Sunday, November 28, 2010

Snow blues -- elsewhere for a change!

When you live in a snowy place you look out to see how others manage when their conditions begin to approximate yours. I'm not sure why. Morbid curiosity, perhaps. Last year's arctic oscillation proved interesting in this respect, with a great volume of snow dumped on mid-Atlantic states (that do get snow regularly, but not usually that much), and on the whole island of Great Britain, which was quite beautifully covered in snow from head (John o' Groats) to foot (Land's End) for the first time in living memory.

Britain's early snow this weekend was illustrated by the Guardian today, including a series of pictures from some old haunts of mine, including a pub on top of the North Yorkshire Moors where my old RAF Mountain Rescue Team would sometimes drink beer and sing songs till dawn, some kind of reenactment of a Yorkshiremen's Valhalla.

Hard to imagine from where I sit today that we could pack fifteen from our team and twenty-five from the Cleveland Team (we called them the "Bonington beards" because so many were hirsute, like their namesake) and raise the rafters like that. But we did.

Those were the days.

(And for this, I get a pension?)

One such night, shorter than some, saw us safely wrapped in our "green slug" RAF-issue sleeping bags by two or three in the morning, after multiple rounds of brew and chorus, not too shabby a craic.

At seven or so I stumbled out of my bag in a fresh gale to find our duty cook, young Eugene O'Grady (of great fame and splendor whose spirited rendition of Danny Boy in a London Irish accent would have the entire team rolling in fits of laughter by the end of the first chorus), struggling to hold onto the roof pole of his standard NATO 12 x 12 green canvas cook shack with one hand, while trying manfully to fry compo-ration sausages with the other.

That was all very interesting at the time, but what was really interesting was that the entire inside of the tent, and indeed of the tent I'd slept in, had I noticed while getting up, was covered in an inch of rime ice, brought down with the winds straight from Svalbard and points north.

So I know first-hand what winter can bring to the Lion Inn above Hutton le Hole. Other than a lock-in with no possibility of police intervention.

Aimee, by the way, loves those old British place names like Hutton le Hole. She thinks they're hilarious. I find them more serious, indicative of previous failed struggles. Like any good fan of Robin Hood and Saxon freedoms, I blame the Norman Invasion for such inanities. That out-of-place le is a dead giveaway. Most of the area around Hutton was "ethnically cleansed" by William the Conqueror in retribution for northern resistance to the 1066 invasion. If the nasty buggers, the root and branch of Britain's aristocracy, had only stayed in perfidious bloody France where they belong, all conceivable wrongs would undoubtedly be righted and Britain would be a class-free society and I would never have abandoned it to come to America and get my rightful education. A thousand years of tribulation, and the Tories can still win power with an Old Etonian like Cameron? I'm sure he's of Anglo-Norman ancestry. He can't possibly be a proper Scottish Cameron.

But I digress. Back to Eugene and the sausages.

There was no breakfast that day. The wind and ice forbade it. Instead we did what the best-trained British military units have always been able to do smartly in the face of adversity. We retreated, to use a hated Norman-ism, post-haste. Like Napolean from Moscow, in perfect disarray. Abandoning our erstwhile landlord and friends at the pub to their silly weather, we struck camp in ten minutes flat, just before camp struck us, rolled our tents into giant snowballs, eight men needed to throw each one into the back of the four-ton truck, and our four Land Rovers then followed the said four-ton, four-wheel drive, military truck down the moors roads like little unhappy ducklings after their mother duck.

By the time we got to the Vale of York a thousand feet lower, the sun was shining, it was a warm sunny Sunday afternoon, the snow had melted, and we wondered why the hell we'd run away so quickly.

Ah, the memories. Wonder how well I'd do clearing the snow on the Great Farm after six hours of drinking and singing and three hours of sleep these days.

I think it would probably kill me dead.

Some of my regular UK farm blogs are also worried about the snow.

Life at the End of the Road has to take pigs to the butchers Monday, in what may be a blizzard. I'm sympathetic. Trucking pigs anywhere is stressful enough, but having to take them across the Highlands in a blizzard is adding insult to injury, even if you are driving a Land Rover and pulling a proper trailer. And, like it is here in Maine, apparently there's only one day you can take them!

We're lucky that our butchers have always been able to work with us when we've had difficulties.

While Stonehead was up to his thighs already by Friday, with several days snow more to go.

Remember, if in doubt, follow Monty Python's advice, and the traditions of RAF Leeming Mountain Rescue, and Robin Hood and all good Saxon bandits, and the entire nation of France, for that matter,

Run away, run away!


  1. I prefer Monty Python's other advice...

    Some things in life are bad, they can really make you mad
    Other things just make you swear and curse
    When you're chewing on life's gristle, don't grumble give a whistle
    This will help things turn out for the best

    Always look on the bright side of life
    Always look on the right side of life

    So when the roof timbers on the steading started groaning under the weight of snow, were we downhearted? No! We had a lot of fun roping the snow off the roof, with the OH sneakily shouting pull harder whenever she fell down so I'd pull her back to her feet. Cheeky minx.

  2. I just read your post on the snow-covered roof. That's a fair amount of snow even for that area.

    Here in Maine the hardware stores sell roof rakes for the purpose. Metal roofs work well too, they tend to shed snow easily, if pitched steeply. Salt cakes and heating elements are used to deter ice dams.

    But you can also just engineer a flatter, well-insulated roof roof that can carry the snow load and say thanks for the added insulation.


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