Friday, January 28, 2011

Snowy Landscape: Beyond the Beauty

Japanese maple

Wednesday night’s “thundersnow”—it started with lightning and thunder—dumped just over nine inches of fluffy but wet snow here at Meadow Glenn. The fluff was beautiful at first look Thursday, but it damaged many of our trees and shrubs.

The Japanese maple on the north side of our house was beautiful—the spaces between its reddish branches almost filled in with the white stuff.

Flowering plum
Our flowering plum trees looked like fluff balls in Thursday’s morning light, but many of their branches, which I keep trimmed so the lowest is about seven feet above ground so I can mow under them with my Kubota tractor, touched the ground. They may spring back a little over the next few months, but I fear I’ll have lots of pruning to do in the spring.

Butterfly bushes—about four feet high before the storm—lie smashed to the ground. They bloom only on new growth, so I was planning to prune them to about one foot next month, but I fear I’ll find lots of split branches that will call for more drastic pruning than I had planned.

Where's the food?
As I looked out our front windows early Thursday morning, I saw that our bird feeders were encrusted with snow, and put that at the top of my “must do” list. As I looked at the strange sight, juncos arrived for an early breakfast of nyjer and sunflower seeds and tried to figure out how to reach the seed through the white crust.

After a fast breakfast of oatmeal on fresh, sliced strawberries, I put on my boots and winter work clothes and went to work.

Job 1: Brush off the feeders and refill them. As soon as I moved off, three pairs of cardinals jockeyed with juncos for breakfast. Song and white-throated sparrows soon arrived, along with chickadees and titmice. A female downy woodpecker pecked away at the block of suet.

Job 2: Snowblow the driveway. Thursday was one of those days that it’s great having a snowblower. The snow was heavy, so this Ancient Gardener could have “overdone” it quite easily.

As I leave the house to do jobs that are labor intensive, Ellen usually says, “Now don’t overdo it.” That’s not a cliché. She means it. I have overdone it in the past.

“Of course not, dear.”

The problem with overdoing it is that you often don’t know you’ve overdone it until you’ve already overdone it.

But I am getting more realistic about such things. In my 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s I thought nothing of working until I could work no more. In my 60s I began to wise up a bit, to keep track of time and, well, not to overdo it.

And in my 70s, I often spread a job over several days—a half hour today, a half hour tomorrow. Snowblowing, of course, isn’t really a job that you can spread over several days, as the snow might turn to slush and then ice. So I’ve traded my snow shovel for my snowblower, and I let the snowblower do the work. I don’t wrestle with it, don’t try to force it to do something a little bit faster. I don’t push and pull. I let the gears do the work.

Snowblowing today took about three hours. I cleared our 600-foot driveway and more in about three hours.  The “more” was at the end of our driveway, where the county road crews had stacked about four feet of snow and ice.

Yes, I let the snowblower chew and spit and throw at its leisure. A neighbor used his shovel to help break it up. And then I helped that neighbor clear his driveway. And then a third neighbor needed help clearing his stack of snow and ice. Working together—with two snowblowers and one snow shovel—we got the job done in reasonable time.

This week’s “thundersnow” soon will be but a memory. Believe me, I slept well last night.


  1. Alas, I checked the sagging branches of the flowering plum today. They are not just weighed down by the snow. Three of the basic limbs are cracked. Major surgery is due this spring. The plums are about 20 years old, probably near maturity, so this kind of damage is a definite minus.

  2. Well, Bob, what gorgeous photos. I felt like I was there in the snow, but I'm with Ellen. Be CAREFUL out there. In addition to bringing on a heart attack, you might fall. Falls can be deadly, or maybe just ruin a day.

    Here's an example. Yesterday, my sister and I were heading out for lunch. My sister, age 68 and walking a half step behind me and wearing wedge heel shoes, stepped on a roundish rock on the pavement which flipped her to the cement with a thud, where she landed on right hand, knee and eye/forehead.

    Of course, seeing her go down out of the corner of my eye, scared me spitless, for she never even grunted, and I was sure she'd had a stroke. A bruise popped up around the eye socket, bulging like a small egg. She lay on the cold pavement, her head in my lap and me holding an ice pack from the restaurant on her eye, while paramedics took their sweet time to come and assess her. She was dizzy, nauseated, saying she was sleepy, and I (a former neuro ICU nurse)was busy assessing her pupils, etc., praying to beat the band, long before paramedics arrived. Then an ambulance took her to a hospital, where she was scanned, declared okay, though bruised and shaken, and sent home.

    All in all, a scary scene that ended well. God is good, for she could have broken all kinds of bones, and didn't even break her glasses.

    Moral of this long story: Be careful, Bob, watch your step, hold onto something, wear cleated boots in snow... oh, but you know this already.