Winter is OVER. Spring is here. Aren’t we going backwards to talk about winter now? Not really. Now is the time some folks are getting ready to build and there are a few things they may need to know before they start and one of those things involves snow removal. Besides, some of these pictures were only taken a few weeks ago and I want to show them to you. And don't forget the foot or so of snow that fell just last week on the East coast!
Some people living off grid never see any snow. Others like us get a fair amount. We live about 3 miles from the nearest paved road and that means we have to take care of our own snow removal, not only on our immediate property but also the 3 miles to pavement. From that point on the local County or State handles the snow removal quite well.
We did a lot of research on a lot of new things before we went off grid. We mostly got it right but we did have a few regrets. One of those is not keeping a clear distance all the way around the house for snow removal equipment. I have solar panels, cisterns, and satellite dishes on one end of the house that are too close to the house to get my tractor and plow in for snow removal so it all has to be done by hand. I have a metal roof on my house so usually on the first sunny day after a snowfall we are going to have the snow come off the roof and pile up just below the eave.
I could leave it there but if you do, it will melt in the sun and then freeze at night and eventually become solid ice. At that point it is a lot of hard work to get it out. I believe it is best to keep the immediate area around the house clear of snow. I have gutters on my roof, footing drains below grade, and the ground is all sloped away from the house but even with that you can acquire water problems if you allow the snow to build up under the eaves.
In a fast thaw that built up pile of snow will melt and you can accumulate water between it and the house and if the ground is frozen that water has no place to go. It can eventually pond up against your siding or enter the crawl space or even become higher than your concrete slab (floor) if you have one. All in all it is just a good idea to keep the snow from accumulating at the house.
That one end of the house is all I have to do by hand. The rest is accessible with my tractor and plow. I use it to keep the snow away from the house and all of the roads on the property. I usually plow when it gets 5” deep or more. If the snow is dry it doesn’t matter how deep it is. It is easy to remove or “plow to the side”. If the snow is wet and heavy it becomes much more difficult. Any more than 5” in depth and the snow will pile up on the side of the road so high that it can overwhelm the plow by putting too much pressure on the heavy (snow piled) end of the plow. I broke my plow the first year and had to have it reinforced and welded. Wet snow can produce a lot of force against the plow so that is why I don’t let it get too deep before I start clearing snow.
I would love to have a snow blower but the three miles of road I have to keep clear is called Big Boulder Lane for a reason and I just don’t have the confidence that I could plow my road without damaging a snow blower on a rock. It would only be a matter of time.
I also discovered that first year that weight would be a factor in plowing. I have a 4x4 55 horsepower tractor which is pretty good size. I even filled the rear tires with liquid to give it more weight and stability on the hillside we live on. It weighs about 7,000 pounds. That wasn’t good enough. I was sliding all over the place with an 8’ wide plow. I had to get chains and they were expensive but when you are the only source to get back and forth from the house to the highway, you need to make sure you have a really good snow removal machine and so I got the chains. What a difference they made! Without them I was having trouble keeping the blade where I wanted and even getting back up some of the steeper hills. Now I go exactly wherever I point the plow and can even plow uphill so nothing is wasted. I plow to the left going down the hill and plow to the left again going back up. I’ve cut my time down to where I can plow the 3 miles of road in just 2.5 hours!
I know what you are thinking – why doesn’t he get a plow for his truck and stay nice and warm? Well, it is a good question. I don’t have any experience with a truck type plow but I can’t believe it would do as good a job as a 6 way tractor mounted blade that I can control instantly up or down, tilted or angled, all on a road that is rough and full of rocks. Visibility was the biggest reason I went this route. With a truck plow on pavement or a nice graveled road you can just drop it down and go. You can’t do that on this road. It’s just too rough and bumpy for a plow that you can‘t really see the bottom of the blade and what is going on. Anyway, right or wrong I made my decision and so far we are doing well with it. I can still handle a few hours outside however I do reserve the right to change my mind as I get older!
Ed and Laurie Essex live off grid in the Okanogan Highlands of Washington State where they operate their websites goodideasforlife.com and offgridworks.com.