My wife has given up trying to understand or explain the changes that I have gone through. Today it is hard to convince me to leave the warmth of the Crystal Coast.
Forty years ago I loved the snow and was living in a very old farmhouse on the shores of the Bay of Fundy. Somehow I convinced the love of my life to leave family and friends and move to snowy Canada with me.
It did not take long for her to find out about snow. We got married in the heat of August in North Carolina and just a little over a month later a surprise snowstorm of twelve inches hit our Nova Scotia farm that September. I wrote about that event in a post called, My Wife's First Nova Scotia Snow.
In those years snow was just another challenge to me. When we got married, I was actually in the midst of evaluating a move to Newfoundland. The western part where I was looking is a lot snowier than Nova Scotia but a trip up there with my new wife and a visit to the barrens by float plane put an end to that idea.
It is a great story and part of our book, A Taste for the Wild, Canada's Maritimes. The book talks about our early years in Canada and the changes we saw during a return trip we made to New Brunswick in the fall of 2012.
I have told a number of folks the story about the Newfoundland barrens and the drunken hunters at the moose camp there is worth every penny of the $2.99 price of the book.
Newfoundland got rejected not because it had too much snow but because it had too few trees and the long ferry ride made it too far away. We actually ended up in an even snowier place, Tay Creek, New Brunswick. The Google place marker actually is just to the left of our old farmhouse and the road that we had made out to the new barns we built for our cattle herd which eventually numbered over 200.
That first winter when we were in Tay Creek, I kept track of the snowfall. We had twenty three feet of snow that year. There were times when six feet of snow was on the ground in our fields.
Snow was part of life in Tay Creek. There was still some on the property when we first looked at it during an early weekend in May 1974. Snow was already on the ground when we moved there during November of 1974. We did not see bare ground again until months later in April of 1975.
That first winter we snowshoed a lot and learned about breaking trail in very deep snow. I had a ball with my cross country skis on those beautiful trails. We only had a handful of cattle so there was time to enjoy the snow. We did buy a tractor mounted snowblower and it was to become an essential part of our lives.
Most mornings during the winter, I started the day by shoveling snow. It was not unusual for it to snow five or six inches during the night. The snowplows did not even bother with that tiny amount of snow. When it did not snow, there was usually snow sliding off the roof of the house. One way or the other you ended up shoveling for most of the winter. You learned that keeping up with the snow was a Canadian virtue that made life a lot easier in the snowy north.
You might guess that in a land as snowy as Tay Creek it would take some impressive storms to stand out in your memory. Getting a foot or so of snow really was no big deal in Tay Creek. However, getting two to three feet at one time sticks out in your memory even in place where the old timers swore that we had "eleven months of winter and one month of damn poor sledding."
One storm in April of 1975 delivered over three feet of heavy wet snow. Even with my heavy duty equipment it took me hours to clean the one quarter of mile of road to our first barn. Our cattle were wintered in the woods three quarters of a mile farther back. It was twenty four hours before I finally got back to feed them the next day.
The most impressive storm that hit us in the ten years we lived in Tay Creek came just on the heels of the coldest weather that we ever experienced. We complain here on North Carolina's Southern Outer Banks when the temperature does not make it out of the forties. Cold in Canada is completely different. You know you are headed for a bad spell when today's low is tomorrow's high. It is especially bad when you start at something like minus ten degrees Fahrenheit and the temperature drops five to ten degrees each day for a week.
It was January 16, 1982 and we had finally bottomed out at minus 40 degrees. It was a time of extreme life threatening cold. The seats in our vehicles were like concrete because the moisture in the foam had frozen. When I rode out to feed the cattle using our tractor without a cab, the only uncovered part of me was my eyes. The moisture in your breath would freeze immediately on anything it touched even your own face mask.
Often when it got very cold, we would joke that it was going to have to warm up to snow. Usually at very cold temperatures, we had little wind and almost no precipitation except that any residual moisture in the air would freeze and fall to the ground as a strange instant snow as the temperatures got colder. January of 1982, was different. We had extreme cold, wind, and lots of snow. This picture taken looking off our porch at the peak of the storm. It gives you an idea of how bad it was during that memorable storm.
It was a storm that will always be fresh in my mind since our youngest daughter was born just as it got started. Fortunately I made it the twenty miles to town in our big four wheel drive truck with my pregnant wife. We were also extremely lucky that she had a relatively quick delivery because my truck would never have started if it had been turned off in the extreme cold for more than a couple of hours.
As soon as I was sure that everything was okay at the hospital, I headed back home. It was so cold at home that we had hung blankets over all the windows the day before. My mother who was seventy-two at the time was keeping our other two children. I barely made it home and I can still remember the wonderful meal she had prepared. After twenty miles of driving in a blizzard, my mother's fried chicken was a treat. It was also a relief to be safely at home.
Schools hardly ever closed in Tay Creek. That next day they closed the schools because of the extreme cold. Also some snowbanks were so tall that they were worried about children playing on them running into power lines. One section of the road in Tay Creek near the village's store was actually so blocked by huge drifts that they sent the airport snowblower from Fredericton out to clear it so the regular plows could keep it open.
There have been other storms in my life, but the one in January of 1972 probably tops the list. When you get over two feet of snow and the temperature has been minus 40 with wind speeds of fifty to sixty miles per hour, it is hard to top. It took a long time to get cleaned up after that storm, but we survived.
While Canada and New Brunswick in particular are certainly places that can be called the home of real snow, I do remember one very impressive storm in the mountains of Virginia. We got over twenty inches of snow mixed with sleet. These pictures will give you an idea of what the snow looked like. I got pretty upset with VDOT for taking so long to clear a path up the mountain. They finally did send a road grader to clean our road. In Canada I had equipment that could clear roads, that was not the case in Virginia.
Today in 2013, I would rather be kayaking in the fog on our river than isolated by a snow storm. The funny thing is my wife does not understand my love of kayaking on the river in the fog any better than she did my love of snow storms in the seventies. However, she has learned to put up with the unusual things I enjoy.
The picture at the top of the post was taken in Tay Creek, New Brunswick in December, 2013, by good friends who live about a mile from our old farm. I think they got another big storm the weekend of December 21, but I have not gotten pictures of it yet.