Portage River Farm

  (Pinckney, Michigan)
Notes on our struggles and successes on our family farm in rural Michigan.
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Crazy Idea?

This may sounds a little odd after all of my excitement about rising temperatures, but I have also been thinking about the problem of snow removal. A conversation with my step-mother a few weeks ago got wheels turning in my head. She told me that her father once made a snowplow that he hooked up to his horse and went around the neighborhood clearing everyone's sidewalks.

After searching the internet for a while, I came up with this picture. (If you click on the image, I believe it will give you a larger view.) It is an 18th century horse-drawn snowplow reconstruction that was built in Germany. I don't imagine this is anything like the one her father used.

Call me crazy, but that looks as if it would be really simple to build. It is basically a box with a wedge shape attached to the front of it to push the snow to the sides of the road. I have lumber that I could use sitting around and could make a scaled down version. What I don't have is a horse. This is where the crazy part comes in...I started wondering why I couldn't pull it down the driveway with our van!

I don't know if I'll actually try it but I think it's a cool idea and would probably work. The only problem that I have read related by old-timers who remember seeing them used was that they tended to wander back and forth behind the team as the snow drifts on each side pushed it sideways.

It would be fun to try it but I suppose it would let the neighbors know what kind of a nut moved into the neighborhood before I've had a chance to introduce myself!

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Comparison Pics For My Florida Relatives

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Another Neighbor To Appreciate

Ok, I know I promised to lay off of comments about the snow. I have an excuse because another neighbor came along and introduced himself today.
As you can guess, we received another dumping of snow. We barely managed to get Janet's car out to the road without it bogging down from the pile of snow it was accumulating as we raced along. Once we reached the county road I climbed out with my trusty shovel and wished her a safe drive and a good day at work. Then I began shoveling away in the hopes that I could have it passable by the time she returned.

After five hours I had managed to reach the halfway mark. That is when an old pickup with a snowplow pulled into the driveway. I stepped to the side of the road and did my best to straighten my back out from its usual stooped-over shoveling attitude as he came toward me. By the time he pulled even with me and rolled his window down I had already rehearsed my planned explanation that I couldn't afford to pay him to plow the drive (I was assuming that he was looking for new snowplowing customers).

The jovial gentlemen behind the wheel extended a hand and introduced himself as my neighbor from the other side of Toma Road. He greeted me to the neighborhood, told me about his family and his former career as a machinist. I told him a bit about myself and the family and took a few jabs at myself for moving to the country without proper preparation to deal with the tons of snow that mother nature has been tormenting me with.

He said, "I don't know that I would say that. We don't usually have these kinds of winters!" After a little more small talk he mentioned that he needed to get back to his house but would plow the rest of my drive for me on his way out. I expressed my gratitude to which he replied that he was only being neighborly and said "besides, you never know when I may need some help myself."

With that said, he shifted the old truck into gear and gave me the rest of the day off! I plan to make good use of the day, call up some friends and invite them to bring their kids and join my boys and I in attending a magic show this afternoon in a nearby town.

The picture is only about two-third of the driveway. That tiny spec at the end of it is our farmhouse!
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Thank Goodness For Good Neighbors!

Snow is getting to be a tired topic. If fact, I'm ready for spring to start right now....please! This one last note about the snow and then I'll send this blog off in some other direction.

The snowstorm came through today and dumped an additional foot of the cursed stuff on us. I was nearly reduced to tears of frustration to see the impassible wreck it made of the driveway. Freya and I started shoveling at the road in the hopes of at least making room enough for Janet to pull off of the county road when she came home.

I was grumbling to myself in the dark and attempting to find my shoveling rhythm while my every muscle and joint screamed in protest. I noted with no small measure of envy that my neighbor across the road was out clearing his drive with a powerful snow blower. As I stood there, Freya grabbed the shovel and was making an impressive amount of headway.

Next thing I knew I was looking into the headlights of a pickup that had pulled up in the road at the end of the drive. Out jumped a very friendly gentleman who proved to be the neighbor across the road from us. He had seen us at the end of the drive and came over to introduce himself and to marvel at our attempt to clear such a long and deeply buried driveway by hand. After our brief and friendly conversation he headed back to his house.

Freya and I had been arguing over our one shovel and she was doing her best to persuade me to go into the house and let her shovel for a while. Seeing that a second shovel would be a good idea, I trudged my way to my van with the intention of heading into town to the hardware store.

Looking back, I suddenly realized that Freya had company at the end of the drive. Jim, the neighbor, had returned with his snow blower and was busy sending a geyser of white arcing to the side of the road. He ended up lending it to me for the evening and in no time I was making a victory lap and heading across the road to return the blower and express my heartfelt gratitude.
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Two Steps Forward and One Step Back



It is 10am on Saturday morning and the snow-covered spruces look beautiful from where I sit in our dining room. The snow started falling again yesterday afternoon. By the time I got home we had about 5 inches on the driveway and a winter storm warning for this weekend on the radio.

I figured that I had better start bailing or I would never keep up. After tucking Aidan into bed, I grabbed my trusty little plastic shovel and headed out into the snowy night. Four hours later I had managed to clear the entire drive from the front door to the county road. I stood there in my sweaty clothes and looked at it as if it were a fine work of art.

Feeling a great sense of accomplishment and anticipating how impressed Janet would be at my efforts, I drifted off to sleep. This morning I awoke to the realization that it had been snowing much of the time that I rested. Peering out the window, it was quite difficult to see that I had done anything at all!

I devoted another two hours to the great white struggle again this morning. For that effort I created about 400 feet of cleared pavement. Looking out now, I can see the flakes relentlessly sifting down, silently obliterating my work of art yet again.

I'm reminded of a short story that I read in high school about the "menacing green tide". It created an image of civilization as a leaky boat that we all struggle to keep afloat by bailing against a sea of vegetation that ever threatens to engulf us. It talked about how we all endlessly mow, chop, weed and spray to keep the wild green world at bay but it mindlessly surges ever inward to cover, crack and bury our houses, roads and belongings. The story saw it as a war that we will ultimately lose.

I didn't much like that story nor the point of view. I have always been a nature lover and consider myself an environmentalist. I think of the wild places as fragile and threatened by us, not the other way around. Yet, for a few moments there while I was struggling to find the strength to lift my shovel and head back out the door, I felt that I was a little closer to seeing the author's point of view. I would be interested to know his circumstances and wouldn't be surprised if he had spent years trying to mow a huge lawn with an old-fashioned reel mower or perhaps had a farm in the south that was constantly threatened by kudzu vines.

On a separate topic, I discovered another minor setback. The radon mitigation system that I had proudly reported as complete and functional isn't quite. I noticed when I powered the fan up for the first time that it seemed to be creating more air flow than I had expected. Looking down into my sump well through the acrylic I could see ripples on the water indicating that the air was really rushing through the system. I had expected much less flow because the system is supposed to be closed and pulling a vacuum against the soil around the foundation to draw the gases in.

I installed a vacuum gage to the main pipe yesterday and discovered that it was only reading 0.8" of vacuum. That led me to believe that the system wasn't closed, that it was drawing in atmospheric air somewhere. A hunt around the basement yielded a floor drain that was sucking a huge volume of air into it. This is of course something a professional installer would have looked for before even starting the project. Now I am going to have to order and install a special drain fitting with a check valve to plug the leak.

The only thing that troubles me is that I placed a plastic bag over the drain to see the affect on the vacuum reading. Unfortunately it only raised another 0.1" which means there are other openings in the system somewhere. Since we have just moved in our entire basement is full of boxes and furniture. I guess it will have to wait until I can uncover more of the floor and figure out what else is going on.
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