PHOTO: Rich Herrmann/Flickr
December 6, 2019

As we head into winter, it’s wise for farmers to plan in advance for the possibility of major winter snowstorms.

The topic is on my mind because it’s been snowing heavily since last night, with a foot of snow expected to fall within a 12-hour time period. That’s a lot of snow to deal with all at once, especially early in the season.

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The good news is, I was prepared for this snowstorm. With my tools primed and ready, I’ve already gotten a good start on cleaning up and digging out.

To keep your farm running smoothly and efficiently during the worst winter weather, a little advance preparation can go a long way. Here’s my best advice for ensuring you’re ready for everything Mother Nature dishes out this winter:

1. Prepare Your Tools

You don’t want to be caught with your tools unprepared, and making sure they’re accessible and ready to use when a snowstorm hits should be at the top of your list.

A few steps are obvious. If you have a walk-behind snowblower, tackle any necessary pre-winter maintenance such as changing the oil, spark plugs, etc. If the machine is buried in your garage behind the lawn mower or that table you plan to renovate, do some rearranging to make the snowblower easily accessible.

If you have a tractor-mounted snowblower, get it attached before snow falls so it will be ready to roll when the first snowstorm strikes. The same goes for snow plows mounted on your tractor, truck, or ATV.

Also, don’t forget about manual snow removal tools. Make sure snow shovels are easily accessible—don’t store them in an obscure tool shed where they’ll have to be dug out before you can start digging (ironic, right?). Store digging shovels and digging bars in accessible areas too; you’ll need them later in winter when ice starts becoming problematic.

2. Clear the Pathways

Before the first snowfall, walk areas you plan on plowing or snowblowing and remove any items that could damage equipment. Rocks, buckets, flower pots, stakes, you name it—keep your pathways clear so potential obstacles won’t disappear under the snow and become hidden dangers. Don’t assume you’ll remember the location of every potential hazard; even if you can recall its general whereabouts, judging the exact lay of the land when it’s blanketed by snow is trickier than you might think.

3. Decide Where Snow Will Go

It’s not enough to have a plan for removing snow. You also need a plan for storing it, because “removing” snow is more about “moving” snow to an area where it’s less of a nuisance.

This is particularly a factor when plowing snow, which creates large, hard-packed mounds that will be slow to melt in spring. Decide in advance where you intend to push the snow so it doesn’t become a problem later in winter. It might be tempting to push it wherever is easiest for plowing, but if this blocks the entrance to a rarely-used outbuilding or buries a parked trailer, try to find an alternative solution. You’ll inevitably discover that you need to access the building for some obscure reason or use the trailer first thing in the spring while it’s still surrounded by mounds of stubborn snow.

By planning in advance, you can reduce the stress and strain of dealing with heavy snow during the winter. Stay warm!

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