The Best of Old and in the Way #7- Winter Fun and Ice Dams

This is a gooddie from 2010, the great ice dam year, we’ve just now finished repairs from that horseshit experience.



May it please my dear readers, one last comment on ice and snow on the roof. Three days being an eternity on Old and in the Way, where ADD reporting is the norm. May this winter end.. I’m done with it. I like winter, I really really do.. but now I’m done with it.

Got home last night after a tallying another day at Big Nameless and Faceless and was met at the door by a very disturbed Mrs S, who upon my entrance grabbed me by the collar and walked me into the house. For just the most fleeting second I thought this was this “meet at the door throw herself at me” fantasy that I’d been dreaming about my entire married life, but quickly noticed she wasn’t wrapped in nothing but cellophane, oh well, this mush be something else.. Turns out it was bad. We have water dripping into the house thanks to.. you guessed it, ice dams.

My next utterance wasn’t fit for even these blue pages. This drip is in the back of the house where the previous owner, some 20 years ago, added on a 4 season porch. We love the porch. We don’t love all the little valleys and troughs it makes on the roof, especially in the winter. On Sunday I was concentrating on the front of the house.. the part I can see, leaving the back of the house, the part I can’t see.. You get the idea.

Sooo out of the suit and into the Carharts, bib and jacket.. grabbed the ladder and went out the deck to pull snow off the roof. Once again the shitty little 6 foot ladder, balanced on a pile of snow, my favorite. I climbed up on the ladder and got my first look at the back porch roof. As the French say.. Mon Dieu.. I’m sure Admiral Perry had the same view out his porthole when he was looking for the north pole. Endless snow, sculpted by the wind, many feet deep. Well, you eat an elephant one leg at a time as the saying goes. Now, the deck is narrow in that part of the house and with all the snow there’s only one way to get the stuff off with a shovel.. I would have to pull it straight down, on top of myself.

Anything for the family. Anything for the boss actually. So, I pulled up the hood, tightened up the wrist straps on the jacket, said a little prayer and started pulling snow. And there was a boat load of sno, all of coming down on me. Under my jacket I was dry, and it was more weird than anything, chunks of snow bouncing off my head. I did have visions that my pockets were filling up with snow as feet of the stuff came down on top of my head. My daughter, watching from inside the house thought this was the funniest thing she’d ever seen in her life, and called some friends over to watch Dad try to bury himself.

My plan was to clear as spot and climb up on the roof and push more snow off. Just like I’d seen them do on TV. After scraping the snow in the immediate 3 feet around me, as that was as far as I could reach I discovered a problem. We have about a 9 inch thick layer of ice going up the roof. There wasn’t going to be any roof walking for me. Even I could be strategic enough to understand the error in that plan. Sliding off I’d hit the deck rail and roll down to lower deck where Mrs S would have the kids call the insurance man, the lawyer and the ambulance, in that order, while she decided to bring me in at that time, or maybe just wait until Spring when it would be easier after the snow is gone.

She stuck her head out. “What do you see up there?”

Really? On a ladder, covered in snow, freezing my ass off. Well apparently I’d left my filter in the house, and my response might have had just the slightest bit of sarcasms in it. “You know, it’s weird dear, a little world of children nailed to roof singing ‘It’s a Small World’ and a fantastic tropical scene in miniature.. you should come up here and take a look.” Some times my humor doesn’t have the desired effect, but it was a stupid question to begin with. “How much ice Sank?” “enough for a luge run”.. “Sank, you should get the roof rake and use that, you reach higher”.

Fuck me.

I had thought about that and dismissed it because, frankly, the idea of standing on the top rung of a 6 foot ladder with a 12 foot pole made me frightened and uneasy. Not to mention, in my mind I couldn’t figure out how I was going to get the roof rake from garage to the back of the house, as carrying it through the house, not really going to work as I couldn’t make the proper turns in the hallways without breaking glass.

That meant, I’d be walking through the front yard, through 3 feet of snow to the back gate, climbing over it since it was snowed in, and then walking around the back yard to the deck.. and it was going to suck no matter how I did it.. but service is my name when Mrs S is my customer and I responded with a perhaps too sarcastic “Good idea”.

Doing my best Frosty imitation I walked through the house, leaving a trail of melting snow from the back to the front, through the kitchen, including a stop in the downstairs john, and went out the garage, just in time to hear Mrs S and the Daughter exclaim out loud “where did all this water come from”. Secret smile.. In the garage I grabbed the rake and walked to the side of the drive way where, in the summer I would walk on the grass to get to the backyard. I had to pause and regroup. There was a mile of unblemished snow, probably thigh deep, between me and the fence. Well remembering my elephant metaphor I jumped through the snow berm on the side of the drive way and started slogging through it.

Here’s a neat advantage of living in Minnesota in winter. Who needs to jog miles and miles for your daily exercise? Why, you can burn the same energy walking 50 feet through 3 feet of snow as you can jogging a mile, and while it takes the same amount of time, and you didn’t have to go very far. On the second step the snow went up the pant leg.. Goodie.

I made it to the gate and astonishingly to me for no good reason, just stepped over it. This is a gate that comes up to the middle of my chest in the summer.  In the back I discovered more ice dams and did my best to rake some of the snow off that part of the roof. There was one icicle hanging there.. I’m not kidding when I say it was about a foot in diameter. Very therapeutic to whack at it and shatter it. Not as therapeutic to hear the chunks hit the porch window, I just missed becoming the “fool of the year” in  Mrs S’s annual award show by doing the stupidest thing in the family for 2010. I’m going win that award anyway.. but to peak in February.. good news is, it didn’t break the window.

I was now about half way to the porch. I walked down the little hill and forgot about the retaining wall we’d put in two years ago. That one step was a doozy.. the way the snow was blown up on the wall you almost couldn’t tell it was there. I stepped over it and did the faceplant into the snow, turning my 12 foot roof rake into an 8 foot rake in the process.

By now I was sweating like a pig after all that exertion, and that snow was sure comfy, sort of like one of those Swedish formfitting beds. Except for the stinging of snow on my left ear I was pretty comfy and laid there for a while thinking about my childhood and fresh delicious tater tots.. fresh out of the oven, with just a bit of ketchup on them..

Mmmmm. My euphoria was broken my Mrs S’s concern from the window above.. “Sank.. you OK? “ “Yes dear I” muttered. Using the broken end of the rake I pushed myself up and continued on my trek to the deck.  Down on this side of the yard the snow had blown up against the retaining wall and I was now walking through waist deep snow. Snowshoes were making a ton of sense to me as I sank in with every step; a daily aspirin was also making a ton of sense at this point as my heart was pounding away.

Finally at the stairs to the deck I used the broken piece to poke through the snow and find the steps.. Finally I made it up the back door. Mrs S opened the slider and, while I could tell she wanted to say “What took you so long” I must have looked so pathetic that she backed off and asked if I was ok and said she’d be heating some beef stew for me. Mmmm stew.

I climbed back up on my ladder and proceeded to get more snow off the roof., including a drift up at the corner of the eave that had to be 4 feet deep. Now that the ice was exposed I asked Mrs S for the ice melt bag and a cup. Yesterday I had been too sparse with my distribution. This time.. I was going to lay it on thick, and I did. Cups and cups of the stuff, all over that sheet of ice up there.

OK, potassium chloride is now one of my favorite chemicals. It was amazing. You could almost see it sinking into the ice. Within a few minutes I could hear the ice cracking and popping, and with in 10 minutes a torrent of water was rolling off the roof. I was moist with joy and snowmelt. My euphoria broken by the ‘too much of a good thing’ realization as before my very eyes, 10 lbs of ice melt washed it’s self off the roof and onto the 5 foot pile of snow on the deck where it started melting snow that I could care less about.

Oh well. I did what I could do and went in for some stew.

Mmmm stew.

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