Snow Management

It's a long way to the house from the barn

A couple of days ago, we had a snow storm. The snow is waste deep; it’s going to rain tonight; and some dough-head put all the firewood in the barn. I just spent the entire afternoon digging out a trail from the barn to the basement. Suddenly, the reality of managing this much snow becomes crystal clear.

This isn’t the first time I’ve had to dig out this trail of mine, and the novelty of it is starting to wear a little thin. After having spent the entire afternoon moving the snow, I’ve learned a few things about moving snow.

Get the right Shovel

When we moved in, the prior owner had left a snow shovel in the barn. This was great! I had a shovel for moving the snow.

The problem with Snow Shovels is they are designed for plowing the snow. Plowing is the process of pushing the snow to a better place.

Huge Piles of Snow
Some of the piles of snow are bigger than I am.

Uh… no…

Instead, I went to the hardware store and got a Grain Scoop. This is a great tool for lifting and moving large amounts of snow. I can actually dig with this tool. It’s made out of light aluminium, which is nice when I have to lift it the thousandth time in a day. Be careful with ice, aluminium is not the right tool for chipping; for that I have a rusty old steel shovel I found in the barn. While I don’t have any, I’m thinking chemical de-icer is going to be my new best-friend.

Shovels are wider than people. Wheelbarrows are wider than shovels.

The first time I dug the trail, I dug it one shovel’s width: no point in doing more work than necessary. Done with that chore, I went back, grabbed the wheel-barrow and instantly hit snow. The stupid legs hit the snow on the sides of the trail. Back to the shovel.

In order to get the wheelbarrow through, the path must be about three shovel widths wide. As I was digging, and getting more tired, wide enough started to get narrower and narrower, until I was down to only one shovel’s width. The key was to find some handy measuring tool to keep me honest.

The handle of my shovel
The handle of my shovel is about the right width for my snow trails

Snow is Heavy.

When the snow is three feet deep, you aren’t lifting it all in one go. You need to break the job down. I really helps to cut chunks of snow out to be dug. Basically, chisel out the area you want to remove, cut any big chunks into little ones, and start shovelling the resulting debris. This also results in nice straight tidy walls (The Wife is rolling her eyes again).

Cutting off managable amounts of snow
Rather than trying to move all the snow at once, I flip the shovel over and slice of a managable amount

Wet Snow is Heavier.

Just before the blizzard, I had dug the path out… again, only to have the blizzard fill all my trails. I had had enough. I wasn’t going to move more snow, only to have it filled in again by Bestla. I checked the weather report, and sure enough there was more snow on the way, so I waited, and waited … it was getting warmer.

This morning the snow-plough guy came to finish the driveway and mentioned the upcoming rain. Freezing rain. Hmmm… Maybe I should move the three feet of snow before it is turned into three feet of ice. I get out there with my shovel and og to lift the first shovel full…. of wet melted snow. It has been sitting there for three days with the sun beating down on it and now it weighs a ton. To top it off, when you throw the wet snow, half of it sticks to the shovel, which means you have to lift the weight, but you haven’t got rid of the snow. You have to lift it again, and again, and again….

I hurt everywhere this evening.

In the future, I can’t put it off. It needs to be done immediately.

The Shortest Distance between two points

When the trail is completely buried, and I have to dig a new one. I will walk out to the barn, watching the door, before I even dig my first shovel full. This way, when I’ve got my head down digging, I can just follow my foot prints through the snow, and not have to look up to see if I am digging the most direct route to the barn. The short walk has saved me a lot of work.1

Having said that: The shortest distance between to points… is moving the two points closer to one another.

I have begun to strategize about different ways to reduce the amount of snow that needs clearing. Basically, I’m determining which parts of the property I can write off for the winter.For starters, I am not putting the wood on the other side of the property. That’s just dumb. There is no point in trucking the stuff all that distance every couple of days.

Next year, I plan on putting as much of the wood in the basement as possible. I have a spot all picked out that it will store nicely in, stay dry, and be very convenient. That spot won’t fit an entire year’s worth of wood, so I imagine the rest will go in the garage.

I’ve already determined that the chickens are going to go into the shed next to the garage. There is a door between the two, which means I don’t have to walk through miles of waste deep snow just to get to them. Even if I do, I don’t need to dig a trail.

Maybe I should look into snow shoes as well.

Hang your doors correctly

The hardest part of digging the trail is clearing the doorways to the barn and garage. There is always so much snow that has crashed off the roof of these two that the snow is twice as deep as anywhere else. This snow has to be completely cleared before the doors will even move.

After the first time I moved all that snow, I started to envision huge open porches in front of each of the doors, with metal roofs. The snow can come crashing down and will be diverted to another place (somewhere, not the door). I started describing the venture to The Wife, whose eyes got a little wide and worried. We had guests over that night and I described it to them: big heavy beams, strategically placed roofs, nice deep workspaces, …

Why don’t you just hang your doors so they open inwards?





I’ll tell you why! Because it is so blindingly obvious that I should have already thought of it!

Come spring, I imagine I’ll be rehanging the garage door.

In my defence, the barn door is a sliding door, so I can’t rehang it. That door has just been inappropriately positioned.

The Barn
INCORRECT: The barn doors are positioned so that snow falls from the roof and buries the door.
CORRECT: the snow slides off and does not cover the door.



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