A Neighborly Snow Day

NOTE: Sorry for the delay in posting. We moved our web host over the holidays, and we both got sick with a brutal cold so we haven’t been running on all cylinders.

It’s been a snowy winter and after last years horrible green Christmas we were thrilled to have a white one this year.

One snowy day, just before Christmas, I had my day all planned out – breakfast – dishes – snow blow our place – a bit of office work – then out to the bush to start hauling some of next year’s firewood that I’ve cut. I need snow so that I can pull the sled of wood out to the road that runs through the back of our property. I could spend $10,000 on an ATV so I don’t need snow, but for now I’m frugal (and resistant to taking any more money out of my rapidly dwindling retirement fund.)

Since there was enough snow for me to snowblow, I headed down to our neighbors at about 11 a.m. to do their place and some other driveways that Ken is responsible for. He was away for a week, and he lives on top of a hill which makes it hard to get to their place. His neighbor’s driveway is like of those roads you see on the TV show, “Death Highway Truckers” where they take big rigs along donkey trails in the Himalayas. It has this 65% incline along a cliff and if you tumble off, well, writing off the tractor is going to be the least of your worries. And yes, I use Ken’s tractor which has a rear-mounted snow blower that runs off the PTO so you have to drive backwards and it’s a pain. The snow blows down the back of the seat and even though I had on ski pants they eventually soaked through and I got quite chilled.

I finished up snow blowing at about 1 p.m.

On the way home there was a horse on the road. It’s owned by another neighbor. He hasn’t built his house yet but he keeps his horses there. One of them was out and my best reasoning did little to convince it to return quietly to the paddock. I tried to phone my neighbour when I came home to have some lunch but no luck, so I went and grabbed John, who was horse sitting at Ken’s, and brought him back to help me corral the horse.

It was a Belgian draft horse, like the kind you see in those horse pulls at fairs, so it weighed more than a Ford 350 and was 18 hands high, which is like two stories. Unlike me, John isn’t afraid of horses, so he got a lead shank around it while I opened the gate, trying to keep its buddy, also a Belgian, inside the paddock. It was a success and as we climbed back on to the road the horse’s owner showed up.

He had just got his truck stuck down where he keeps his round bales of hay. So I took John back and then went to the stuck truck. Luckily he has an old pickup with snow tires he was going to use to try and pull it out.

I try not to live a cliché but there’s this great song by Corb Lund that goes something like “so the Dodge got stuck and then the Ford got stuck…” and that was kind of how it went.

I asked my neighbor why his truck has all season radial tires, given where we live. He explained that the truck came with them and he hadn’t replaced them. And then I asked, “Why is the transmission not engaging properly when I put it in reverse?” He explained that it needs a new transmission which is about 2 grand. So I said, “I know your tractor is old, but it really is the best way to get round bales to horses.” My neighbor said, “Well, it needs $700 for a new transmission.”

I love being around people who do not have limitless money and have to make choices. Where I came from in suburbia, when stuff breaks, you just buy new stuff, or pay someone to fix it. Now I meet people who, like me, are ‘income constrained’ so have to make choices. It sometimes seems like a more legitimate way to go through life. “This life not covered by warranty!”

By the time we had moved the truck part way out, we had ripped the trailer hitch off his old truck. Then he came around and hooked it to his front bumper and since I got to drive in forward (which his transmission seemed to handle better) through a lot of mud and snow slinging, we were able to unstuck it.

It was clear to me he was not having a good day. Once the round bale was rolled into the paddock, and the trucks were unstuck, I think his day got better. There have been too many days to count since we moved here when neighbors have helped us out and it is always gratifying to have a chance to pay it back.

I didn’t get back to my house until 4 p.m., which around here at this time of the year is getting pretty dark. I got my truck up the hill near where I was going to haul wood and then Jasper and I (okay, pretty much just “I”) pulled a few loads of wood to get a path knocked down in the snow.

The day did not go as planned. I did not accomplish the goals I had set out for myself. But it was snowy, and wintry, and I drove a tractor and chased a big horse and got a truck that was really stuck, unstuck. It was such an awesome day. I must say I never had these days when I worked in an office.

(If you’ve got a few minutes do watch the Corb Lund video. It really captures country life.)

3 Responses to “A Neighborly Snow Day”

  • Jim:

    Good one Cam
    Brought back memories of my neighbour when growing up at subtropical Lismore in Australia.
    He drove a dual tyre 2 tonne Fargo truck. He decided to upgrade his road and get new gravel on the surface and grade it. He lived past our house at the end of the road along from a large water fed spring area. The trucks carrying gravel ended up being too heavy and broke through the unstable surface. One got bogged, then the second one went down too trying to help and so the grader came to their aid which also went down. Not sure if it was the same day (at least 55 years ago now) or the next day but a blitz truck was brought in, tied itself to an iron bark tree (a type of eucalypt) and winched them all out one at a time. They finished their job when the paddock dried out.
    I am glad you had a good day though and didn’t end up seriously ill from all the time spent in the wet and cold.
    We are in a heatwave here with 40C a couple of days ago.

  • Chatsworth Neil:

    Sounds like a damn fine rural day!
    I agree with your thoughts on “income-constrained”… when we are forced to make some choices it means we need to be clear on our values. When income (or credit!) is seemingly limitness the need for conscious choices diminishes as does the likelihood of coming back to core values in order to decide on priorities.

  • Catherine:

    Pretty successful day anyway, even though it wasn’t what you had planned. Sometimes God has a different “to do” list. Good job! Kudos!

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Cam Mather and his wife Michelle live independently off the electricity grid using the sun and wind to power their home and their CSA. Cam is working towards the goal of making his home “zero-carbon” and with his extensive garden he aims to grow as much of his own food as possible. He is available to speak at conferences and other events and has motivated many people to integrate renewable energy into their lives, reduce their footprint on the planet and get started on the path to personal food, fuel and financial independence.
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