Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Country Driveways

Our driveway is ¼ of a mile long. From the road, it goes down a hill, through a woods and then up a hill to our house. In the spring, tiny purple violets bloom in drifts along the edge of the gravel. In the summer, leaves arch over the drive, creating a green shadowy tunnel. In late autumn, the rising and setting sun glows through the bare branches on either side. Winter brings ice and snow drifts, which are also beautiful but often inconvenient to the people using the driveway. Our upper driveway is open to the winds in three directions – west, north, and east – perfect for drifting snow. Once we’ve had a snow and cleaned the driveway, we begin the endless job of opening drifts. The more snow and wind we have, the more often we have to clean the drifts. Even a day with no snow fall can fill our driveway with feet of blown, drifted snow.

Last winter we had so little snow that we never even hooked the snow blower to the tractor. This winter is different. Dave and I have been snowed in for five days already. Kate, the friend who house sat for us while we were visiting grandchildren, was snowed in twice. She called a friend with a plow and he kept the driveway clean while we were gone.

Just having a clean driveway is not always enough. When our kids were teen agers, they learned how to drive up and down the driveway without getting stuck. You don’t back up too far when turning around at the house. You keep to the middle of the driveway when driving up or down. You drive up the slopes in first gear, as fast as possible.

Their friends frequently got stuck. We’d pull out the shovels, scatter wood ashes under car wheels and teach people how to push a car out of the snow – accelerate slowly, don’t spin your wheels, rock the car back and forth, and push, push, push harder.

Now we have a new American, an immigrant, who feeds our sheep when we’re gone. Hashi ran his car off the driveway at least twice. It’s not surprising; he’s only been here for three winters and the last one had almost no snow. He drove in Somalia but not in snow.  Last week he called me from the trees off the edge of our drive. I couldn’t imagine explaining to him where to find  the ashes and how to spread them under his wheels, how to push a car, or even how to accelerate correctly; so I gave him the names and phone numbers of several local car towing agencies. After two weeks he had conquered the snow on our country driveway or at least he hadn’t gotten stuck.

Yesterday, our driveway was again full of snow. Thigh high drifts crossed and re-crossed it. Newton and I spent ten minutes clambering up the drifts to the road and back down again. Dave had the drive way blown free by 1:30. It looked clear and open, with high banks on either side. When a delivery person called to ask about passability, I told her it was fine. The driveway was fine, but the driver hadn’t been trained by Dave or I to turn around at the house. So we got out the shovels and the ashes and then, with our fingers crossed, sent her up the driveway again.  I’m sure we don’t have the only county driveway.

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