Rushing the season
March 22, 2013
Skiing has become pretty unpredictable. I’ve had some days of the best spring skiing in a couple of years. It was that perfect corn snow; not too soft and not too hard. Just Goldilocks right. Then the next day, with the temperature and sun conditions about the same, it was like skiing on corrugated metal roofing. The only difference was a little wind that kept the surface frozen. Then we had a little rain in there. The marketing department calls that "transparent powder."
I’m still holding out hope that this spring will be like most, and we will have some big storms before the lifts close. We need the water supply in the worst way. It could be a rough, dusty summer. More to the point, I still want a couple of huge powder days this ski season, and it’s not looking good. There are only three weeks to go.
So while I’m still skiing and hoping for more, something happened the other day. I was driving home from what had been a pretty nice day of skiing and, without warning, and for no good reason, the idea of taking the snowblower off the back of the tractor got lodged in my brain. It was as if some mechanical device had tripped. The gears advanced a notch and there was no turning back. I got home and started looking around the yard to figure out where I could put the snowblower.
The fact that I had to think about where to put it was proof positive that it was too early to be taking it off, and that it belonged right on the back of the tractor for the time being. This is not your residential Toro. It’s 6 feet wide and weighs a couple of hundred pounds. It takes 40 horsepower to run it.
During the summer months, the snowblower gets stashed in an old barn across the street from the house. That barn isn’t used for much other than storage and gets completely snowed in for the winter. So if I take the snowblower off the tractor, it can’t go in the normal storage spot because there is a big snowdrift/iceberg blocking the doors and access to the barn.
Taking the blower off isn’t terribly difficult, but it’s big and heavy and generally results in a pinched finger before I’m done. There is nothing I need to do with the tractor this time of year that can’t be done with the snowblower in place. It doesn’t make sense to drop it in the yard, where it’s in the way, and then have to mount it up again (another finger mashed) to move it into the barn when the glacier blocking the door melts. The odds are pretty good that I’m not finished blowing snow, either. Patience.
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Dismounting the blower won’t affect the weather one way or another. I’ve already tried that experiment. The change of seasons is not connected to the status of my snowblower in any way. On the other hand, it will always snow when there is a broken hydraulic-hose fitting requiring special-order parts. Always.
I’m fixated on it. The whole time I was skiing the other day, the idea of where to temporarily stash the snowblower was rattling around in my head. Neither the iPod nor the noisy powder conditions could drown it out. As a partial diversion, I managed to plow the back of the barn open. It took a few days, plowing the glacier down in layers, then letting it melt some before hitting it again. Now if, just by chance, some fool decided to take the snowblower off a month early, it would be possible to properly store it for summer in the barn. Except that there is another tractor parked in that spot, and it has a dead battery.
Another sign that it’s too early to be doing this.
I let it rest a couple of days before driving the truck out to the barn and pulling the battery out of the dead Farmall. It’s a 6-volt, and while I’ve seen people jump-start a 6-volt from the 12-volt in their trucks, it seems like a sure way to blow something up. I took the dead battery home to the garage put it on the charger.
As things now stand, the snowblower is still on the tractor where it belongs, and it is ready to roll if there is some serious snow. The battery for the old Farmall is fully charged, but still on the workbench rather than back in the tractor. Like spring, this project is happening in fits and starts, in small incremental steps.
It will probably dump nonstop in May, right after I’ve put the snowblower in the barn.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.
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