This December Morning

The wiggling of two warm bodies burrowing one after the other from the drafty opening they had created at the head of the bed to finding toasty warm spots alongside my PJ clad body barely twigged my awareness.

It was 7:30 am and I hadn’t noticed or felt them leave the bed earlier. But I guess they had both wanted an early morning potty break, because what DID get my groggy attention was an ice cold nose and pair of chilly feet that found a bare patch of skin near my waist.

I remain in awe of the weens unerring ability to find bare skin. How do they manage this when I am wearing flannel pants and a t-shirt? Maybe if I tucked the t-shirt in? Hmm … not gonna happen. Comfort first – I’ll take my chances.

All right, already! My cocoon of warm blankets invaded, I’m now awake. It’s time for coffee.

Of course, now that I want to get up, Baxter and Ronni are once again sound asleep. Warm as a couple of bugs in their rugs.

Baxter’s cold nose is still in contact with my waist, but the rest of him is in a tight, heat-retaining ball. Rhonda is right above him, stretched out full length so her tail is in Baxter’s face, her long, lithe body glued to the warmth of mine and her nose nestled against my neck. Gee, I hate to disturb them.

I got up anyway, which did NOT impress Ronni. I was her warm spot.

Deal with it, young lady.

As I poured my coffee, perusing the darkness outside the window, I found myself looking east and wishing there was even a tinge of light on the horizon.

And then I realized what day was getting ready to dawn. Today (well, this evening) is WINTER SOLSTICE! My mood lifted immediately!

Yes, it’s still dark out. Of course it is – today is literally the darkest and shortest day of the year!

I snuggled back on (not in) the bed with my coffee, pushing the kids over and pulling out my knitting. On this shortest day, I will celebrate by enjoying the late-coming sunrise.

As first light touched the mountains across the valley, I toasted the sight with my coffee mug, knowing that tomorrow’s dawn will come six seconds earlier!

We Are FREE!

This may hold the record for the shortest blog entry I’ve written to date, but I didn’t want to leave you in suspense.

Jerry’s friend, Sean, brought his big, 4WD SUV over after work last night. They combined tow ropes to span the distance from where Sean had to stop (or get stuck himself) and the truck, and between shoveling, tugging and more shoveling (lots of back-breaking shoveling) – they were able to free the plow truck!

Jer was out plowing again at first light this morning and was able to at least complete clearing the driveway and parking area. Big win! I apologize for the poor lighting in the photos, but it was just past dawn (9:30 am).

There is still a ton of snow to move, but it’s a beautiful sunny day, a whopping 3F outside and there is no new snow in the forecast for about a week.

Now, if I can just find someone who can come over and shovel off “Roada”…

Snowed In

This is, I have to admit, a first for me since moving from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to Alaska over twenty five years ago.

We are officially completely snowed in.

My husband has always plowed out our farm driveway himself, with our mid-size 1/2 ton pickup truck and equally mid-size Western plow. It’s not a lot of horsepower, but it’s usually enough.

Snowfalls here in this part of Alaska have seldom (in the 25+ years I’ve lived here) been even close to what I used to see in MI, and Jer’s truck has been up for the challenge without any problems. So has Jerry, who is a capable plow driver.

Until this past week, when we were hit by one storm after another after another in quick succession, each of them heavy snowfalls in their own right.

The first big snow fall Jerry was able to clear (after help from that very nice man, Scott. You all remember Scott, right?).

It was a lot of snow, but nothing we hadn’t dealt with before. Jerry is 70, diabetic and has COPD, so he takes more breaks than he used to. What used to take him several hours is now apt to take most of the day, between rest breaks. We are neither of us as young as we once were.

Given adequate time, he would generally go out the following day to clean the driveway and yard up nicely and all would be well. But this time, it just kept dumping on us.

During and after the second storm, Jer managed to keep the driveway passible, but our truck and plow combo aren’t really made for this sort of snow depth and he was finding it more difficult to push snow far enough down or off the driveway to be effective. It didn’t help that it was snowing almost as fast as he was plowing and he was getting tired.

When Jerry looked at the driveway yesterday afternoon, there was about 4-6” of new snow. He was exhausted and reasoned that plowing again at that point would be doubling up his work load, since it was just going to snow again overnight. He planned to hit it early the next day.

In hindsight, this was probably not the best decision he could have made.

With the driveway only sloppily cleared (and by this I just mean the last passes he made the night before were what he referred to as fast and dirty).

Being tired, and knowing more snow was coming, he had been more concerned about keeping a driving lane passible and not about cleaning edges, pushing snow evenly or clearing areas for turning around. He was TIRED.

So when another 12+ inches fell overnight last night, it was difficult to see where the center of the driveway even was, and harder still to know where to stop pushing the snow.

A couple of spots on our driveway drop off towards a ravine and he has gotten the plow stuck there more than once over the years, just plowing over-enthusiastically. It can suck you in if you aren’t paying attention.

He started clearing off the truck and plow at 7:30 am, which is two hours before sunrise. Drifted snow completely covered the front of both the truck and the SUV.

We have a lot of area to clear, between the front parking area, the road to the shop, up to the barn, and then over 300 yards of additional driveway out to the road.

By 9:00 am, he had gotten the plow stuck and shoveled it out twice already, but had made progress.

Where things fell apart was the turn in the driveway down by the ravine.

In case you’re wondering, that’s not the direction the driveway turns. He was just trying to push some snow off that way before tackling the last 50 yds of drifted snow between the truck and the road.

The road is ⬅️ that way.

I suggested calling in a bigger snowplow. 🤷🏼‍♀️ We aren’t going to starve. We have water, electricity and plenty of wood. I’m trying to convince him not to physically over-do trying to get the darn truck out, but as you already know … he’s stubborn.

All’s Well That Ends Well

Easily 18” of snow later, the saga continues. The plow was free of the frozen ground, but Jerry had been unable to budge it the last little distance to make final connection with the truck. It might as well have been a lawn ornament.

I feel confident no one is going to believe how this sodden, snowy story ends.

When I last journaled, my husband had just relayed to me the news that he had reached someone by phone, and in spite of the ongoing storm, we were amazed (flummoxed, to be honest) to hear they’d be here first thing in the morning.

My brain continued to insist there wasn’t a single plow within 50 miles that wasn’t working 24 hours a day, with a wait list of frantic people vying for a spot. How could this be?

So I asked Jerry who he had called, wondering how on earth he had managed to reach what had to be the sole available plow driver in the entire Mat-Su Valley. He wasn’t sure.

It seems he had gone online and Googled “Snowplow Services in Wasilla”. It was the logical place to start, although having anyone even answer their phone at 5pm in the middle of the heaviest single snowfall in 20 years (here in Alaska, at least) was unlikely at best.

But this is where God, Santa Claus or dumb luck (personally, I’m going with divine intervention 🙏) stepped in and guided Jer’s hand.

Of the long list of snowplow services out there, large and small, most of whom were not answering their phones at all, Jer managed to accidentally reach the owner of a “Parking Lot Plowing & Sanding” service. They don’t even do private driveways.

Chatterbox that my husband can be; he poured out the whole sad story, adding in being 70, diabetic and a traumatic brain injury survivor. The poor man probably would have promised anything to get Jer off the phone.

When Jer told the man where we lived, the miracle happened. This nice man told Jerry that although his business doesn’t do private driveways, he lives not far from us and would be driving right past our home on his way to the job he had lined up for the following morning.

He told Jer he would personally stop by and see if he could help Jerry get his plow hooked up. Jerry, in his excitement, never even asked the man’s name or wrote down the name of the business.

We went to bed that night tired and stressed, but with hopeful hearts.

In the morning (this would be Friday now), true to his word, the Parking Lot Plow Service owner showed up in his big, commercial plow truck. He make short work of clearing the end of our driveway, the berm of which had been starting to take on the dimensions of Denali, then pulled in behind our truck. Wonder of wonders, he’d even brought one of his employees along.

These two big, burly men had a short conversation with Jerry, then went right to work. With Jer inside the truck, working the plow levers, Scott (we know his name now 😉) and his helper manhandled the recalcitrant plow onto the receiver and locked it into place. It took the two of them about ten minutes.

When Jer came into the house, he was all smiles. He told me how they’d cleared the mountain at the end of the driveway and that the plow was up and running.

Then he told me he had asked what we owed them (a detail he’d neglected to ask the night before, but we’d agreed it didn’t matter. The need was great and we’d happily pay the piper).

Scott’s response to Jer’s query was, “Oh, no charge. We had to drive right by here anyway. Merry Christmas!”

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