Every Inch of Snow Plus Every Inch of Driveway


Thursday morning I woke up, rolled over, stretched, then asked myself, "Good grief! Why on earth are my arms and shoulders so incredibly sore?"

Then I got out of bed, opened the blinds, looked out the window and remembered: on Wednesday I shoveled a foot of heavy, wet snow from my entire driveway, as well as the sidewalk in front of my house, up to my front door and off my front steps. When I got done, my driveway looked like this:


Which constitutes, I think, a reasonably good job of clearing the snow.

Last year I mentioned that during a period of particularly heavy snowfall, I had shoveled my driveway upwards of three times a day. This prompted a comment providing a link to an entry on someone else's blog about how stupid it is to shovel snow before it stops snowing, after which someone posted a comment on how there is no good reason to shovel the driveway three times in one day.

This all transpired at a really busy time in my life, when I was scarcely managing to blog at all, so I didn't respond. And while I didn't lose any sleep over the matter, I admit I have thought of that comment with resentment a time or two throughout the past year.

Because the fact of the matter is, as this Arizona native learned once after following what is cavalierly touted as the only sensible way to approach snow removal, i.e, waiting until the snow stops entirely before you try to remove it, there are a fucking hell of a lot of excellent reasons to shovel one's driveway three times in one day. They include not only every last goddamn inch of heavy snow you have to heft, but every inch of snow you have to heft the shovel over, as well as every single inch of driveway and sidewalk you have to clear, and every single minute you have to spend outside in nasty, nasty temperatures.

The thing is, snow looks all powdery and light, and when you pick it up to make a snowball, it is. But when it's on the ground, particularly when it's on concrete that has recently been retaining some heat so that the bottom couple of inches closet to that concrete melt a little and get soggy, then one foot of snow is PRETTY DAMN HEAVY. Whereas three feet of snow is SO GODDAMN FUCKING HEAVY it's impossible--yes, impossible--for someone like me to lift it. Not only that, but even if I COULD lift a shovel full of three feet of snow, I couldn't lift it high enough--clear up past my waist--to clear a three-foot high drift of snow, which, after a few shovel-fuls, would become shoulder-high, so that I'd have to lift the snow as high as my head.

I can't get out of my garage if there are three feet of snow in my driveway. But even if there's only a foot of snow there and I can drive over it if I want to without clearing it first, I have learned from doing exactly that, that's not a good idea either. First of all, packed snow gets really slippery. Furthermore, one day of warmer temperatures, so that the snow turns first to water and then to ice overnight when the temperature drops back down, is all it takes to turn your entire driveway into something it's unsafe to walk or drive on--particularly when you factor in drainage from gutters. If shoveling three feet of snow sucks, chipping eight inches of solid ice off the top of your driveway REALLY SUCKS.

So as I have learned the hard way, it is best to follow the example of my neighbors who have lived here for decades and to shovel the snow before it gets so deep it's unmanageable, even if that happens three times in one day.

(I would also note that unless you have one that is brand new and ultra high-powered, even snow blowers have problems with three feet of snow. The only thing that easily clears three feet of snow from a driveway is a snow plow, but that can do a lot of damage to plants, lawns, and even the driveway itself. Mercifully the one year we got FIVE feet of snow in one storm my neighbor was driving a snow plow for extra cash, and he cleared my driveway for me, free of charge and with the utmost care. Otherwise, I would have been snowed in for several days.)

p.s. Yes, it's not just my arms and shoulders but the entire subject that's a sore spot. Don't give me advice on this topic unless you personally have shoveled your way out of three feet of snow in the past year.


I'm with you. We've been known to shovel two or three times a day. We thought that was normal, but we live in Minnesota.

Of course, we don't own a car, a garage, or a driveway. So luckily, we only have to shovel the (relatively short) segment of sidewalk that goes past the front of our house, and the side of the house where the garbage collectors pick up our garbage.

But we too have learned that sidewalks + infrequent shoveling + temperature spikes followed by big freezes = very, VERY dangerous sidewalks.

Not in the past year... but I moved from San Diego to Flagstaff years ago, and didn't realize the folly of parking in the bottom curve of a U-shaped driveway without careful attention to weather forecasts. I had to shovel three feet of snow for about the same amount of driveway you did, but uphill, to get out.

My advice? Hot baths and Tiger Balm help the soreness.

Is that your nifty little house back there? Very sweet.

There's no good reason why you couldn't have come and done mine too is there? Snow = ugh!

Hi JGW--I so admire people who live without cars. I have never done it in the US since reaching adulthood, but I try to use any car I own as little as possible. Which is another reason I'm persnickety about snow removal: I like to walk, and I resent people who don't keep their sidewalks well cleared. I feel it's my duty to make it easy for my neighbors to walk past my house.

Hi Juti--no, the cute little house you see at the end of the photo is my neighbor--her house, with its seasonal decorations, was a much better focus for the picture than my garage.

Dale, I would be happy to shovel your driveway next time I'm in Toronto provided that afterwards, you take me to dinner and another show as good as the last one we saw.

We've just discovered something really cool here... Car sharing!! For a fee of $20/month, we have access to cars at about 15 hubs throughout the Twin Cities for $5/hour. This will help me with my weekly teaching gig about 15 miles from where we live, and with occasional automobile needs once we get our foster kid. I think this will be the wave of the future. In light of your "Do-Over" post, I think we'll need to get creative about this kind of stuff...

Hear! Hear!

Snow sucks. Shoveling snow really sucks. Your approach is definitely the one I take when it snows. (Although, in these parts, it sleets, which is worse.)

I haven't been here in such a long time, I have to apologize for my absence. I kept up reading the entries for some time after my last comment several months ago (but didn't have the time to post comments - thinking, "One of these days I'll have to make time to comment on Holly's blog") but eventually losing even the time to keep up with the reading. Then something this evening made me think, I should go to Holly's blog and see what she's up to. I found it amusing when the first entry I saw was about the snow on your driveway since the one of your first entries I "ever" saw (and the very first I commented on) was the one titled "Accumulations Less Than One Inch" which you link to above. I do believe in providence, and this little co-incidence made me chuckle so I thought it deserved to be shared.

In any event, I shall try to get back more often now that life has calmed down somewhat, and besides - I have missed so much here that I now have a whole lot of catch up reading to do - Haha!

As always, if the mood moves you - please feel free to respond by e-mail and we can catch up that way. - rk

Hey - I change my mind! It sounds like there are perfectly good reasons to shovel three times in one day!

For the record, there was around a foot last year (during that huge snowstorm I referred to). I would definitely have to rethink my shoveling strategy if we got as much as you do!

It's still here Holly, do you think it gets worse the second time around? Also here stinking the town up is Dirty Dancing.

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This page contains a single entry by Holly published on December 8, 2007 11:48 AM.

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