Sunday, January 06, 2013

Winters I have known

This time some more photos, but mostly of more recent vintage - like last weekend.

And before.

Snow. We gots it.

Knowing that unlike the tropics, where my in-laws live, we live in The North which is known for snow. As differentiated from Massachusetts (aka, The Tropics) where they only received about 6 inches of snow I knew that we were supposed to receive 12+ inches. So, during the multiple hour drive that was the journey home, I was mulling over my plan of attack for when we arrived. Fully anticipating having to post-hole to the front steps, start a fire, change into snow clothes, and mow the snow with the snow mower (aka, The Rampaging Snow Beast). We arrived home after our Christmas sojourn to find this awaiting us:

Be it ever so snowbound . . .

As you can see, it's a fair amount of snow.

As you can also see, I have nice good neighbors.

We parked across the street in that neighbors driveway and strolled up to our steps to begin the process.

The cats were thrilled to see us and jump into our warm, cozy laps.

For which they had good reason.

Once inside and aware of the state of things within the homestead, my bride's glance was almost as frosty as the reading on the thermo meter. For instead of the anticipated 60-something that I had thought the house would remain at, we found it a less than agreeable 43 degrees.

While not an unreasonable exterior temperature, most women I know tend to be chilly in a reasonable indoor environment.

By most standards, 43 does not qualify for that description.

We have radiant heat in two floors and a wood stove. Seven feet tall and magnificent to behold, it is a wondrous thing when in full burn. But, it is manually operated. Sooooo, when we're gone, no fire. No heat. Just the ground floor and the partial second floor doing their radiant heat thing.

In late December in northern Vermont.

Said wondrous stove can heat you right out of this domicile. Given time.


No forced air, no oil-fired furnace with its immediate gratification of hotly desired heat (pun intended).

So, load up the stove with wood, stuffing little pieces in every nook and cranny in the burning area and break out the god of fire. Then change into my snow mowing clothes - warm pants, Sorel boots, thick socks, heavy coat, warm gloves, warm stocking hat, and head outside to where the temperature was cold, but the atmosphere a bit warmer than inside.

My bride awaited the arrival of a livable temperature while having to wear her coat inside her home.

Me? I sought out the warmth and solace of the winter afternoon in the interim. 

This is what awaited me:

16 inches of winter goodness.
There are places where it was worse, but there are places where it was less. I had just left one.

Fortunately I have a snow blowing beast of burden to ease my physical labors in situations like this.


Those of you that have lived in such a clime know that regardless the ability of the snowblower, there are many places where it cannot remove snow. Removing snow from these places thusly requires substantial personal physical effort despite the ownership of such wonderful mechanical contrivances.

But I digress.

Still, it can move an awful lot of the snow that it can reach. That's the charm of these beasties.

So, to it I went, stopping to document some of the level of effort required:

Actually, it was worse than it appears.
So, some of it was higher than the snowbeast, which requires additional effort and time to tame. I worked out some techniques, shoveling the snow down to fit the intake of the snowbeast being the best of these. Throw the excess snow on the ground and get it with an additional pass.

My neighbor is a smart, thoughtful guy, senior to me with the knowledge that comes with that status. He frequently avails me of said knowledge, especially when I ask.

So I asked him the best way to deal with the snow when it is piled up higher than the snowbeast.

"Don't let it get that high, hit it with the snowblower before then."

Erudite in its simplicity. Not much help when you're not around however.

I was reminded of previous times that I've removed snow.

I still remember this.

At one point in my career I found my self stationed with a Special Forces unit located at the foot of the Bavarian Alps, an hour south of München (Munich). Being stationed at the base of the Bavarian Alps, we naturally availed ourselves of said natural resource for our winter activities.

Especially those of the downhill ski training type.

So, in January of '81 we found ourselves conducting our annual ski training on the Brauneck, a local mountain with which we were familiar. With slopes suitable for training thereon as well as locales suitable for the cultural training aspect of it. For we are trained in the local languages, customs, and cultures. Said cultures, customs, and languages we are expected to maintain proficiency in.

Perforce fluency even.

Such cultural activities including, but not limited to, availing ourselves of the locals highly prized and proudly served malt and barley beverages. Said beverages to be consumed under the cloaking activity frequently referred to as "lunch". There are many places wherefore to stop by and undertake said cultural activities, and we being very familiar with the mountain had developed preferences.

So, to one such preferential locale on the mountain did we retire to.

We stopped by a place whose owners we were familiar with, and they with us. While greeting her and trying to sort out our orders, it came up that with the extraordinary snow fall of this season she had a problem. While she had managed to dig out the front of the establishment, she needed to dig out the back. She hadn't gotten to it yet. So, we offered to dig it out for her. We knew them well and she was no longer as spry as she had been as a bride.

Under all that snow was a supply shed that she accessed on a near daily basis. We dug a way from the kitchen door of the hütte to the shed for her as her husband had died in the fall and they had not yet adjusted to his absence.

Eventually the kids took over running the hütte but we gave her a hand in the interim.

Americans still receive a warm welcome there to this day, for this represents but one of many incidents of assistance with these folks.

But especially tall ones, for the vertically challenged among our group were unable to heave the snow high enough to gain "escape velocity" as it were. At 6'4" I was challenged to do so as we got towards the bottom.

So, the snow at home this week is back in perspective for me.

Oh yeah, frigid home and hearth. After a couple of hours of clearing snow from the driveway and truck it was time to park the car in the driveway.

And start the unloading.

Then burn another load in the stove.

We managed to raise the indoor temp to 60 by the time we retired for the evening. It was 67 by the next morning when we arose from our slumbers and the house was much warmer in more ways than one.

marcus erroneous


  1. I... don't even know what to say. Holy crap. I live in Florida. Yesterday was a high of 77 and tomorrow will be 81. I'm barefoot and thinking I need to put on shorts. These long pants are too hot.

    And I'm not saying that as in, 'Oh look at us!' but as in, "I so don't identify... at all".

    And for a home to get that cold? I joke often of the time I refused to turn on the heat during a cold snap and told everyone to suck it up and wear more clothes. I wasn't going to pay FPL for heat. We live in FL. The house got down to 50 degrees one night and my 2nd son had a meal worm project on the windowsill. We think it got to 40... we thought they had frozen to death the next morning when he went to take it to school, but they'd gone into some sort of hibernation. You failed if you killed your meal worms, but when my son pleaded, "My Mom refused to turn on the heat!" and it was so cold out... she took pity on him. Fortunately, they came alive.

    I turned on the heat after that. I thought my boys were going to shank me in my sleep. Besides, my husband was pissed. "I work too hard to come home to an ice cold home..."


    But that was one instance. And there wasn't 6 feet of snow. And my entire home was not 40 degrees.

    I'm... blown away. Holy crap.

    1. I grew up someplace with no snow, except in the mountains. Surf in the morning, ski in the afternoon sort of thing. All this familiarity with snow came during my adult life. My first winter was during 77-78 up in New England. I'd just been stationed there and went through two bad blizzards. That's actually worth a post in itself.

      We still have a house in North Tampa. We did the reverse Snow Bird thing, we moved from Tampa to Vermont, though we knew what we were doing. My bride is from New England and I've spent enough time living in snow caves and out in the cold that we were familiar with what we were getting ourselves into. In our house in Tampa, we would run the heat about twice a year for a few hours in the morning. Didn't really need much more than that. With 16 palm trees in our yard, cold was not really an issue where we lived there.

      Yeah, we were very surprised that the house got that cold. We're trying to figure out how to prevent that the next time we leave during winter. It wouldn't be so bad, but without an oil or gas burning furnace, it takes hours to change the temp. Wish us luck.


  2. Can you hire someone to come in the day before you come home to get the heat started? Maybe there is some company that specializes in that?

    There is another blogger I read that did all that snow stuff in the military (Marines). He ended up in horrible places like Adak. Blech.

    My husband is from NJ. I think he'd die a thousand deaths before he went back.

    1. Actually, that is one of our options. We have someone that takes care of the dog and cats when we don't or can't take the dog. We were discussing having her come in and start a fire every other day while we're gone during winter months.

      The two lower floors have radiant heat and I noticed that the recirculating pumps are set for low. I've contacted the owner to see if we can turn them up to medium or high to better heat the place when we leave.

      I need to do some posts that cover adventures in winter camping ;-) that I've had. I've had hypothermia - didn't know that, got in touch with an old friend, the team medic, who mentioned it to me and I have no memory of the event. I've got other things that are probably worth sharing.

      What we don't have up here is 80 degrees and 100% humidity at 5:30 AM while I'm walking the dog in August or September. I don't miss that.

  3. I reread your heating portion of the post before I had answered. I wasn't sure if that was an option, turning something on. He may actually know if turning them to High or Medium really works. Then again... you may be finding out for him.

    You may not have to start a fire every other day. You might get away with once or twice a week. I guess that depends on how well insulated the home is.

    I was training for a marathon a few years back. You have to train for months in advance, so to run a marathon in S. FL... for January... you have to start in June. I found myself getting up at 3AM to go running by 4:30, to try to get 1.5 hours before the sun came up. It would still be 80 degrees with 100% humidity. It was absolutely miserable. And then the sun would peak out and I'd wish I was dead. Blech.

    Thirty-40 degrees is perfect running weather. You get a lot of that up where you are. I'd be a GREAT runner up in VT.

  4. When we first moved to Tampa, I ran at lunch. That worked fine for the first 5 months as I arrived in September and didn't actually start running until November. Then it started to get hot and humid at lunch. I switched to running in the morning before work. I'd drive in and hit the streets about 6 AM running down to Bayshore Dr. and run along the bay, out and back. That worked out well for the remainder of the time that I was there.

    Yeah, you're right. I may be finding out for him. The house is well insulated, but it's still big and it got really cold while we were gone. Down into the single digits. We were gone four days and that happened, so I'm still thinking every other day. Again, with the pumps higher it will be a new set of parameters to work with. We'll determine it empirically. ;-)

    I can't imagine running in S. Florida, especially in June. :P My hat's off to you for doing that. Yeah, we have a lot of good temps for running. Even 6 or 7 is pretty good for running once you get used to the right set of clothing to layer on. We screw hex headed metal screws into our sneakers to get traction while running during the winter and it works well. But I'm not a marathon kind of guy. More hat's off to you. :D


  5. I'm not a marathon type of gal. I have a post coming. If I was a horse, they'd shoot me. I'd be glue already...