Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A winter-weary Minnesotan writes about snow removal January 20, 2023

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 11:57 AM
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Randy starts down the driveway with the snowblower following a past snow event. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo February 2020)

WAY TO GO, MINNESOTA! We are living up to our reputation as a snowy state. With more than three months of winter remaining, we’ve already surpassed our seasonal annual average snowfall of 51.2 inches by an inch.

Our 2022-2023 seasonal to-date total of 52.1 inches (recorded in the Twin Cities) likely comes as no surprise to anyone who lives in the North Star State. Winter storm after winter storm after winter storm has left us, or at least me, feeling winter-weary. Once again Thursday evening I donned my winter wear, pulled on my practical winter boots and headed outdoors to assist Randy with snow removal. This time some seven inches of new-fallen snow.

The tree shovels we use to removal snow. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo December 2021)

I work the three shovels while Randy guides our massive hefty ancient snowblower down the sidewalk and driveway. There are places a snowblower can’t go and those spots—the front sidewalk and steps and along the side of the garage by the garbage cans and recycling bin—are my responsibility. I’m happy to help. Well, maybe not exactly happy, but rather willing.

Randy advised me to be careful around the garage due to ice. I appreciated his warning as the last thing I need is to slip, fall and break a bone or suffer a concussion. That’s a concern for both of us as we age. I read a recent report that, if you’re over the age of 45, you should leave the snow shoveling to someone else. I just laughed. While reasonable health advice, it’s not exactly practical for most Minnesotans.

I take baby steps while traversing snow and ice, the penguin shuffle I believe is the proper term. Yet, I realize that’s no guarantee of safety. I also pace myself while shoveling. Thankfully our Wednesday into Thursday snow was low in moisture content, thus light and easy to shovel and blow. It’s the heavy snow that makes for challenging and health-risky snow removal.

It could always be worse… A huge, hard-as-rock snowdrift blocked our driveway in this March 1965 photo taken on my childhood farm, rural Vesta, Minnesota. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo 1965)

But I encountered a new problem on Thursday. On several occasions, the snow I tossed with a scoop shovel tumbled right back onto the surface from which I’d just removed it. The problem: The snow is now banking so high along sidewalk and driveway edges that it needs to be strategically thrown. High enough and far enough.

Once we’d finished our snow removal assignments, Randy and I worked on clearing the driveway of snow down to the concrete. Part of the front metal scraper is broken off our aged snowblower, meaning a layer of snow now remains. Thursday evening I used the wide metal shovel and Randy the plastic one as we attempted to get under the snow and peel it away. Sometimes that approach worked well, sometimes not.

This image expresses how I feel about the ongoing snowfall in Minnesota. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo)

We remained cognizant of ice underneath. Randy advised caution near the down spout and I pointed out a patch of black ice where the concrete dips. In the end, we did the best we could and called it done…until the next winter storm rolls into southern Minnesota.

© Copyright 2023 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


15 Responses to “A winter-weary Minnesotan writes about snow removal”

  1. beth Says:

    That is so good that you are staying safe and that is so much hard work. The anyone over 45 advice is irrelevant for most people. Make sure you take breaks when you can. I feel bad because we really have had almost no snow this year

  2. Charles Ziegler Says:

    My father was from Sheridan Township in Redwood County, not far from Vesta, I believe. We would visit from New Jersey every year or so, but ALWAYS in the summer. Having seen family photos of winter snows in Minnesota, I understand why. My wife and family now live in Virginia and have for many years. We’ve had some serious snow on occasion, but this year so far there has been none, and a mild winter is predicted. We’ve now moved to a house that has a garage right on the street, no long driveway to clear! Now that I’m nearly 75, I appreciate that!

    • Yes, Vesta and Sheridan Township are right in each other’s backyards. Weather would have been/be the same. I’m envious of your no long driveway to clear. The older I grow, the more I think how nice it would be to live on a no maintenance or minimal maintenance property.

  3. Jane Sarles Larson Says:

    Hi Audrey. Love this article. So true on so many fronts. We also have an old snowblower. The blade (as I’ll call it) broke off of our snowblower as well. Because of the age of the snowblower, Peter could not find a part for it. So he drew up the dimensions, and went to a welding/machine shop here in Northfield on highway 3. I wish I remembered the name of the company. They were really great! They were able to make the part for him. He installed it and the snowblower works beautifully now. Randy is so mechanically skilled I’ll bet he could do the same thing.

  4. Rose Says:

    Like you, I’m becoming a bit weary of the unending snow removal. At least we aren’t suffering the -40 or worse temps. This last snowfall didn’t gift us as much as those of you in southern Minnesota.

  5. Here on the south coast of MA we are in a snow drought, amid record warmth. Clearly climate change is uneven. We would welcome snow and cold.

    • I have a friend who lives in CT and she recently shared the same about the lack of snow. That said, I recall Boston getting an incredible amount of snow one of the winters my son was a student at Tufts. When we traveled to MA for his graduation in 2016 and people learned that we were from Minnesota, I heard two words identified with our state: cold and snow. Yes, it’s cold and snowy here, but that doesn’t last all year (only six months). I hope you get some cold and snow soon. If I could, I’d sent some your way. Thanks for stopping by.

      • Yes, that was a wild year. My step son was at Mass Art. We were in northwestern Vermont and had relatively little snow. Down here the snow was deep enough that people were walking between houses over the tops of covered fences. Legendary. In Vermont, before climate change completely altered our winters, we used to say that we had eight months of winter and four months of poor sledding.

      • Love that Vermont saying. That sounds semi Minnesotan. That vintage photo in my blog post from my native southwestern Minnesota prairie must remind you of that legendary winter in Vt. I grew up with more than one legendary winter of massive snow.

  6. No snow here but how well I remember the endless shoveling, drippy nose, aching back and cold extremities. Hang in there.

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