- Clean gutters
- Make room for cars in garage
- Tune-up snow blower
- Rearrange shed
Of course there are tons of other tasks that belong on that list, but I never seem to have the time or inclination to jot them down. Or maybe seeing the whole list would make me consider moving to Florida. Of the ones shown here, rearranging the shed is the most difficult and making room in the garage for the cars is the one that brings mixed emotions. Not having to clean the snow or frost off of my car is a wonderful thing, but making room for the cars means eliminating room for woodworking.
Rearranging the shed is hard because the shed is small. When I built it, 10’x12’ seemed enormous. Now, 10’x12’ is barely enough room to operate. There are a couple reasons for the gradual slide from roomy to cramped. First, we have more stuff. The basic machines of yard care haven’t changed much, but we seem to have collected the odd “perfect rake” “useful shovel” and “must have attachment” over time. Second, the snow blower used to sit in the garage in front of a Triumph Spitfire. Since we now have two real cars in the garage, the snow blower has to stay in the shed.
Optimizing the shed for a season requires pulling almost everything out and putting it all back in a different order like one of those sliding tile games we had as kids (which apparently have been computerized…sigh). Some seasons are harder than others, none are easy but winter is the worst. Spring, summer and fall require access to more tools and machines, but those seasons also let us move stuff in and out with relative ease. For example, I can leave the lawn mower out while my wife tills her garden. Winter is unforgiving. The snow blower must be backed in, pointed at the door and I have to have enough room to add gas, oil, start the machine and drive it out. Oh, and at least one shovel needs to be available to clear the snow from away from the doors.
When I was a kid, our snow shovel was an old coal shovel. I didn’t know it at the time, but that shovel was heavier empty than most modern snow shovels are fully loaded with 4” to 6” of snow. My father liked that shovel because it was strong enough to bust through ice and hard-packed snow. Even worse than the weight of that shovel, was the fact that we had a gravel driveway. If you accidentally threw any gravel into the yard, you would have to rake it back into the driveway in the spring.
I think the experience of shoveling that driveway is the root cause of my wanting a snow blower. The memory is a twofold influence. Unlike all the other yard and garden activities, snow removal is one where I inherited my father’s sense of perfection. I want the driveway, sidewalk and dog paths to be “just so.” On the other hand, I don’t ever want to work that hard to achieve perfection. My father might have been proud of the job I do with the snow, but he probably would have picked on me for being a bit soft. I have added a few creature comforts to the machine. A headlamp since I am frequently clearing the driveway and sidewalk before it’s light out and a storm-cab. The town requires the sidewalk to be clear within 8 hours of the end of the storm. That means if it snows overnight, I have to deal with it before going to work – that means 5:00 am so the light is a requirement. The cab keeps the snowy discharge from blowing all over me and down my back on windy days. One came with my first snow blower, but I didn’t install it – I didn’t think it was very manly. One day, when I was covered in windblown snow, I mentioned to the older neighbor that I should have put the cab on. He looked at me and said “you have a storm cab for that machine and you’re not using it? That’s just stupid!” On it went. Shortly after assembling the cab I mounted a cup holder to its support structure. My father might have laughed at the notion of a storm cab, but if he had had one, he would have mounted a cup holder in it.
New England is a funny place to live. Those of us who stay here say that we love the four seasons, but we complain about the heat, the humidity, the leaves, the snow, ice dams and the need for sump pumps in the spring. Those who bother to mulch the flower beds, seed, water and fertilize their lawns complain about those tasks too. We buy machines to help, including those that are self-propelled and those that we ride. We rearrange our sheds, tune-up our machines, clean our gutters and forget how to drive in the snow. Oops, I snuck that last bit in, but I’m not going to let this post turn into a rant.