By Margo D. Beller
According to the weather people, March 1 is the beginning of meteorological spring.
Anyone living in northern or central New Jersey this year has another opinion.
My area of North Jersey has been hit with 13 or so storms this winter season, including a period in February where we had three major snowstorms in 10 days. Even with recent thaws, I still have snow mountains at the end of my driveway. What I can see of my garden looks devastated. Another major snowstorm predicted to put 6 inches of powder down did not appear, but there is still plenty of a cement-like mix of ice and snow on the ground.
This continued cold and white, plus the ice on some of my favorite areas to walk and look for birds, depresses me. It is a major case of “winter blues” that lengthening days and even watching the birds busily getting seeds from my feeder can’t lift.
But if you are a business owner or a homeowner or the director of a New Jersey Audubon wildlife sanctuary, you can’t indulge in the winter blues for long. Whether it’s my half-acre or Scherman Hoffman’s 276 acres, you must get out there and clear the snow.
So when the snow started falling this winter, Scherman Hoffman director Mike Anderson got into his “new-used” Ford F-350 pickup with the new, bigger plow and started clearing.
There’s the long, curving driveway from Hardscrabble Road up to the education center and the lower and upper parking lots. There’s the lower lot next to the house where New Jersey Audubon CEO and President Eric Stiles lives with his family. There’s the lot next to the headquarters building at 9 Hardscrabble and the long driveway up to the education center.
It’s a lot of plowing. And when the next storm hit, and the one after that, Mike was back at it with the plow again until it was done. Because when you start plowing you want to get it all over with at once. That means long hours and a lot of time spent away from what you are supposed to be doing for your job.
This plowing does not include the sanctuary trails, by the way. Good luck taking some of those downhill unless you are wearing ice cleats or cross-country skis.
I don’t have a plow, although there is a man with a similarly big pickup truck and plow who does our much shorter driveway and turnaround. He also works until he’s done and so do my husband and I in clearing the front and back walkways and the path to our feeders. So I have a limited sense of what Mike has to do to keep Scherman Hoffman operating.
Another thing I don’t have: a roof rake. But Scherman Hoffman does, and Mike demonstrated it for me the other week when I came to to the education center store on a sunny, relatively mild (after the polar vortex, 30 degrees is mild) Saturday to buy another 50 lb. sack of sunflower seeds.
Roof cave-ins have been another severe problem this winter as snow, sleet and more snow have accumulated, particularly on flat roofs. You can hire someone to climb up and push the snow off, you could go up there and try it yourself, or you can stand on terra firma and use a long-poled (plus extension) metal rake like the one Mike has to clear some of the snow off the education center’s roof.
It is extremely effective, but you have to have strong arms and back for this, as I know from using an extension branch lopper. The longer the extension, the more work you have to do to control and use the heavy implement at the other end.
Mike seemed to handle it with ease, no doubt from extended experience. But he also handled it because he must. A caved-in roof is an expense New Jersey Audubon can’t afford. Unplowed driveways mean no access to the offices -- no one can get to work, handle membership renewals, fill the bird feeders or sell birdhouses to a willing public.
And it is why I shovel my paths even when I know I’m not going anywhere that day – I may not be able to control the weather but it is how I fight its effect. Plus if I don’t do it, it only gets worse the next day.
So I will indulge in these blues for a short time today. Tomorrow I’ll be out with the shovel, yet again, clearing the paths, refilling the bird feeders for my feathered friends.
So will Mike Anderson. So will you.