Monday, January 30, 2006

It's Snow Season

Part of the everyday struggle in the Joe household is the (self-imposed) requirement that I consider the ecological impact of my actions. Hand wash dishes or use the dishwasher? Flush or no flush (usually a no-brainer)? Drive to the gym or take a walk? Burn oil or wood? The list goes on. Winters in Maine force me into one of the most important decisions that I am faced with - shovel, or use the snow blower? (Or, if the forecast is favorable, do I give Mother Nature a day or two to take care of the snow for me?)

Unlike the wood vs. oil situation, the shovel vs. snow blower debate is a clear choice between helping to preserve the environment and bowing to convenience. Shoveling is quiet and takes nothing but the use of one's own muscles. It's good exercise, although it can be overdone, especially if the snow is deep and wet. Snow blowing, on the other hand, requires one to use petroleum (as lubricant as well as fuel), blasts noxious fumes into the air and is incredibly noisy. That's not to mention the fact that the manufacture of a snow blower requires far more resources than that of a shovel. (That, of course, is a sunk cost in my case.)

It's also a heck of a lot faster than shoveling, which really matters when one has to get everybody off to their jobs by a certain hour. I have established certain criteria to help me in the decision process. If we get three inches or less, I will shovel (which doesn't take all that long) or leave it to Ma Nature. If we get six inches or more, it's almost always necessary to use the snow blower. When we get 4-5 inches, I have a decision to make. How much time do I have? How heavy is the snow? Is the snow blower working today?

Of course, about 90% of the snow storms that come through leave 4-5 inches of snow in my driveway. I always have a decision to make. This morning was no exception. A storm over night left four inches of snow at my house. It might have been three only inches. I actually had plenty of time to take care of the snow, and on another day I might have taken out my shovel and gotten to work. However, I had been playing with my friends' kids over the weekend and managed to strain my back in the process (the joys of being 40!).

I suppose I could have left it, but there's another storm coming tonight and it wasn't going to be any easier tomorrow. And we get in trouble when we leave too much snow to melt and become several inches of ice in the process. There was really no choice but to get out the machine.

With some measure of guilt I took out the snow blower. I wear hearing protection to guard against the noise, but there is nothing to keep the carbon emissions from heading off to the ever-increasing hole in the ozone. This hole in the ozone is leading to an increase in our air temperatures and, I assume, has led to the unseasonably warm weather that we've been enjoying this January.

And this is where the story comes full circle. The unseasonably warm weather has kept my gravel driveway from freezing solid this winter. This means that the snowblower often digs up rocks when I am using it. The rocks get caught in the auger blades, breaking the shear pins and rendering the snow blower non-functional. I broke four shear pins this morning. My last four shear pins. I ultimately wound up shoveling about a third of my driveway regardless, much to the dismay of my back.

When possible, I encourage those in cold weather states to use a shovel rather than a snow blower. For me, there's usually a sense of calm while I'm shoveling in the quiet winter air, and accomplishment when I finish. Using the snow blower does nothing of the sort. Thanks to mother nature for reminding me. My back will feel better in a couple of days. There is no such quick-fix for the planet.


Blogger weasel said...

You could park closer to the road and use cross country skis to reach your car.....

Perhaps you could set up your own carbon credit trading system: everytime you use the snowblower you have to play the guitar unplugged or something. Its sort of a bummer in Maine; a lot of the suggested remedies for over-consumption just aren't available to us. I'd love to take the bus to work for example, but... At least I live close enough to walk (now if only they would plow the sidewalks a little better).

10:54 AM  
Anonymous Brock said...

Joe - Pave your driveway

And sympathy pains or not... my back started hurting the exact same day - just in time to greet me to 40.

7:42 PM  

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