JULIA BAYLY

Storm a good a reason as any to panic

Julia Bayly
Julia Bayly Buy Photo
Posted Dec. 27, 2012, at 3:11 p.m.
Last modified Dec. 27, 2012, at 6:36 p.m.

FORT KENT, Maine — Unless you’ve been under a rock this week or enduring a self-imposed media blackout, you know Maine was poised Thursday to feel the brunt of a good old-fashioned nor’easter, just like Mother Nature used to make.

Up here at Rusty Metal Farm, Thursday morning was the calm before the storm — at least meteorologically speaking.

Sadly, that calm did not extend to yours truly, who spent the better part of Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning in the midst of a full-on “the sky is falling” panic of storm preparedness.

I know, it’s only snow and heaven knows, northern Maine and snow are certainly no strangers to each other.

To paraphrase our former governor and current U.S. Senator-elect Angus King, “look at an atlas and then look at a calendar and getting winter weather should come as no big surprise.”

Those are very calm, very rational words.

Words which had zero comforting effect on me as I spun like a hamster on a wheel in the face of the approaching snow event.

The spinning quite literally began last week when we got a sort of snow preview up here in the north with a pre-Christmas dumping of around 10-inches or so.

Frankly, I was kind of looking forward to that storm, since it would give me a chance to test out the snowblower attachment on that fancy new tractor parked out in the garage.

Kind of like the child unable to wait beyond dawn on Christmas morning to unwrap gifts, it was all I could do to restrain myself from heading out to clear a path in the snow by the time all of four inches had piled up.

Head out I did for my first pre-blowing tractor check of the season: Ignition, on; power take off — the shaft that powers the blower — engaged; three-point hitch to raise and lower the blower, good to go; hydraulics to control it, all set.

Ever so slowly, I inched my way out of the garage and attacked the nearest — albeit small — snow bank.

Instantly snow was flying up and away from the driveway as I backed the entire length down to the road.

Feeling somewhat smug about the whole thing, I turned around and prepared for the round trip back to the top of the driveway — something that would have been a heck of alot easier had I taken the time to put chains on the tractor’s tires.

It took some doing, but I finally made it up and back to the garage amid much sliding and spinning of tires. Not to mention some very impressive cussing in two languages.

As the snow did indeed pile up, the shiny new tractor was next to useless with no chains, a problem remedied the next day when my friend Kris came by to install them for me, just in time for the follow-up storm that was headed our way Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.

Actually, according to every one of the half dozen or so weather sites I routinely consult on the computer, and while they sometimes contradict each other on duration and impact of storms, there was great unanimity this time on the fact Maine was going to get hammered with up to 18-inches of the white stuff.

Clearly, it was time to panic.

First order of business was ensuring that the tractor and all spare cans were full of diesel fuel. Next a quick trip to the local NAPA store for a dozen extra shear pins — special fasteners that hold the moving parts of the snowblower together, but designed to snap — or “shear” — if put under too much stress, thus sparing those inner blower workings serious damage.

“What size pins do you need,” my helpful NAPA dude asked.

Sizes? There are sizes?

Racking my brain, I was finally able to provide some sizing information along the lines, “Well, when we changed one last time I think we used the wrench that is a seven-somethingth…”

Fortunately, the only “seven-somethingth” wrench that made sense in this case was the 7/16th and that helped narrow down the possible pin size to two.

Which of course means I brought home the wrong ones. Luckily, not only can I exchange them, there are a few spares of the correct size already in the tractor’s tool box.

Shear pins taken care of, it was time to cast my eyes to proper vehicle placement, something I like to call the “Rusty Metal Farm Motorized Shuffle.”

First the tractor comes out of its part of the garage so the pickup can go in, thus leaving room for the tractor to park nearest the door — blower facing out.

In bay No. 2 goes the car, parked toward the back, leaving room for the hand-operated snowblower, likewise facing out as a storm backup.

Bay No. 3 is home to the snowmobile tucked out of the way leaving just enough room for my friend’s car to ride out the storm.

Vehicles secured, it was time to prepare the driveway. Last week, not wanting to get stuck in the ditches on either side, I stuck several — OK, like 10 — wooden stakes marking the edges of the driveway.

On Wednesday, those were supplemented with a bunch of shiny markers with red reflectors, marking a clear path not only to snow blow, but for any small aircraft in need of an emergency landing strip.

From there it was on to making sure all the Rusty Metal Farm critters are set with food and water supplies, ensuring there is a snow shovel next to every door and making a few repairs to the plastic covering the porch windows, and I was as set as I was ever going to be as 2012 prepared to roar out on one final storm.

Of course, if I wake up Friday morning only to discover a mere four or five inches on the ground, Mother Nature will certainly have the last laugh.

But at least I’ll be ready for the next storm.

Julia Bayly of Fort Kent is an award winning writer and photographer, who writes part time for Bangor Daily News. Her column appears here every other Friday. She can be reached by email at jbayly@bangordailynews.com.

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