The Washington Post –on line- said that the Washington DC area had the most snow fall in the past six years. For us mountain dwellers my back door measurement was 14 inches this morning, and my neighbor’s weather news from Roanoke was a predictable 22 inches. God Bless the snow, we desperately need it for ground water. However the city dweller is at a loss with everything shut down.
This storm, a Northeaster, is a harbinger of what is coming in February, the normal snow month. If you had been watching the wooly bear caterpillars you would have noticed they were very dark this year; that suggests cold weather. I usually pick them up on their travels and put them in the wood shed.
Since we have discussed in previous articles about keeping warm and making do when the power goes out I suspect that right now you are on the way to Home Depot ™ for your new snow blower. To that end, this is what we are going to be talking about.
Technically they are called “snow throwers” and come in all sizes and powered applications. The first snow thrower you may be looking at is a sidewalk cleaner that looks like an oversize carpet sweeper. If you are still young and healthy you can do as much with a good corn straw broom. If you are an older person, well, most likely the chill and labor, especially if you are shoveling, will give you heart failure. Go feed the birds and sit in the house with the cat and read a book.
So you want to upgrade. A long driveway, sidewalks, and like me, getting from the house to the barn requires a clear path. If I do not make a clear path the clumpy foot marks will soon freeze into foot traps and I will be joining the rest of the old men, face down in the snow. An 8 HP snow throwers does a fair job and will give me about 3000 feet before the belt drive requires adjusting, usually at the bottom of the 1500 foot driveway with no tools handy. How you maintain and understand these contraptions is important. Although an 8 HP machine appears big and powerful, they are really for a suburban environment, or just making short passages from the house to the barn and in my case another 100 feet to the chicken house. I would think that in the cluster houses a 6HP snow thrower would be adequate and if you start early (that is the secret to clearing snow) before it gets too high, you can manage well with that smaller machine. I have seen 10 HP snow throwers for sale and what that offers is weight, which can be a headache if you have to take it into a shop for maintenance.
There exist two drive mechanisms: the standard wheel and the caterpillar tred. I have had both. I recommend chains on the wheel model. The caterpillar tred model has better traction, but in all models when you get down to the lowest drive setting it is unstoppable.
When you purchase the machine of your dreams remember it is you out there in the freezing cold. You must wear non-slip boots, heavy sox and of course a good blaze orange snowsuit, and blaze wool watch cap so the speeding traffic can see you. It is also easier to be seen when the wife comes looking for you, face down in the snow, at suppertime. Actually we use walki-talkies available at Wal*Mart ™ and on line at Amazon.com
The wind loves to blow the thrown mist of freezing snow up in your face. Your dealer will offer, if you ask, a clip- on clear plastic mist shroud that envelops and protects you from this miserable situation. They run an additional $100.00 bucks-give or take.
Some models offer heated handlebars. I would seriously recommend this, or at least have battery heated gloves and sox. A pair of safety goggles would be a consideration for the ice crystals being blown back at you along with dirt.
Sooner or later you will forget to pick up the garden hose, child toys and dog toys that will get jammed into the impeller of the snow thrower. A small “safety pin” bolt will snap and the impeller will not work.
You can order from the manufacturer, or from the dealer, these small pins that are specially designed to snap off if you run over the other old codger lying in the snow. They protect the internal mechanisms. Order at least a hundred. Also you will need two extra belts, one for drive, and one for the blades. In regards to the safety pins (bolts), accept ONLY those made for the purpose, other look a like heavy duty bolts will not allow the mechanisms to be protected. This is very important-read your parts list.
The other big problem with snow throwers is that you can only angle the snow-throwing chute in a 180-degree arc. Most picture windows and car windows are shattered by not keeping the snow chute angled away from expensive breakable objects. Think. Check with your homeowner’s insurance policy in advance.
All of the snow throwers have a 120VAC electric motor starter. Read the owners manual. It should start right up with the fresh gasoline. When you are far, far away from the electric cord, do not shut the engine off. Restarting with the hand pull is harder them you think in freezing weather. When you are finished, add some gasoline additive such as “Heat™” to the tank and/or “Stable ™” which will keep your gasoline tank and lines from freezing and turning to a jelly. Let the engine cool down before adding gasoline and related flammable products. Do this outside of the garage.
If you YouTube on snow blowers and tractors you will see the Minnesota snow bound use tractors with cabs. This is joy. You will also see people mounting snow blades to their trucks.
Snow blades on small Sears Garden Tractors will push about 6 inches of snow if it is not too icy. Then there is a traction problem. I bought a 4-foot wide snow thrower attachment for my garden tractor (an oversize lawnmower) and had reasonable success with it. However for where I am in the hinterlands of Floyd County I would prefer a full size real tractor with a cab and thrower.
I gave up on the blade concept for pick up trucks as you have to load lots of weight in the rear end bed, and you need a heavy duty F250 type or F 350 type truck to stand the wear and tear.
I know if I was in the suburbia environment I would be required to keep the sidewalks clean. Out here in the bush there are no sidewalks, and no one cares. If I cannot get to the mail box this winter, well the mailman will just pile it up in the office. Sooner, or later a neighbor with a tractor will come by, worry about me, and clean out the driveway. In the mean time I am reading, enjoying the birds, and my lap cat.
COPYRIGHT: 2009, Back2theLand.com, Mark Steel.