Sunday, January 4, 2009

Winter 2008

It has been snowing off and on for 3 weeks! You can see more pictures here:


The amazing thing is, it never seems to melt. It is incredibly beautiful, and for the unprepared like me, quite a hassle. I have the wrong car, the wrong shovel, no tire chains, and I need a snow plough. We have wonderful friends down the road with an ATV with a small snow plough, and he has come down a few times to plough, which was a great mercy. The pattern has been, it gets cold, in some cases into the single digits, and snows perhaps a little. Then, it warms up, and glazes to a white snow-like icy shell. This is difficult to trudge through. I did get a pair of snowshoes, but in the ice even they just break through the ice shell. However, it gets cold again and snows over the top of it. Underneath it all it starts to glaciate - a dense sort of bluish snow pack forms. It has been has high as 3 feet of snow with drifts even higher. I waffle between loving it and hating it; it is very beautiful and it produces a great deal of work.

One problem is that you can't really tell where our driveway path is, so the plowed path actually goes through the pasture at one point, so when we were in a warmer spot, we have dug deep trenches through the pasture. The van got very stuck in this; we had other friends come and help pull us out of that. You cannot get by around here without help. Also, the snow on the roof of our house tore off part of our gutters on the back as it was melting and sliding off.

I also wonder what this is going to do to our new apple trees and blueberries, and the strawberries. I really don't know! We'll see. I am starting to wonder if this snow is really going to melt completely before the spring.

I climbed up the mountain, and the snow is thick through the trail going up. It is thinner on the steep sides, and amazingly, the sword ferns are still green! There are a couple of grand firs up there, and the view from the plateau where the little cabin is partially built was spectacular. I was up there when it was a bracing 9 degrees, and clear. You could see the jagged snowcap peaks of the cascades against a spectacular blue sky with a sea of forest below; this is the kind of thing that makes you proud to be alive.

Here are some things I've learned. Even when it is a bit warmer than freezing according to the thermometer, it still snows, and still collects on the existing snow. If you let it collect on anything, it gets very heavy and can damage it as it melts. This is even more true if it actually gets warm enough to rain on the snow. As long as the snow is powder, it is much easier to deal with; if you let it melt a bit, it is 10 times heavier and much more difficult to work with. I need some sort of markers where the road is so we don't destroy the pasture again; I don't look forward to dealing with it. When it is very cold, maybe 12 degrees or below, the snow doesn't really stick to things; the trees look sparser, for example. When it gets a bit warmer, in the 20s and up, it sticks more and seems wetter. There is nothing more aerobic than shoveling lots of wet snow. It is important to keep little paths clear to things you need, like the woodshed. I need a better car for this, I am looking at a AWD subaru.

For all the work, I have really loved the snow and I have a wistfulness about seeing winter pass. The Grand Fir is magnificent when laden with snow; its flat systems of needles catch it beautifully. The conifers all get very weighted down with snow looking much thinner than their usual selves, until a slight puff of wind starts a small avalanche of powder and there is a cascade in the forest of white. The deciduous trees are also beautiful in the snow, with a spider web of white all through. You can't believe that the snow could catch and balance on the tiny surfaces of the systems of even the smallest branches, just balanced there. The topography of the mountain is much clearer somehow with the snow; I am examining it for places to do certain things. I would like to plant more conifers up there, it was clear cut about 20 years ago. Damn them, really, there are some large stumps here and there, it looks like there were some excellent western redcedars about. There is nothing like the quiet of it all, especially while it is snowing; but in the work of battling the elements, you have to remember to stop, listen, and enjoy the quiet; it is easy to forget that this is a place of uncommon splendor. All in all it adds to my romance with this place; every season has its charm.

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