Notes from Windward: #66


Playing with the Big Toys

getting the snow plow ready to go to work

     One of the really nice things about this way of life is how it gives us a chance to work with tools and equipment which often go way beyond what most people get to work with. While there are plenty of times when a wheelbarrow and shovel are the appropriate tools for some job, the challenge of developing more than a hundred acres in a sustainable manner often calls for the use of heavy equipment.

the snow plow in place and ready to work

     While there's a real limit to how much capital and time we can afford to tie up in such gear, there's also the reality that often we're dealing with a window of opportunity that requires expedition. For example, when the county road crews were reworking the county road that forms our eastern boundary, we were able to use our dump truck to bring in more than 300 cubic yards of fill dirt, material we wouldn't have been able to capture if we hadn't had our own truck. That much fill dirt will go a long way towards earth sheltering our buildings--one of the keys to good passive design.

     But while we're quick to use the dump truck to move large quantities of dirt and rock around Windward, that's work done in the truck's "off season" since the prime reason we purchased it was to be able to use it to plow the more than a mile and a half of roads that run internal to Windward. Most winters we only see a few snowfalls that average between six inches and a foot, but there have been exceptional winters when the snow pack reached more than three feet in depth--the sort of winter that sends you looking for serious snow removal equipment.

     We purchased the snow plow at auction, and since it didn't come with an instruction manual, we've been having to figure out how to make it work for us. This is the first winter when we've felt that the plow was ready to dealing with a serious bought of winter.

     The pic above shows the snow plow parked at the top of our property (near the dining hall) so that when there's a heavy snow fall in the night, the plow will already be in position to make the first run from the top of Windward, down past the landing and out the driveway to the county road, about a mile altogether. The key point is that the snow plow works a lot better pushing down hill than up :-)

the pins that mount the plow


     The first problem we had to deal with this winter was rather embarassing in that I couldn't remember where I'd stored the huge pins that connect the base of the snow plow to the frame of the dump truck. I know that I put them some place where they were certain to not get lost, and after checking every rational place I could have stashed them, I had to write them off as being in what we call "deep storage." With one snow already on the ground, the only option was to make up another set of pins from a pair of six inch long by 1 1/4" diameter bolts. Since Nyloks that size are pretty expensive, we made sure that the nuts wouldn't vibrate loose by drilling the ends of the bolts and inserting huge cotter pins.

the shop-made chains mounted on the rear tires


     Unfortunately, the truck didn't come with a set of chains, and we knew better than to ask what it would cost to buy a set of commercial chains in that size. Instead, we purchased some used chain and fabricated a set of chains in our shop. It took a few runs in and out to shake out the design and make sure that all the connections were solid, but we've not got a set of chains that will serve our needs.

fifteen hundred pounds of water weighing down the drive axle


      The last thing needed to make the snow plow operational was to load up three 55-gallon plastic drums in the back and fill them with water. That weight is necessary to counter-balance the weight of the snow plow--otherwise, when the hydraulics lift the snow plow in front, the weight on the front lessens the weight on the rear axle causing it to lose traction.

     One of our superstitions is that the problems we prepare for rarely happen, and so it's our hope that now that we've got the snow plow in place and ready to work, we won't have any real need for it this winter. At least, we can hope it works out that way, but nature usuallys has a surprise or two in store no matter how prepared you think you are.

Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 66