Notes from Windward: #68


Snow Time Chores

digging out from the storm

  February 2:

     As the snow piles up ever deeper, we're thinking back fondly on the memory of not having had a "White Christmas" this winter. Well since then, the weather's been doing its best to make up for a dry fall as a series of winter storms has blessed us with more snow this winter than in the past four combined.

     Our usual practice for dealing with winter snows is generally to brew another pot of tea, throw another log on the fire and curl up with a good book as we wait for the weather pattern to change and for the warm winter rains to melt it away. This year, the huge mass of arctic air that's affecting the center of the country has backed up against the Cascades with the result that any rain that makes it over the mountains is falling as wet, sticky snow.

     That triggers three concerns sufficient to get us to leave the warm fire and start clearing at least some of the snow. The first concern involves the satellite dish that handles our internet connection since it doesn't take much of an accumulation to block its microwave signal. A few swipes with a broom is usually enough to remove snow and restore the signal, but on occasion we have to use a heat gun to melt off a layer of ice.

     The road that runs along our eastern boundary is a school bus route so the county keeps it well plowed, but the berm created by the plows blocks access to our mail box. After a couple of days of no mail delivery, we grab shovels and clear a path for the mail delivery car to get to the box.


     The accumulating snow load is also a problem for our hoop-size structures such as Vermadise. In '96 there was a huge snow followed by a warm rain that created a flood that took out a quarter of the highway between here and the Columbia river. We're 1,200' above the river, so the flood wasn't a problem, but that heavy, wet snow crushed one of our hoop-style greenhouses. Since then we've learned to reinforce them with interior support poles, but the snow load was getting to the point where we were concerned that the plastic would fail since when you shore up one part of the system, you then get to find out which is the next most vulnerable part, and it was starting to look like the 6 mil plastic cover was about to give way.


     And so we grabbed shovels and started clearing away the snow that had accumulated alongside Vermadise and was thereby preventing the new snow from sliding off the roof. The plastic had held the weight so far, but the weather folks said there was another storm on its way, and we didn't want to risk having a heavy snow load crash down on the chickens and rabbits wintering in Vermadise. The UV stabilized plastic we use is rated for three years, and this is its third year, so we know that it's not capable of bearing the weight it could handle when new, so we figured that it would be wise to not ask it to carry more snow than it already was.

     As things turned out, we are getting more snow, and Vermadise already has two inches of fresh accumulation on it so we're glad we did the precautionary digging. As soon as the warm, wet systems scour out the cold air left behind by that Arctic front, the warm rain will keep Vermadise's roof clear, but until that happens, we'll keep shovels handy and a weather-eye out for the next storm.
Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 68