Snowy patio furniture

I take some version of this same picture every few years, after every major snowfall. In 2013, Nemo dumped 24 inches of snow on our backyard, and I posted a photo of our buried patio furniture. I shot today’s version this afternoon, while the snow was still falling, and when J took a preliminary pass snow-blowing our driveway, we’d gotten 18 inches, and Juno still isn’t done with us yet.

Front door view

I think I take these same shots over and over because every year, the transformation between “before” and “after” a major snowstorm is so arresting. When you look at a snow-filled yard, it’s difficult to tell how deep it is…but when you see one to two feet of snow on top of a table, you get a sense of how heavy a load everyone’s digging out from.

At a certain level, it’s difficult to envision 18, 24, or even more inches of snow: after the snow tops your boots, another inch or so doesn’t make that much difference. So while J has an official snow stick he uses to measure our backyard snow, I tend toward more comparative measurements: is the snow ankle-, calf-, or even beagle-deep?

Bring me inside now, please

That’s Melony the beagle in our backyard dog pen, which is all the further any of us ventured today. J cleared a path to and from the pen, and I shoveled a space inside for Melony and Cassie, our white German shepherd, to “do their business.” This photo shows Melony giving me her most plaintive “I’m done, please take me inside now” look.

There's a Subaru under there, somewhere

I’m sure we’ve all heard the proverbial advice about how to carve a statue. Start with a block of stone, then chisel away everything that isn’t what you’re trying to carve. That makes stone-carving sound easy enough, and it pretty much applies to digging out a car covered in two feet of snow. Just start chiseling, and stop when you hit anything “car.”

Side mirror "wings"

In the past when I’ve had to dig out my car from a massive snowstorm, a broom has done the trick: just sweep away the bulk of accumulation, then use a snow-scraper to remove the rest. (That’s what I did in this post from eons ago, when I lived on my own in New Hampshire and Reggie was still alive and young.) When you’re removing two feet of snow, however, a broom just doesn’t cut it.

Chisel away everything that isn't "Subaru"

Yesterday I tried a regular broom then a push-broom to remove a few inches of snow from my car before settling on a compact plastic shovel, one I’d bought years ago to keep in my car for emergencies. Luckily, that shovel now lives in the garage, so I was able to use it on the snow-pile where my car had previously been.


When you’re shoveling out a buried car, you aren’t trying to create something pretty. Instead, you’re aiming to uncover the rough contours of the vehicle: here a tail-light, there a door.

Almost a driver's side door

Once you’ve uncovered enough of the hood, grille, and tailpipe to make it safe to start your engine, you can concentrate on digging out the driver’s side door. Why? Once you’ve turned the car on, you can run the heater at full blast through the vents, melting the windshield from within.

Melting windshield

Once you’ve cleared most of the snow from the roof, hood, and windows, you can move your mostly-clean car into a spot where you know it will eventually be sunny. If you carve out the rough outlines, the sun will do the rest.

Ready to roll

Guess we won't be eating outside any time soon

I guess we won’t be eating outside any time soon. (Click here for more photos from the morning after winter storm Nemo.)

Stan monitors snowfall accumulations

This afternoon, J and I walked to our local pizza and sandwich shop for lunch instead of going to the Boston Symphony Orchestra concert we had tickets for, the concert being cancelled due to this weekend’s impending blizzard. At lunchtime, the snow had just started to fall, and many businesses had signs in their windows announcing they were closing early. Our local Dunkin’ Donuts was closed, for instance, but the liquor store next to it was open, ready to capitalize on the handful of people stocking up on last minute “essentials.” On the streets, only a few cars and dedicated joggers were out, enjoying one last trip around the block before hunkering down for the storm.

Empty streets

On our way home, J and I encountered a frantic dog-walker who was looking for a friend’s beagle. She’d agreed to walk “Monkey” along with her own dog, but he’d slipped from her grasp and was running around the neighborhood with his leash still hooked to his harness. Following a set of dog-tracks, we cornered Monkey between our and our neighbors’ backyards, and with all three of us closing in, J was finally able to tackle the skittish fellow. That was our good deed for the day, and we haven’t been outside since.

Snowstorm self-portrait - Feb 8 / Day 39

J and I are getting good at preparing for storms, having had repeated practice over the past few years. Between Irene, Sandy, and now Nemo, we’ve perfected a routine where we check our pantry for provisions, charge our devices, and locate and test our flashlights and battery-powered radio. I’ve learned from experience to post an announcement in each of my online classes explaining that if I should suddenly stop answering email, that means I’ve lost power, Internet connectivity, or both. After having spent the day trying to catch up with online teaching tasks, I’m ready to power down for the night, watching TV coverage of the storm as long as the power holds and listening to the winds howl outside. Tomorrow morning, we’ll see how badly the blizzard has buried us, and we’ll start digging out. Right now, though, we hunker down and wait.

Snowflake sleeps

It’s a good thing Snowflake is an indoor cat, as we’d lose him for sure on a night like this. After a morning of teaser flurries, the snow arrived in earnest around 3 pm and hasn’t let up since. In few hours since I last let Reggie out, we’ve gone from an inch or so dusting to ankle-deep, with the winter-thick sky still falling as flakes.

Snowflake resting

They say it will snow all night, and we’ll wake up with as many as 20 inches: nearly two feet! J had the foresight to bring the snow blower, which we usually store in the garage, onto our screened back porch so tomorrow morning, he’ll be able to blow a path from our back door to the backyard dog-pen, which is as far as we’re planning to venture.

Around noon, before the worst of the snow started, J and I walked to our neighborhood deli for lunch, and on the way home we stopped at our local market for a few ingredients for tonight’s dinner: anything to avoid the panicked crowds at the supermarket buying emergency milk, eggs, and bread. At the market, there was no sign of panic, just a handful of shoppers buying random Sunday essentials, like the men in line ahead of us, who bought a six-pack of beer, a jar of nacho cheese, and a jug of milk: enough to last them through this afternoon’s Patriots’ game and beyond. Even in the face of a winter emergency, you have to keep your priorities straight.