Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
Most of us grew up as children reading a book called Thomas the little engine that could. Thomas wouldn’t give up as he struggled up the impossibly long grade just like the big engines did so effortlessly. He just kept gritting it out and telling himself ‘I know I can, I know I can’ until he finally reached the top defying all odds. This children’s story was written to teach us a lesson about how to keep going when the going gets tough and overwhelming odds oppose us. Well last week I met Thomas in person - in the form of our little Kubota BX-2200 tractor.
Often in the mountains we get a March/April snow storm that will have heavy wet snow. Sometimes lots of it! We can get snow at this elevation until June some years. The most we have ever received was 3-4 feet at one time. I normally handle such storms by going out mid storm when there is about a foot and a half of snow and the Kubota snow thrower will churn right through it. This keeps it at a manageable level and while it may take two or three applications, that makes it easy to deal by handling it in increments. This recent storm was a little different however. Most of it accumulated at night and when we woke up in the morning to go outside there was already 4’ of fresh wet snow awaiting us. I had to physically force the back storm door open to where I could barely squeeze out. I was met with chest deep wet snow. The dogs loved it but me; well not so much, since I fully understood the work it would require over the next few days. Four feet is not that much for us and we are used to dealing with that amount but it kept right on snowing through the day and we received a total of what I estimate to be around six feet. Now we were talking some serious snow and even those of us who are used to several feet were a little overwhelmed by the impact of all that wet snow.
It was hard to gauge the exact amount of snow we received as more fell through out the second full day of the storm and it was so heavy and wet that it kept compacting down and made an exact measurement difficult. It was clearly too much for the Kubota snow thrower to handle as it will safely handle snow up to two feet deep but when it gets this deep it flounders. (Just trying to walk through it was causing me to flop around and flounder) We had triple this much and it was wet and heavy. Factor in the wind blowing it around and the immense weight it created and we had a long term snow removal project on our hands. The first two days were spent shoveling. We couldn’t even get to the tractor had we wanted to due to the density and depth of the snow. We shoveled off the deck numerous times to keep it from collapsing under the tons of snow on it. We shoveled the walk way more times than I could count but ran out of places to toss the fresh snow. It was heavy and we couldn’t toss it high enough to keep if from falling back to where it had started. Also, when it rolled back it would gather in size so when it hit the bottom we ended up with more than we tossed up to begin with. It was so heavy it refused to be pushed. The best we could do is a very narrow pathway.
Having now been given a fair idea of what we were up against we decided to create a path down to the tractor, which took an entire morning to accomplish. We really needed another path to the end of our driveway in case we had some type of unforeseen emergency. When the tractor had been plugged in and running we attempted to use the snow thrower to make that path. We got approximately 20 yards and found with the very wet snow the tractor would ride up on the compacted snow at the bottom and then suddenly sink in. With the weight off the wheels we would then have to shovel the tractor out and attempt to go further. Even the 4 wheel drive couldn’t handle this much snow. After a couple of these episodes we were exhausted from shoveling the tractor out plus the chute of the snow thrower was filling up with slush that locked up into solid compacted ice. To shorten this story we finally after four days got our driveway done and finally found the vehicles which are in the above photo buried under 6’ of snow. We chipped away at the heavy snow a little at a time until we finally got a path cleared. It took four days of shoveling and pushing the Kubota well beyond what the manufacturer intended to get the driveway clear. None of this was made any easier by the sun coming out and making the snow even heavier, if that was even possible, which it clearly turned out to be.
The people at Kubota can be proud of their product. Our little tractor took on overwhelming odds and preformed just like Thomas the little engine that could. I can almost hear it saying “I know I can, I know I can, don’t give up on me now”. We went easy with it, but none the less, it did things I would not imagine possible for a small tractor. I mean really with 6’ of wet heavy snow and slush and frozen snow at the very bottom, how can you go easy? The Kubota took on impossible odds and reduced them to routine. I hope it never has to face a challenge like that again and in the 15 years we have been here that is the worse snow storm we have ever received. So Kubota personnel if you happen to read this be assured you have a product that goes beyond expectations and makes the impossible task routine. I wish you could have been here to see your product in action. Plus I could have used a few more people on shovels too. Since you didn’t get to see it in person you will have to take my word for it, your product preformed splendidly.
We were fortunate in that we received minimal damage from all that heavy snow. It made a small portion of the roof over the door to under the house sag which was easily fixed. It sheared off a lag bolt that braced the vent stack on the house which was easily fixed. It took longer to get to it on snowshoes than repair the actual bracket. It also was so heavy it cracked the windshield of the truck. Beyond that we were very fortunate as with each shovel of wet sloppy snow it was very apparent how heavy that snow was. I can’t even imagine how many tons of snow covered everything or how many tons we moved one shovel at a time. It was so deep that our back windows were completely covered and we couldn’t see outside. Just part of mountain living.
For more on Bruce and Carol McElmurray and mountain living go to: http://www.brucecarolcabin.blogspot.com