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