|The Christmas tree at the Solbergs.|
You can see my tins in the orange circle
Everyone was pleased with their gifts, and I think a little embarrassed, since no one had bought for me. No problem. The reason I did it was to get into my head who was related to whom and how many adults and children there were in the Solberg clan. It's a lot of both.
Now it had snowed earlier in the week, and I got my first taste of DIY snow removal. The second battery for the snow thrower was on back order, so I discovered it runs for about 45 minutes on one charge. Luckily, that's about as long as I could last outside, so I got the sidewalk out front done and the sidewalk to the house and two passes up and down the driveway before we both pooped out.
The biggest pain is the large dirty piles of street snow that the plows deposit on the side of the road (including in front of the driveway). My snow thrower just can't handle large chunks of refrozen street snow, so clearing the driveway has to be done with shovel, which is much more labor intensive. I can get about a third of the driveway entrance cleared before I have to take a break and catch my breath. If you haven't shoveled slushy ice-snow, you have no idea how heavy it is (my guess is about 35 pounds a shovelful).
So, the night before Christmas Eve I went out to do some grocery shopping. Returning home, I turned into the driveway and the back fender got caught on the edge of the ice heap next to the driveway. The back end of the car was sticking out about two feet into the street. Rocking the car, I got the back of it out of the street, but no matter how I tried, I could not get enough traction to pull the car forward into the driveway.
I left the car with its lights and emergency flashers on, went to the garage and retrieved some large sheets of cardboard to put under the front wheels to get traction (it's a front-wheel drive). I went to start the engine and the battery was dead. Lovely. Assessing the situation, I called AAA.
It was about 9:30 in the evening by the time I called, and the woman on the phone was pleasant and helpful. Someone would be there in the next two and a half hours. I was deflated at the wait time, but realized there were probably plenty of cars stuck on the side of the road out in the middle of nowhere. I was in my driveway and could walk back into the nice warm house to wait. Even my bad luck seems to be somehow blessed.
The tow truck showed up about 11 p.m. The guy assessed the situation, got the jump battery out started the car and I demonstrated how I couldn't get it to move.
"Do you have a traction control button on the dash?" he asked. I did indeed have a button with an abstract tire design and "TC" on it. "Turn it off," he said. I did, and suddenly the front tires surged, grabbed the snow and ice, and lurched forward, pulling away from the snow piles and up into the driveway.
I got the car into the garage with great relief. I thanked the guy profusely. He suggested I run the car for a half hour or so in the garage to charge the battery, which I did. But the next morning (Christmas Eve Day), I went out to start the car and it was once again dead. Old battery. So I called Steve and Pam and asked if they could head about 20 miles out of their way to come pick up me and my presents on their way to Dakota. They did. I have a great family.
To further show how great my family here is, on Monday morning after (Boxing Day), Jim and Emily made a special trip into town from Ettrick, stopped on the way in to pick up a new battery (at a discount because they know the guy who owns the auto parts store in Galesville), and Jim installed it lickety-split.
I headed to Ettrick after them and we had the McDougal Christmas. I received many lovely presents, including Jim and Emily's traditional steaks and, this year, venison; pillows-in-a-tote and prepared frozen meals from Amanda and, of course, socks from Avis and catnip bean bags for my cat Patty.
A week later, Amanda, Pam and Steve came over for New Year's Eve and I made a rather dismal simulation of Dad's clam chowder. We also had sandwiches on croissants and toasted the New Year with a bottle of Veuve Cliquot Brut champagne. Steve and Pam left early to get home and Amanda stayed overnight.
The weeks since Christmas have been odd, with temperatures just above freezing for a few days, then rain getting everything slushy and wet, followed by a plunge into single digit temperatures and below-zero nighttime lows. This causes the water on the streets and sidewalks (and driveways) to freeze, clean and slick, creating a glazed ice surface upon which it is impossible to walk.
The first time this happened, I went out to Blain's Farm & Fleet with Steve and I got a real cold-weather coat, a pair of real snow boots, effective and comfortable gloves and a funky head cover with ear flaps. I'm not really focusing on fashion here, but comfort, warmth and survival.
Last night and this morning rain fell, turning to snow in the afternoon; just enough to need clearing. This time out, I recalled what I had learned the last time around: don't let the snow sit for even a day, as it will be ice by the time you get to it and take three times the effort to remove.
The back-ordered second battery had arrived in the interim, so now I can do the entire chore of snow removal without waiting four hours for the battery to recharge. So I headed out with a fresh battery and did the deed today. With clearing the front steps, the sidewalks and the driveway, it takes about an hour and a half. I didn't want to put it off, since the next several days the temperature will again plunge to single digits above and below zero, with a wind chill factor of -10º to -30º.
Once the snow removal was finished, I got into the car and braved the streets, most of them still covered with snow and ice, just to practice driving in these conditions. It was also about getting out there, back on the horse, and coming home to face the hell hole of my driveway entrance.
A couple times, at stop signs, I had to turn off the traction control to get the car moving, and at one stoplight I had to cruise through a yellow light turning red because the brakes were ineffective and I would have skid into the intersection after the red had turned. Little lessons.
Returning home I had no traffic behind me which I felt good about, just in case the turn into the driveway was somehow compromised. But I negotiated the driveway with no problem and was safely back home. Off with the gloves. Off with the heavy coat. Off with the snow boots. Into my moccasins and I'm home for the evening. Fire in the fireplace. Cat sleeping next to me on the couch. With all the inconveniences, I really like winter a lot.