How to Shovel Snow & Other Snow-Related Tips

Winter kind of sucks, doesn’t it?

A lot of my witchy friends are currently deeply depressed and worried about the heavy snowfall heading their way, especially since many of them don’t get heavy snowfall.

I mainly post about witchcraft, magic, and other spiritual pursuits of that nature. But sometimes, practical advice should be offered in addition to the magical advice. So a year ago or so I wrote a post over on tumblr about dealing with it.

I’ve decided to republish it here and add a few more tips as well as some witchy ones. Keep in mind, this advice is probably only good for people in the RI/MA/CT area so YMMV on this.

 

Magic tips for winter

  • Enchant your winter gear for warm.
  • Enchant your shoes for grip and dryness.
  • Gather up some snow in a jar for winter-related spells later on.
  • Weather spells might be useful to nudge storms off course from you but you may end up messing with another town in the process. Plan your weather spells carefully.
  • Leaving an offering to winter spirits to ease your winter worries.
  • Listen for the sound of chiming or laughter when you’re outside. You may be joined by winter spirits playing. Keep in mind, sound travels very far in the stillness after snowfall so you might be hearing neighbors two streets over.
  • Use de-icer and road salt as protection salt.
  • Enchant any post-shoveling drinks or food as a health boost to keep the body from suffering in the extreme temperature changes.
  • Enchanting a wind chime to chime when you need to go out and shovel can be tricky but worthwhile if you get a lot of snow often.
  • Create a snow altar to put offerings on.
  • Your snow creations can be fantastic for offerings and can be enchanted for literally anything. Snowman guardians, snow balls as a curse, snow angels to bring clarity.

 

See that ridge past the trees? Beyond that is the plowed street. Ah, Rhode Island.

A post shared by Samantha Davidson (@thiscrookedcrown) on

Shovel early and often.

If it snows on and off for 12 hours, I’ve probably been outside to shovel at least 3-4 times, it now more. Generally, my rule is every four hours. If it’s really heavily coming down, I’ll go out more often.

Even if there’s only an inch or two on the ground, I’ll go out and shovel if we’re expecting more snow. This is because the earlier you shovel, the more snow is out of your way.

Even if you don’t intend to go out, shovel. Eventually you’ll need to go out to get something and you’ll have to dig through crusted, frozen snow and that’s an awful experience.

Do not shovel more than you are able to.

Take your health into consideration. Wear supportive measures if you have to and take breaks often. Hire out if possible. Don’t hurt yourself.

Shovel in shifts.

Shoveling might go faster if two people do it, but then two people are exhausted. It’s sometimes easier to have one person shovel for round one and round two goes to a second person. This works especially well if said two people work different schedules.

Shoveling is hard work

People always underestimate how hard it is to shovel snow. It’s slick, heavy and everywhere.

Your back will ache. Your wrists will hurt. Your thighs might not like you anymore. Your fingers will be frozen. Your cheeks, ears, and nose will be wind-beaten. Your eyes will sting from snow. Your shoulders and arms will be boneless.

And then you got to go out and do it again.

If you shovel early and often, you’ll reduce the amount of strain on your body so consider that.

The neighbor's house with their three foot fence buried in the snow.

A post shared by Samantha Davidson (@thiscrookedcrown) on

 

You have to shovel a pathway to your mailbox if you want mail delivered.

The USPS will NOT deliver your mail if they can’t get to your mailbox without climbing through snow. They want a shoveled path. Steps should be de-iced.

Push when you can, lift/toss when you have to, perfect the turn.

Ideally, you should be able to push the snow across a space like a lawn mover across a lawn. At the end of your space, lift or toss the snow into a pile, and do it again. Go back and get any snow you missed.

“The turn” is great for when you have a lot of snow and it’s too heavy to lift. Ideally, the turn is a slight scoop and turning the shovel to slide the snow onto a pile without actually lifting.

When you form a pile of snow, it should be at least a foot or two from the end of your driveway. This is because if you put a snow pile right at the end of your driveway it can obstruct vision when driving and can even block you from getting out. Plows can make the piles even higher and piles are very hard to move later on.

Clearly define your space.

Ideally, you should shovel the entire length and at least a person-sized width for walkways and about seven to eight feet width for each car. The space for cars to drive on should be clear, always.

If you have a two car driveway, make sure that you shovel at least two feet at the end of it. This is to clearly mark to plow truck drivers that that’s the edges of your space and they shouldn’t plow you in. Pay special attention to this if your driveway is on a corner.

Markers can help but I find they tend to get buried in the snow anyway. We once hung up stakes with LED lanterns at the end of the drive and that helped.

Shovel with the wind

You will quickly learn to shovel with the wind. There’s nothing worse than tossing a pile of snow against the wind towards a pile you started to discover that it’s flying back in your face.

 

Yes, you will feel like you’ve accomplished nothing

Often times, I’ll finish shoveling only to discover that it looks like I did nothing back where I started. When this happens, I quickly run the shovel back over the main areas, especially the walkway, and go back inside.

There’s different kinds of snow

Fluffy, powder snow is the easiest move and can make the job very easy. It’s fun to walk through and great for photos. However, it makes rubbish snowballs, snowmen, and snow forts. This snow typically shows up well below freezing.

Wet snow is snow that comes down that is slightly wet. This is the kind that will pelt you. It’s heavier than the powder but still snow and should be fairly easy to move. This is the perfect snow for making things out of like snowballs, snowmen, and snow forts.It’s usually about 10-20 degrees below freezing temperature for this snow but is can show up at average freezing temperatures.

Slush is the worst. It is heavy. It’s rain mixed with snow and will make you miserable. It is very heavy and yes, it still needs to be shoveled. Watch for ice. It’s useless for anything unless you want to make deadly ice and snowballs that can smash windows and hurt people. It’s usually above or right around freezing temperature for this snow.

Day after snow is snow that’s “rested”. It’s compacted and is greatly useful for making things like snowballs and snow forts but is heavy, often comes up in chunks, and is a hassle to snow.

Temperatures are a guess. There’s a lot more meteorology to consider to guess the kind of snow properly.

For those of you in warmer climates, here's a quick video of the fat, wet snowflakes this morning.

A post shared by Samantha Davidson (@thiscrookedcrown) on

 

Look at your lease/renter’s agreement to see if you’re suppose to shovel.

Some places will require you to shovel and others will hire someone to do it. Make sure you know your rights and what you’re suppose to shovel.

Check your city’s website for cancellations. Listen to the radio. AAA road services usually has the best up-to-date information in my area. Twitter, however, is extremely useful, especially if you follow local twitter accounts.

De-ice your pathways. 

De-icer is expensive but it can save you from breaking a bone from falling. Road salt is the less chemical version of it.

If you choose not to de-ice, try sand, kitty litter, or pebbles to help against ice and slick pathways.

You can skip de-icing the whole driveway and instead stick to where people get in/out and the path from the driveway to the house. However, you risk the cars not having enough grip to get out.

A combination of kitty litter on the car spaces and de-icer on the people spaces is a good, safe bet, although it can be expensive.

Make sure to check if your de-icer will damage anything. For example, road salt isn’t good for brick walkways or steps. We have brick for both our porches and have to use a particular chemical de-icer to keep from destroying the brick. It’s more expensive but it also melts the snow faster. When I get to the cement of the walkways and asphalt of the driveway, I switch to salt to melt the ice and cat litter for grip.

De-icer can freeze.

Weirdly enough, de-icer can freeze. Or, rather, it can freeze into a slushy block of horror when sufficently wet then cold then wet then cold.

We keep our deicer outside to avoid damaging the wood floors and to keep the animals out of it.

Brush off your car.

You should at least brush off your front and rear windshields, your mirrors, headlights and taillights, the grills/exhaust, door handles, and license plates. Legally, in RI, you have to have your license plates shown (and lit during the night) so you have to do this. I know people who have been stopped and given tickets for not brushing off their license plates.

Brush off the doors, roof, and area near the doors before opening the door or you’ll wind up with a wet seat.

Flip up your windshield wipers.

Windshield wipers can lift up, straight towards the sky, to allow replacement of the wipers or arms.

This keeps the windshield wipers from freezing to your windshield and allows for easier brushing off of the car. This can be a lifesaver when leaving work in rubbish weather.

However, avoid this is the wind is really, really bad as it might break the wiper arm.

Start you car

If it’s especially cold, you may wish to start your car, run it for a little bit, and turn it off every times you go out to shovel.

I usually skip this because it’s rarely that cold in my area but when it does get that cold, I do that.

 

Buy/own at least two or more pairs of gloves

No matter how careful you are, your gloves WILL get wet. Have a dry pair to switch to for additional shoveling or going out.

Skip using soft cashmere or similar gloves. Your hands will look like a lint brush after a few moments of being wet.

Snow boots are useful

However, they might not be necessary. Wear old, comfortable shoes to shovel with good treads. For example, I wear a pair of thick 2″ heeled casual boots. For me, my feet are comfortable in this position and the treads are good. Having the boots and heels elevated keeps you from getting stuck in deep snowdrifts.

Avoid sneakers if possible. Your feet will be unhappy, cold, and wet. You’ll also want to skip your fashion winter boots. They’re not meant to survive extremely wet conditions and the salt will destroy them. Trust me.

But wear whatever shoes are comfortable and have good grip.

Don’t shovel in clothes you want to wear. Wash shoveling clothes often.

Snow is solidified water, often saturated with road salt. This means your shoveling gear will be saturated with this weird white shit. When the snow dries, it will leave the material stiff and crinkly. Having clothing to switch to is awesome.

I tend to shovel in boots of some kind, warm Lycra leggings, and at least two shirts plus a heavy winter jacket with hood, scarf, gloves, and hat. I sometimes even take my glasses off because after a while you can’t see shit anyway. Save for the jacket and hat which dry easily, I rotate to a different set of clothes for another shoveling session.

Stay by the door

Going in and out from heated houses and cars to cold snow and back can be hell on your body. Stay by the door and allow your body to acclimate to the warm/cold weather before moving further. This is true for both coming inside from shoveling and going out to shovel.

Keep tissues by the door

Like the above tip, coming in and out from hot/cold weather does weird things to the body. One of those things is making your nose run like a river. Keeping tissues nearby can avoid gross stuff on everything you love.

Treat yourself!

I tend to make up a pot of something warm like coffee, hot chocolate, or soup before I go out so I can have it as a treat for a job well done.

Prepare

A flashlight and candles with a working lighter left on a counter or table can make power outages much easier.

If an outage occurs, do not panic. Keep the fridge and freezer closed as much as possible, fill bowls and containers of tap water, and pick one room to center yourself in. That center room should be the one you want to remain in mostly for the length of the outage. Bring all the blankets in the house to that room and stay warm. There’s lots of tips for making a mini heater from candles available online if you care to search.

Stock up early and well. The few days before a storm is suspected, the stores will be PACKED. Everyone will buy milk, bread, and toilet paper. Followed by de-icer, gloves, shovels, and booze. These are the most hunted for items. Buy them early or you’ll miss out. ATMs and banks are extremely busy too.

If you have to go out, plan according. I generally use at least 30 minutes to an hour for travel time to get to some place by a particular time. Do not go out unless you have to, especially if the roads are being worked on or cautioned against. Be careful when driving, slow early, and leave room for plows.

Keep gloves, a scarf, hat, a snow car brush, and a small shovel in your car to shovel when you need to leave work or whatever.

It snowed the other night! ☃

A post shared by Samantha Davidson (@thiscrookedcrown) on

 

Parking ban

This means you cannot park there for the length of the ban. Typically this appears as an on-street parking bans during plow hours. An example would be that you cannot park on the street between 9 p.m. to 8 a.m.

The city may tow your car or fine your for parking during that time. You’ll definitely be plowed in and risk the plows damaging your car. Find a place for your car to be.

If you become stranded

Stay inside. Even if your car is stranded, stay inside of it. Cars can’t see you in the dark and you’ll be far warmer inside the car than outside of it.

Know your shovels.

Take a good, long look at what you need to shovel when choosing shovels. Deep, crescent shovels are great for pushing snow, like when clearing a driveway. Shallow shovels are better for lifting snow. Metal shovels are heavier but useful in breaking up ice and snow chunks. Plastic shovels will break but are lighter meaning good for fluffy snow.

Multiple shovels FTW

We have three shovels in my house. We keep one (metal, shallow) at the top of the stairs to keep the back steps clear and to break up ice. A second crescent shovel is kept at the bottom of the back stairs for walkways and the driveway. We keep a third crescent shovel by the front door to keep the front walkway clear without having to haul a shovel through the house or walk around the snow outside.

Walking in snow is hard work.

Lift your legs up as if you’re climbing stairs for deep piles.

Lean very slightly back when there’s ice, especially if you have breasts or a lot of weight in front of you, to give yourself counterbalance.

Assume there is black ice (ice that is hard to see) under where you’re walking because there probably is and that it is your mortal enemy which would like nothing more to watch you fall.

If you fall, protect your face but try not to land on your hands

Hands and wrists are some of the easiest bones to break. They often break when we try to catch ourselves from falling and to protect the face. If possible, turn to the side, land on your forearms, and tuck in your head.

Shovel when people are plowing. 

Snow plows operate usually during quiet times. So if I go out to shovel at 4 a.m., I’m going to be out there the same time as plows on my street. Often times, they’ll help by plowing the front part of my driveway for me for free. Sometimes they’ll ignore me. But either way, they DON’T plow me in which they WILL do if I’m not out there.

Pay for a plow or shovelers.

In my area, a plow to is about $25-35 per visit. Hiring someone to shovel can be some $15-35, to do a driveway and walkway. Our current plow guy won’t come unless there’s a few inches on the ground and costs $45 but he plows the driveways and shovels all the walkways. Make sure you know what you’re getting before you pay. Prepare to tip for jobs well done (although this won’t likely be required if you’re paying a contractual service).

Inform your city or local plower if you work in emergency services or may need emergency services as they should plow your driveway for you.

If you’re in emergency services, such as a doctor or you may need emergency care, inform your city. In my city, they’re suppose to ensure that you can get out and that disabled people can be reached.

That being said, uh, they don’t. We hired someone or I shovel. But your town might be different!

If you own a plow, do not plow the street.

Plow trucks can be hired by private parties but, in RI at least, you have to be licensed to plow the street. This is to avoid damage to the street. I’m certain rural areas are far more lenient with this sort of thing but check your city ordinances. You don’t want to be fined for trying to help people.

By the way, the streets WILL be shit afterwards because people ignore the law and the people hired by your city probably don’t care after day 5 of 3 a.m. shifts. Expect chunks of asphalt and cement; expect potholes. Advanced tip: Look to see if your car insurer covers replacement tires and double check your tire spares.

Vintage sled ❤

A post shared by Samantha Davidson (@thiscrookedcrown) on

No one really enjoys shoveling but hopefully these tips can make things easier for everyone!


Originally posted over on my tumblr’s satellite blog here. Different URL but it’s mine.

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