The Evolution of Winter Prep

MiMi is always ready for a cat nap.
MiMi is always ready for a cat nap.

New England is known for being the land of four seasons, but what isn’t often mentioned, is the degree to which those seasons overlap. People will be fertilizing their lawns, repairing and preparing their pools and preparing flower beds in April and May while still living under the threat of frost and possibly snow. This past year’s garden was still producing tomatoes, peppers and beans well after the calendar said it was autumn. And now, the most serious seasonal overlap is upon us. Cleaning up after fall while preparing for winter.

It’s really the same thing.

If it wasn’t for the potential early arrival of winter, we wouldn’t hurry through fall clean-up. Leaves could lay in the gutter, if they weren’t going to block the downspouts and cause ice dams. Leaves could stay wherever they happened to land, if there wasn’t the possibility that they would add fiber to a wintry mix and make it something you have to chop through rather than shovel. Yes, I speak from experience.

The first time you realize that you have to rake all the leaves before it snows, occurs when your first child is old enough to want a snowman. When you roll up those balls of heavy wet snow and they’re covered in a hobo-snowman coat of leaves and pine needles, you get the message.

My early days in this climate were in a rental house with a short driveway which we shoveled. Being ready to shovel meant that you had one job to prepare for winter, make sure the shovel was accessible. Trudging to the shed, kicking the snow away from the doors to retrieve the shovel is something you only do once. That would have been 1983. A similar-sized house with a detached garage sitting in the back yard, required the addition of a snow blower. A machine. A machine that requires gasoline, oil, shear-pins, air in the tires, protected storage, an overhead light, and enough room to pull the starter chord without hitting your elbow on anything.

In other words, a bigger shed.

During spring, summer and fall, the shed is in LUFO mode (last-used-first-out). Lawn mowers, leaf blowers, rakes, shovels and whatnot are all left near the door of the shed, ‘cuz tired & sweaty, only to have to be moved out of the way on the next visit. It works. We moan and groan about it, but we’re the ones who did it, so… But, in winter, the snow blower is king of the shed. There’s no option to move stuff out of the way because you have to move the snow that’s piled up in front of the shed first. The snow blower sits alone, pointed toward the outward-opening doors.

This was the final weekend of winter prep. The schedule is dictated by the town. Tomorrow is the last day that they will pick-up bags of leaves at the curb, and Saturday was the last day the leaf dump was open. Whatever you didn’t pick up this weekend, you have to live with until April.

We were almost done anyway. Thanksgiving weekend, I sucked-up and mulched most of the “good” leaves for my wife to till into her garden. Oak (acidic) leaves got bagged to the curb. This weekend, after bagging the last of the oak leaves, I set out the snow stakes. These reflective little poles tell me where the pavement ends and the grass begins. They also tell me where the base of the firewood racks are and where the stone path in the yard curves. This year, they also are holding up what looks like a Caution Tape boxing ring.

That would be my wife’s garden. We’re trying the caution tape as a visual deterrent to keep Maddie out of the garden. We’ve tried wooden stakes and rope, but Maddie loves to jump the rope and when she misses, the wooden stakes break under the pull of the dog-entangled rope. These stakes are higher and unbreakable. The black and yellow color of the Caution Tape may be meaningless to my wife, but it wasn’t lost on me – Go Steelers!

The poles are flexible, so they required flying buttresses (other poles) for strategic reinforcement. It worked. Initially. See, I have a video to prove it. Maddie walked and ran around the garden, but stayed out.

What’s the appeal of the garden? The mulched leaves and some of the plant material that are tilled in, are basically worm food. The organic material will decompose, some on its own and some after being consumed by worms. The mix already smells like something Maddie wants to roll in, but when it becomes a big pool of worm poop, Maddie’s all “I gotta roll in that!

I was looking forward to showing the video to my wife and proclaiming how I outsmarted the dog. Then, my wife came outside. She threw Maddie her favorite ball and Maddie stepped between the rows of Caution Tape and laid in the garden. She gets a look on her face that makes us think she’s saying “but my ball was in here.”

55 thoughts on “The Evolution of Winter Prep

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    1. I’m glad to know it’s not just me. Yesterday afternoon, I yanked everything out, collapsed the handles as I tucked everything into its winter place. It’s snowing today, but we’re only supposed to get an inch before it turns to rain.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Every reader in this part of the Country certainly can appreciate this post. Most of our leaves have been removed except those that are in the beds that I left. Our blower is being put on tomorrow, and I need to go get the shovels out of the barn to have handy. LUFO can certainly describe our barn for the winter. :-) Maddie has her people figured out. I love it. :-)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Judy. We have a little of the white stuff falling. I left even earlier for work, to get ahead of the people who forget that it snows and forget that they’ve driven in snow before and it hasn’t killed them. Good luck getting it all arranged before you need it. I have to say, “barn” sounds so much more luxurious than “shed” – I may have outbuilding envy ;)

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It went it inside her mouth, but we’re not supposed to have noticed that. She’s the first dog (three before her) that really bothers with the garden. In the past, I’ve put up a little rope “fence” just so I didn’t run the snow blower through the dirt (which never really freezes because of all the decomposing). She also knows that, if she’s in the center, we can’t get to her. Thanks for the comment :)


  2. I was a bit envious when I saw your snowblower had the protective “shelter”… but when you pointed out the cup holder, I dropped to my tears, with tears in my jealous eyes, and bowed in your general direction!!!! Dang-it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sorry. My first snow blower came with a storm cab, but I didn’t even mount it the first year or two. Once I did, I swore I’d never be without one again. Mounting the cup holder in there was the best idea I ever had.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Teagan. MiMi certainly knows how to handle stormy weather. Maddie does like the new “game” we have in the yard. We’ll do our best to keep her out. The trick seems to be to say “no” just as she thinks about heading in. Once the thought is in her brain, there’s no stopping her.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh boy. My dog doesn’t show any interest in my garden beyond sniffing its perimeters. I don’t know that I ever thought to be particularly grateful about it until just now.
    I hear you on the leaves before snow thing. Not only mucky snowmen and slippery spots, but also, shoveling leaves with the snow is seriously heavy! When I saw we could get some accumulation Saturday, it had to be done. Said to The Mister, “Time to work in the yard.” He made a sour face. Moo and I went out and raked the drive’s leaves in to the garden beds and pulled the leftover stems we could get. (Same for tomatoes and stuff here, well into November.) I sent her in for scissors and told, “Tell Daddy I wasn’t kiddin about the yard.” Eventually he came out and dug up unwanted stems and trees that we couldn’t get.
    We don’t have walkways here, so I can’t say we want a snowblower, but we sure would like a leafblower. Ironically, I do believe I would use it far more in the spring, for those whirlygigs and pine needles. Spring raking is much heavy, many wet!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Spring clean-up is a chore. Oak leave tend to hang on the trees late, so there’s always a bunch of them. And, even thought we cut down two maple trees in our yard, we still seem to get a ton of the whirydeals. I hope you got all the stuff up that had to be collected. We got a little snow today, not much, and it’s probably gone from the yard by now, but I feel better being ready.

      We had three dogs like yours. A few sniffs, maybe an occasional hole being dug, but no big deal. This one is just crazy. Dig and roll and then we have to get that black dirt off of her. It’s a good thing there isn’t a pile of rotten tomatoes in there, cuz that would be irresistible to her. Give your dog a hug :)

      Liked by 1 person

  4. The cup holder on the snow blower is all important. When I was married, I made the Mister buy a cup holder for the Harley. Can’t be without warm liquids!

    We received our first ground-covering snowfall yesterday…about two inches. It was a pretty snowfall, but I always enjoy the first one of the season.

    Go Packers! Go Steelers! Go Maddie!

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    1. I was thinking of you during the game yesterday. For some reason, we got to see Green Bay and they kept talking about the cold (I’m guessing that wasn’t really what you folks call cold) and I did see some snow. Packers and Steelers both ended up on the right (W) side of the scoreboard, so it was a good day. Maddie doesn’t need any encouragement.

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      1. No, that was not COLD. It’s in the 30’s today, so I went for a walk at lunch. On Wednesday it’s going to get cold…highs in the 20’s with blustery winds. Anything colder than that, I consider frigid.

        I believe every NFL team should play in the snow at least once. The players may hate it, but it’s fun to watch.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I agree. If they aren’t ready to play in the snow, there’s something wrong. I’d rather play in snow than rain, any day. We’re in the 30s and 40s for highs, dipping into the 20s and teens (later in the week) for lows. I’m OK with all of that. It’s when the high is in the teens that I get grumpy.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Poor hubby still mans a snow blower without a cover. If I showed him this post pointing out your snow blower with cover and cup holder, he’d be drooling. Whoa! Talk about luxury! As for the shed …. we have a pole barn and it’s well packed. We as well have the LUFO method and believe me come Spring when I have to light a firecracker under hubby to MOVE stuff so I can get to my Spring stuff I do not cherish, not at all. As for Maddie I just had to laugh *sorry* but darn she is too smart! LOL Loved your small video proof that you outsmarted your Maddie. That is until your wife had a ball. Ohhhhh, the pain of defeat. Welcome to 4 seasons fun and *groan* winter!! LOVED this post, Dan! <3

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    1. My first snow blower came with a cab, but I didn’t put it on until a neighbor told me I was stupid for not using it. Now, I’d never be without one. Good luck with the barn in the spring.

      Maddie is too smart, but she’s selectively smart. When she doesn’t want to do something, she gives me that “hey, I’m just a dog” look.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. If sued, Maddie should invoke the attractive nuisance ploy! After all, the ball was in there! What could anyone expect? We don’t have a snowblower now that we’re not in Kansas, I mean, NE Ohio, anymore, but we got out the shovel last night to shovel/push off the 6″+ of glorious white stuff that descended yesterday. It, too, requires easy access. However, the snow did make it impossible for me to get those last tomato plants and other dead garden goodies into the last free lawn junk pickup tomorrow morning. Ahh, well, why should anything be different? :-)


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    1. Maddie has that excuse down pat. She gives us “the look” with those big brown puppy eyes (she’s 3). 6″ is hefty shovelin’, my hat’s off to you. I draw the line around 2″ before I bring out the machine.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I never really had a chance. We could go with a high fence, but I don’t want her to realize that she could (probably) jump out of our yard. At least this seems to require a conscious effort on her part, and she seems to understand that she shouldn’t be there. It won’t keep her out, but it might help keep her from digging. Right now, she seems to just enjoy the act of getting in.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. A storm cab came with my first snow blower. Once I actually put it on, I was sold on the idea. No more coming into the house covered with windblown snow. The cup holder followed pretty quickly. If this winter is like the previous three (with Maddie) I’ll be sharing photos of her in the snow behind that fence. Because I clear a path all around it, the garden ends up looking like a giant bed of snow – she can’t resist.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Deborah. I’ve been collecting more sunrise/sunset colors to share next week. Winter is work, but for Maddie, it’s also a lot of fun. She loves the snow, particularly if there’s enough to create Mt. Maddie. As soon as we have any snow on the ground, she goes and stands near the stump that sits at the base. She looks at us like “well, are you going to build it now?”

      Liked by 1 person

  7. This was funny, Dan! A post that my Dad would have liked. He also hated the dogs who rolled in worm piles. He made us (kids) take turns washing the dog until we learned walking the dog was easier than just letting it out.
    Leaves in the gutters was a big deal up in northern Ohio! Living in the middle of the state we have moderate temps so only two to five times did we have regrets of not cleaning them out. Big icicles weighing the pipes down made my ex get out there sooner, the next year.
    You are quite an amazing accomplisher of completing tasks n a timely manner. :)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Robin. I’m glad you enjoyed this. As for accomplishing tasks, I got this done just under the wire. I finished on Sunday and the last leaf pickup of the season was Tuesday morning. Now to get some sand and salt mix before the town runs out. Then I might be ready for winter.


  8. I can’t explain it, but reading about your fall cleanup/winter preparations made me realize the extent of the work to be done much more than watching out the window as my husband does the same tasks. Go figure.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Wow! I never knew there was so much work to be done between autumn and winter. Are there professional companies that can do that in case we are busy? Or there’s no choice at all for homeowners. In Mumbai, we never really do much. Yes, we do have autumn leaves falling around but there’s no snow. Right now Vasai is one of the only places that has seen mercury dropping while Mumbai is still battling heat and humidity.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There are professionals who will do any/all of this stuff for you. It can get expensive, though. Clearing the snow from a driveway the size of ours (not considered large) would run $75-80 each time they have to come. I don’t know what they would charge for cleaning gutters and collecting leaves, but probably similar.

      We are currently in a cold snap. It was 7f (-13.8c) this morning when I left for work.

      Liked by 1 person

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