Tag Archives: snow

Farewell, My Shovel

It was 7:30 a.m. last Friday morning when Ivy the Wonder Cat and I were playing chess on the coffee table or at least Ivy’s version of chess, knocking the chess pieces off the table and meowing with joy.

Then I heard it!

You’d think it was the sound of “a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer” with the speed at which I flew to the window, but no. It was the snow plow… The snow plow I hired to clear my driveway, making its very first visit!

For those who might not be familiar with an Ottawa winter, let’s just put things into perspective. While different sources offer different statistics, I’d say that on average, Ottawa receives about 200 cm (roughly 78 inches) of snow through the fall, winter and spring months.

Of course it doesn’t fall at once. Sometimes it falls as light fluffy flakes, sometimes it comes with ice pellets and sometimes it is wet and heavy. As an added bonus, after the plow (or plough, if you prefer) comes to clear the street, there is always a heavy (and sometimes mountainous) snow bank at the end of the driveway that needs to be cleared as well.

Plus, when you have a winter like 2008 with more than 300 cm of snow, and all of the snowbanks start getting taller than you, where do you put the snow?

For the longest time, I thought that hiring a plowing service might have been frivolous or extravagant, especially since my driveway is barely over one car length. But I had to accept the sad reality that the degenerating disc in my back will continue to degenerate, and that the shoveling is probably not helping it in the long run.

I tried to convince myself that it was good exercise and that it was one of the joys (and responsibilities) of home ownership. But 17 winters later, my positive spin on shoveling is spiraling downward. I’m over it.

After having spent the last two winters experiencing periods of back pain (directly related to the shoveling), and having to make time for more chiropractor visits, was it worth it?

As a runner, I recognize the importance of keeping my body in good shape and that regular stretching (much like yoga moves) has helped to prevent injury over the years. But preparing for shoveling is like training for a sport in itself when every shovel full of wet heavy snow can weigh quite a bit, and the movements involved in snow clearing can be awkward and dangerous if one does not pay attention.

Then came the bitter admission that I just don’t bounce back from back injury like I used to. It’s called getting older. It sucks, but it’s a fact of life.

Plus, while I never considered myself a candidate for a fatal heart attack, sedentary men over 50 are most at risk from the strains of shoveling, so why tempt fate?

As much as I felt like I was being a wimp for not doing it myself, I knew in my heart that it was time to cast aside my pride and to call it quits.

Over the fall, I priced out a few different contractors and found prices to be far more reasonable than when I priced them out 5 years ago, the last time my back wasn’t feeling great. The quotes were in the same ball park as the price of 6 visits to the chiropractor. For the pain I could potentially avoid, the expense now made sense.

I ended up hiring the company that was highly recommended by a good friend.

And on this beautiful snowy morning, here was the plow! The pure joy I felt defies words. I didn’t have to break out in a sweat, I didn’t have to risk my back’s wellness and I didn’t have to worry. Sixty seconds after the driveway was cleared, I knew I had made the right decision.

I laughed a devilish laugh at the realization that I may have partially won the war against Old Man Winter. It was in that moment that I realized that aside from the 3 feet of pathway in front of my house, I really don’t need to even think, plan or set aside time for shoveling this winter. At all… Ever…

That is when I realized how much of an irritant it was, not only for my back, but for my outlook on winter itself.

Maybe if I didn’t have to shovel 40-50 times in a season and risk injury, might I enjoy winter more, from the comfort of the great indoors, snuggled up with a good book, a cup of tea and Miss Ivy purring contentedly by my side?

Now, will I see every new snowfall for its romantic natural beauty, rather than a risk to my health and safety?

Could I put the reclaimed time toward a less risky form of exercise, to stay healthy, fit and happy through the winter months?

In retrospect, maybe hiring a plowing service was a better idea than I thought. Now I wonder why I waited so long.

Did you enjoy this post? If you haven’t already, you can check out the rest of my blog at andrebegin.blog. From there, you can click on the “Follow” button to receive future posts directly in your inbox. Also, don’t be shy, feel free to tell a friend or to share the link.
Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,
André

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Top 10 Ways I Prepare for a Canadian Winter

With the fall season well underway and the official start to winter just on the horizon, I often feel like a squirrel gathering nuts, which is not too far from the truth, actually.

For those who might not be familiar with Ottawa, winter can offer its share of merciless days in terms of bad weather conditions. As a result, roads and driving conditions can get pretty treacherous.

If we hit a weather pattern of several days of heavy snow or freezing rain (or both), I tend to go out only if I really have to. And on those days when I have to go to work, I stick to the essentials: a commute to the office and back, and that’s it. I won’t do errands on the way home.

It’s just a question of safety… well… that and the fear of getting stuck in a parking lot where a plow hasn’t arrived to remove the snow which continues to pile up.

For that reason, I tend to stock up on certain items to ensure I have a decent supply on hand, and to not stress out if my errand schedule goes topsy-turvy when Mother Nature and Old Man Winter get cranky.

Here they are, my top 10 errands in preparation for winter:

10. Flu shot

Getting a flu shot is not so much a weather dependent preparation, it is just a seasonal one for which I feel a need to make time for it, to avoid the flu, avoid the line-ups and maintain good health through the winter season.

9. Snow tires

Local garages are usually run off their feet at this time of year as many drivers book an appointment to have winter tires installed on their vehicles. Given how bad the weather can get, I couldn’t imagine driving without them anymore.

8. Kitty litter Continue reading

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Did Nature Photography Get Me to Enjoy Winter?

In last December’s post, “How Nature Photography Might Get Me to Appreciate Winter”, I wondered if my rediscovery of photography might be able to nudge me out of my usual winter cocoon and spend more time outside.

For those who have never been to Ottawa, let me offer a little bit of context. Yes, we do have an abundance of beautiful winter days that are like a shot out of a Disney movie. However, the Norman Rockwell painting of a perfect suburban Ottawa winter starts fading around the 18th consecutive day of snow, threat of freezing rain, or temperatures so low, even the cat won’t sit by the window and conduct her usual backyard surveillance despite her abundant fur coat. Winters here can be very harsh for long stretches.

When the weather outside is frightful and the sidewalks are covered with snow and ice, it’s not most conducive to a cheerful walk outside at lunch time. When you also factor in a long and slow commute home wondering where the heck the city’s snowplows went and repeatedly mumbling to myself “Why the heck do I pay taxes?” it should come as no surprise if I have to dig deeply to want to spend more time outdoors and risk falling and breaking a hip… the joys of becoming a grumpy old man! (and yes, I know some close friends are now thinking, “what do you mean ‘becoming’?”)

But this winter, I did spend more time outside, thanks to the camera!

While I wouldn’t say it made me a winter lover in one season, nature photography certainly made it more enjoyable by helping me lose track of time while doing something I truly enjoy. I would even go so far as to say this winter didn’t seem to drag on as much as it did in previous years. Continue reading

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The First Runs of the Season

I have always admired those runners who are able to look out the window at the most adverse weather conditions and still be able to pick out the perfect layers of clothing, lace up their shoes and go for a run with a smile on their face. They are my heroes!

I will admit that I tried it for a couple of winters, and when properly dressed for it, it wasn’t too bad. In fact, on a sunny, crisp winter day, a nice run can definitely raise the spirits after long stretches of grey winter skies.

But when Mother Nature delivers long stretches of snowy day after snowy day, and it has been weeks since I have even seen a sidewalk, it is all too easy for my discipline to be hiding on the couch under a pillow and blankie, thumb stuck on the remote, leaving a trail of sodium-reduced potato chip crumbs wherever it goes.

However, when March rolls around, it is no exaggeration to say that I can’t wait to get out of the house. The excitement and desire to return to the running trails builds with each passing day.

But when it comes to those first runs of the season, I have learned that managing one’s expectations is incredibly important.

After being away from it for several months, I tend to over-romanticize the running experience, accentuating the positive, musing about beautiful spring runs on flat, bare sidewalks, the fresh spring air, the sun shining, and the birds cheering me on. Continue reading

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Freezing Rain: That Scary Time When a Sheet of Ice Flew Toward My Car

iciclesThe freezing rain of a few days prior had turned the entire city into skating rink. Old Man Winter must have been really proud with himself as no outdoor surface was immune.

As the city began to thaw out from the storm, my normally calm drive home was punctuated by a moment of terror, as a sheet of ice had dislodged from the roof of an SUV speeding along at 80 kilometres per hour and flew straight up into the air like a pancake being masterfully flipped by its chef.

But what goes up must come down, as the wind carried the SUV roof shaped sheet of ice a little to the north and above my lane of traffic. Gravity then started taking over.
“Oh crap… the sheet of ice is headed this way,” I thought to myself.

I am always impressed by how television and movies are able to depict those moments in life when time stands still and things suddenly go in slow motion. This was one of those moments. As I could see the sheet of ice headed for me and my windshield, so many thoughts flew through my head at lightning speed:

“Oh crap, what do I do now?”
“Crap… this isn’t how I’m supposed to die, is it?”
“No wonder I’m not a fan of winter.”
“This isn’t how I’m supposed to die, is it?”
“I’ve still got a million stories to write. This would be tragic.” Continue reading

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How Nature Photography Might Get Me to Appreciate Winter

I admit it… I like the great indoors and my creature comforts. When the weather outside is frightful, especially in winter, I can’t think of anything better than staying inside, cozying up with a pillow and a blanket on the couch, listening to great music, reading a good book, watching a fun movie or even getting a few crazy story ideas committed to paper. To me that’s heaven on a cold, blustery winter day… or pretty much any winter day, actually.

However, it seems that through my renewed love of photography and my commitment to keeping the Instagram account freshly updated, something changed. After the first snowfall of the season here in Ottawa, I suddenly found myself meandering outdoors, chasing after the ever elusive nature shots. How did that happen?

Let’s be perfectly clear. I might not be inclined to spend more time outdoors than I have to on a blustery, stormy day. That would be pure silliness. That is when I will invoke the aforementioned “creature comforts” clause.

But after the storm has passed and the pathways have been cleared, it might be a different story. I am definitely warming up to the idea of getting out on a crisp, sunny day, and wandering out in the winter wonderland to take shots of the birds that didn’t fly south or the squirrels still running around gathering food.
Squirrel

I admit, a fresh, clean blanket of snow can lend itself to a certain beauty and majesty not found in other seasons. When snow crystals glitter in the sunlight, it can have a magical effect. To capture it in a photo might be my “thrill of the hunt” challenge this coming winter. Continue reading

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Top 10 Remedies for “I’m Cold”

cold-weather-gear

It’s November and we all know what that means… I’m cold! And if history repeats itself, that also means I will stay that way until mid-March.

I sometimes think it is Mother Nature’s way of telling me that it goes against nature to be out and about over these frosty months. But then reality kicks in, along with the realization that I still need to work for a living, which then sends me outside, grudgingly braving another winter.

Over the years, friends and family members who may have had an accidental run-in with my permafrost hands or glacial feet suggested that I bring the condition to the attention of a doctor, before they contact a mortician to confirm that I am in fact alive.

I have to agree though. My hands can get so cold sometimes, even the cat won’t play with me.

To the disbelief of my inner circle, the medical community has concluded that everything is actually normal with me.

With that verdict in, I have had to adjust and to find ways to get warm and to stay warm, even if it means a commitment to a life of layered looks and thermal wear, outdoors and indoors.

Here they are, the top 10 remedies for when “I’m cold” Continue reading

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