Gardens rest under blankets of silence. Trees feign lifelessness. Digits are often single and sometimes negative. We are positively officially undeniably irrefutably immersed in the deep of winter. And we have snow. Just like in the old days. And more snow to come, say the people who say that. Today we pulled ourselves up by the bootstraps of uncertainty to find a snow removal option. Another JUFFIO (Just F* Figure It Out) triumph. Winter paid no mind to our procrastination. The first snow came two weeks ago. Six inches, but powdery and spread out over 24 hours. It took me two hours, but I cleared the long drive with an old-fashioned snow shovel. Did it mostly to remove the snow, but also for the workout as my neglected bicycle pouted in the corner of the garage. Kelly touched it up again the next day. Shoveling a country driveway will not be reasonable option for heavier snows.
After much research and weighing of recommendations that led us as far as a $3000 loader-mounted plow and as wide as a giant cut tire repurposed as a plow for the not-so-repurposed price of $1450, we settled on the tried-and-hopefully-true rear tractor blade for $500. $500 is not nothing, but by contrast new heavy-duty walk-behind snow blowers are over $1000. We already have a tractor so it made sense to expand its capabilities.
Tractor Nick (not his real name because who would name a kid Tractor?) after disparaging the practice of using a rear blade for snow removal, tried to sell me the front-mounted plow. The price included $800 extra for the added hydraulics lines to spare me the burden of controlling the blade angle manually. I asked him to walk me through the manual process available for zero extra dollars. Get off the tractor. Pull out a pin. Rotate the blade where you want it. Replace the pin. Get back on the tractor. Didn't seem like a legitimate hardship.
He could tell I was skeptical. "Even as young as you are you'll end up flat on your back" he cautioned paternalistically. At least he didn’t pat me on the head. I almost told him that I am not that young, but decided instead to savor the error. I didn’t bother to argue that falling is an ever-present risk during snow season, or that yesterday I took care of two patients with winter-borne fractures. I can avoid falling, at least on ice, if I never go outside. Not an option. If I cannot dismount the tractor without falling, I probably don't belong on a tractor. That time will come, but I don't feel it yet.
I decided to shop somewhere else. Found a farm implement store thirty minutes away that had just the rear blade we wanted. It was used but looked no more worn than the brand new ones next to it. I could have probably pushed for a better price, but I hate that game. I know it's weak, but I was glad to pay $50 (speculating he might have let it go for $450) not to play it.
While we were waiting for the forklift to arrive the salesman tested the weight of the blade lifting one side a few inches. "Wanna just lift it?" he asked. I was honored that he thought I might be strong enough, and it's a good thing I was because it wasn't like I had the option to say my half was too heavy. All it really proves is that I have no discretion. Pretty sure the forklift driver, who pulled up just as we slid the blade into the bed of the truck, was impressed. Impressing a forklift driver is worth a little indiscretion.
When I got home I used the tractor's loader and a tow strap to lift the blade. Kelly, who does have discretion, drove the truck out from under it, then mounted the tractor to gently lower the blade as I steadied it. I mounted the blade to the three-point hitch and tested it on a stretch of driveway that still held hard-packed snow. I even practiced getting off the tractor to manually rotate the blade. I think it's gonna work. "Hoping for lots of snow now?" Kelly asked. Yup.
Post-blizzard footnote: The following weekend we had eight inches of snow. The new blade could not have worked better.