The weather outside is frightful. Snow is falling and sticking to the ground for the first time this season, and that’s what I consider to be the official sign that winter has begun. You can measure it on the calendar or by the stars if you want, but it doesn’t mean a thing until the snow starts falling and the ground starts freezing solid. This is it.

There’s not a lot of snow, and it’s pretty wet, but there’s enough of it on the ground that it’s easy to see no matter which way you turn your head, and I can take a picture of it and not have to explain that I took a picture of snow and not just my empty yard. That’s how you know it’s real.

It’s been coming down, on and off, since I got out of bed at eight and it doesn’t look like it’s going to stop any time soon, so this might be the perfect day to curl up on the sofa with a book and drink gallons of hot beverages. Not that I ever needed an excuse to do that before, just that today I’d be able to use that as an excuse and everybody would nod their heads and say, Yes, yes, perfect day, wish I’d thought of that.

super massive snow storm

Just for the record, yesterday we had the first SUPER MASSIVE SNOW STORM OF THE YEAR that everybody talked about as if it was the end of the world, and when we went out to our car at the end of the work day, it turned out there was maybe an inch or two of accumulation and some ice to scrape off the car. How is it that, every year, everybody forgets what winter was like? We live in Wisconsin! Snow is the default setting here!

I shoveled the driveway this morning, also for the first time this year, also just for the record. I didn’t really have to; our car could have easily driven right over it, but I was insomniac and figured, what the hell, I need some cardio anyway.

In other news …


Among the things I will not be doing this morning is shoveling the driveway, even though I set my alarm clock to go bleepity-bleep-bleep a half-hour earlier than usual because the all-knowing National Weather Service said there was supposed to be somewhere between five and twelve inches of snow on the ground this morning. The driveway’s on the ground. So is our car. And when our car is separated from the driveway by twelve inches of snow, it doesn’t take us to work in the morning.

That’s why I gave myself an extra half-hour to shovel it all off this morning. It was a brilliant plan, except that, when I peered blearily out the window at the driveway this morning, there was no more snow on it or the rest of the ground than there was when I went to bed last night. Relieved, I went back to bed, reset my clock and burrowed into the bedcovers, where I laid for five blissful minutes until the cats began to dance on my head.

awesome plow

Friday morning, I opened the garage door to see if the snow that had fallen the night before was enough to need shoveling. It was. I grabbed a shovel and started to work.

I’d cleared about ten feet of the part of the driveway closest to the garage when I noticed that the plow had come by and piled up a wall of snow at the end of the drive that the car would never be able to get past. Shoveling a path down one side of the drive, I figured I’d start on the wall, to get the worst of the work out of the way.

When I got there and tried to chop it into chunks with the shovel, I found out that the plow must have come by last night when the snow was mostly slush, because it had an inch-thick shell of ice that was almost impossible for the shovel to get through. I had to tramp back to the garage to get the ice chopper.

After ten or fifteen minutes of chopping at the ice, then shoveling the chunks away, I had cleared a pitifully narrow path all the way to the street. It was back-breaking work made even worse by the high banks of snow piled up around the end of the driveway, making me lift every shovel full waist-high and pitch it up over the top of the bank.

As I started to chop at the ice again, a city truck came up the street, spreading salt. He slowed down as he got closer and stopped right in front of my driveway, so I stopped working and watched to see what he was up to. He turned the truck so that it looked as though he was going to come right up my driveway. I stepped back, thinking, What the hell? but before another cuss word crossed my mind, he dropped the plow and shoved that whole wall of ice off to the side.

I pumped my arm up and down and shouted, “YOU’RE AWESOME!” I don’t think he heard me, but he probably got the message.

first snow

First snow of the season fell from the sky this morning as I was backing the car out of the garage, headed down the street to Crema to see if they could sell me a bag of coffee beans after I let our supply run out. I’m a bad coffee janitor.

The snow came down as those tiny little blobs that look just like Styrofoam. They even bounced off the windshield the way Styrofoam would, and they didn’t melt until the defroster warmed up the glass.

Back at home, there was enough snow built up on the back porch to be impossible to ignore, and it stuck for about an hour, so I think it counts as a real first snow.


I am shoveling snow off the driveway. Yes, right now. No, I’m not holding an actual shovel in my hands right now. Okay, I’m not in the driveway right now, either. I’m in my basement lair, drinking coffee, but my belief is unshakable that, if I’m only taking a fifteen-minute break from shoveling snow, I can still say I’m shoveling snow, sort of like you can be in the break room at the office and still say you’re at work.

I’m not even sure why I’m shoveling snow today. I’m certainly not going to drive the car anywhere. Neither one of us has any inclination to do so and won’t, unless the other one manages to cut off a digit in a freak kitchen/home improvement power tool accident. Now that I think about it, that wouldn’t be so very freakish, considering our motor skills, coupled with our love of powered gadgets that come with lots of sharpened attachments.

We will be traveling to the Isthmus Beer & Cheese Fest later this afternoon (phone pictures of drunken B & O will be available in near-real time this year thanks to Twitter and a new cell phone!), but that will be by taxi. I guess I’m shoveling snow off the driveway so that he can pull up to the front door and we can walk to the taxi without getting our shoes full of snow. That makes sense. I’ll get right back to that as soon as I finish this cup of coffee.

Almost everybody else on the block has a snow blower now. The air was abuzz with the sound of two-stroke engines as I stepped out of the garage, shovel in hand, and I counted no less that four people clearing their driveways of snow using great honking big steel-body snow blowers. I, on the other hand, still do it the old-fashioned way, and not because I’m a snob about it. I love snow blowers. They are the ultimate power tool: Driven by a gasoline engine, one makes more noise than all my other power tools combined. A snow blower has not one, but two sets of whirling blades that will snatch the fingers off an unwitting operator before he can say “Oh, shit!” A snow blower is really a snow cannon: It shoots a salvo of snow in an arc broad enough to get it off your driveway, and it’s self-loading! You don’t even have to push it! All you have to do is follow along behind it and steer a straight course!

The reason I don’t have one of these awesome toys is just this: I’m a bit of a snob. I won’t buy just any snow blower. If I’m going to do this, I’ll do it right: It’ll have to be all-metal construction, self-propelled, powered by a four-stroke engine big enough to handle a massive dump of snow, and it’ll have to start itself. My dream snow blower costs thousands of dollars, and that’s the other problem: I’m cheap. Some day my aching back will trump my tendency to pinch pennies, but today is not that day.

This has been so much fun, but My Darling B has gone out to shovel snow now, which means I’ve got to get out there, too, or I’ll look like a total piker. To entertain you while I’m freezing my ass off and ruining my back, here’s a link to a story about a guy who built his own snow blower using a V-8 engine he had laying around his garage. Enjoy, and stay warm!


Time for a few stray thoughts. I haven’t done this in a while, and I can’t come up with anything but complete randomness right now, so the timing seems auspicious:

Granola. I eats it. I didn’t used to because I thought it was ucky, and I thought it was ucky because it was pretty bad granola. Dry enough to suck every molecule of moisture out of every cell in my mouth and gritty enough to use as traction if my car got stuck on the ice. I don’t know who made that stuff or why, but as granola it was crap. Or maybe that’s just the way granola was made back then, and now they know better. We started bringing it home from the co-op when Tim asked for it, and as he asked for it more and more I started eating it, too. Crunchy and sweet, it’s pretty tasty stuff and comes in more flavors than the multicolored plastic stuff they sell to kids as breakfast cereal. There was a spell after Tim moved out where we didn’t bring much home for a while, and then a while back we started stocking up every week because both My Darling B and I were eating it for breakfast in the morning, and neither one of us are breakfast-eating people. Or weren’t. I guess we are now.

We practiced our dance steps last night and we were freaking AWESOME! By our standards. And the bar’s still set pretty low, but only because we’ve been at it for just five weeks, folks. It’s not for lack of trying. We’ve got all the steps down, for instance, but that’s about it. Grace, poise, timing, that’s all stuff far in the future. BUT WE’VE GOT THE STEPS DOWN, OKAY? That’s gotta count for something.

I thought we’d be able to get an uninterrupted night’s sleep now the weather’s warmed up and the cats have wandered off to find other places to bed down for the night, but the recent cold snap brought them right back to cuddle up alongside us like a couple of heat magnets. Last night they had me pinned to the mattress like Lilliputians pinning Gulliver to the ground. They were purring like great big furry purring things. They were just like another metaphor that I can’t recall right now.

We had one of those weekends where we didn’t go out much and it seemed as though we didn’t really do all that much. I mean, we weren’t inert blobs of protoplasm; we washed some clothes, took out the trash, cleaned the kitchen and unblocked the bathroom drain, things like that. Stuff got done. Also, I finished a book I started last weekend (no prize for guessing what it was about) and My Darling B got herself up into the biggest snit ever talking to me about the book she finished.

And some of us had plans that were dashed by the cold snap that brought us that one last dump of winter (at least I’m hoping it’s the last dump). B wanted to break out her roto-tiller and turn over some soil in her garden so she could plant lettuce, and I think she may have been just a teensy bit bummed out that she couldn’t. With temps in the fifties all week, she was living in anticipation for too long not to be utterly gobsmacked by the change in weather. I’m pretty sure my head would have exploded, but I’m a little more excitable than she is.


Well, who’s going to come clean this up, then? Because it’s not gonna be me! I’m done shoveling snow.

snow snow snow DAMMIT

We here in Wisconsin have a saying about winter: It’s not over until April. March may get warm enough to go out in shirtsleeves and shorts, but there’s at least one cold snap and snowfall coming down the pike to slap us all in the face, and if you can’t abide by that, you’d better move to Texas.

We have another saying about winter that’s especially reserved for mornings like this one, typically uttered the moment we look out the window on the scene of freshly-fallen snow: Dammit! And then we pack up and head for Texas.

[Update: I just realized this is technically the first day of Spring. Touché, Mother Nature!]

Bangor and Aroostook

Bangor and AroostookWhoo! Just finished shoveling snow off the driveway. Gotta sit down a minute.

I found this coffee mug at the thrift store yesterday and had to bring it home because I got a thing for choo-choos, but also because “Bangor & Aroostook” sounds enough like a phrase you’d hear in a foreign-language porn film that it makes me grin.

We got rain coming down on snow that’s turning to ice. The Great Ice Storm of 2009 cometh. There was barely a half-inch of snow on the driveway but it was all locked in place by a glaze of ice and soaked through with enough water that I might as well have been shoveling away a half-inch of crushed granite. My arms and legs are quivering like jelly.

Walking back to the house up the sloping driveway turned into a mad scramble on the layer of ice I exposed. Made me wonder if I’d done the right thing, but I’m sure as hell not putting all that snow back.