Every year at this time, just as we’re enjoying favorite outdoor activities after having been bundled up, hunkered down or cooped up all winter, a Pandora’s Box of stinging, blood-sucking, destructive, disease-spreading insects...
Is It Just Me, Or Is Winter Losing Some Of Its Charm?
Normally I’m a too-much-is-never enough kind of guy who lives by the motto, “Nothing succeeds like excess.”
Yet, sadly, I’m beginning to have second thoughts about snow.
Don’t get me wrong – I’d rather live in Mogadishu, Somalia than Miami, Florida, and I’ll take a blizzard over a heat wave any day. I’ve slept in snow caves, scaled mountains in minus-70 wind chills, hunkered down in bivvy sacks during furious whiteouts, been stuck for a week with two other guys in a two-man tent at 19,000 feet in the Andes, crossed glaciers in the Alps, trekked in the Himalayas, ventured onto the sea ice on the Arctic Ocean, been certified as an ice-climber, and every Jan. 1 for decades have plunged into the icy waters of Fishers Island Sound wearing just running shorts.
But I have to admit, this winter is testing my mettle.
It’s not so much the incessant stoking of the wood stoves, which I’ve chronicled a couple weeks ago and won’t belabor now. Nor is it the frigid blasts from polar vortexes that freeze you right down to the bone. Nor is it the ice that has turned every driveway, deck and walkway into a skating rink.
No, it’s the %&*@!! shoveling.
The season’s early storms were only somewhat annoying, producing fluffy flakes easily swept away with a broom.
This latest tempest, I don’t have to tell you, has deposited rime-coated slush with the specific gravity of semi-hardened cement. Worse, it sticks to the shovel like Gorilla Glue.
A few months ago, flush from my triumph in a rake-vs.-leaf blower contest, I rashly conceived a similar competition, pitting me wielding a snow shovel against a friend with a snow blower. I’ve always denigrated those demonic machines that guzzle gas, make a racket and spray white clouds everywhere. A determined, efficient shoveler should get the job done faster, I believed.
Now, I’m not so sure.
I’m still willing to take on the challenge, but think I’ll wait for a storm with fluffier flakes.
By the way, fellow purists (masochists?) needn’t worry – I’m not about to buy a snow blower. For one thing we have a gravel driveway that doesn’t lend itself to such machines (or, for that matter, to old-fashioned shovels).
A snow blower wouldn’t work very well, either, on the dirt paths and stone steps leading to the wood sheds – these I dig out first, even before clearing the driveway.
But the worst job is shaking the snow off the net canopies covering my blueberry bushes and grape vines.
Maddeningly, the snow has been adhering to this netting instead of filtering through, creating heavy blankets that have pulled down support posts and crossbeams. So now I have to trudge up to the garden with a rake and knock the snow off, which can only be done from underneath. Newton’s laws prevail, and the snow comes cascading down – in your face, on your head down your neck.
Next year, after the harvest, I think I’ll remove the netting for the winter. Of course, that means I’ll have to put it back up again the following spring – either that, or allow flocks of greedy birds to chow down on my fruit.
But I’m not worrying about that now. I’m thinking about the next storm due this weekend – and there’s still more than a month of winter to come.
You know what? Enough moaning. Time to take a break and strap on snowshoes or cross-country skis. Enjoy it while you can.
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