it almost never snows, and if it does, it's only a few inches and it's gone by the next day.

Great exercise--shoveling snow. I like that your kids helped, too. It sounds like you have some very nice neighbors.

And what fun!!! making a snow cave!

Stay warm.

PS You have a lovely house!

Jenn M February 5, 2011 at 1:09 PM  

Yup don't leave it for a one time snow shovel. IT does suck to get out multiple times, but at least that way you don't risk a heart attack lol

And wow, that is a lot of snow. We get a lot here but not that much.

Laural Out Loud February 5, 2011 at 10:19 PM  

11) Live in San Diego, where it never snows, but where people freak out when it rains.

I have to admit that while I'm glad I'm not out shoveling, I do miss living where it snows!! Snow forst are the BEST.

septembermom February 6, 2011 at 7:54 PM  

You all must be exhausted after all that shoveling! We have a snow blower so we're lucky. My oldest son has taken over that task this year and my husband feels liberated. We all get out our shovels to help with the walkways and the driveway sides. It's a big driveway. The ice was horrible last storm. We need to buy an ice pick for the next one. Great pictures Michelle!

Michelle February 7, 2011 at 8:47 PM  

Susie - I think it would be fun to have a snowblower in a way, but ... is it wrong that I actually enjoy shoveling? Just not quite *that* much.

Kimberly - So are you taking him up on his offer?

Hy - Yeah, I think that neighbor deserves a case of beer. Our neighbor was thrilled when we brought him some on Saturday. Good timing, too!

Sue - I'd be jealous... for a day. Then I'm done with it.

Tracey - Oddly, I had just one tiny section of one arm that was sore - about a 2 inch section. Bizarre. I'm really grateful it wasn't my back. I hope yours is feeling better now!

Joanne - Yep, it's the third largest snowfall in Chicago history. Whee.

Megryansmom - You need better neighbors. You were out that long and nothing? Tsk tsk....

Pat - The cave was fun. Sadly, today it's starting to fall down a little, but that's ok. And that isn't our house... that's a neighbor snowblowing :) Ours isn't nearly as nice.

Laura - Well yeah... there is always that option. *sigh*

Kelly - I was definitely tired at the end, but it's good for me, right? I can't wait until the wee ones are truly able to take over some of those tasks, or at least that they can truly help and take on a share.

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