Snow Blower vs. Snow Shovel

So here we go again. Another week, another snow storm. 

And this time, Rochester isn’t going to get off Scott-free like we have so far this winter. As we await the next deluge of snow, I know you are all sick of it. But up here in Rochester, we’ve only had 77 inches fall this winter. Only. But only in terms of “lake effect” showers and flurries. Never a mention of a storm. Just enough snow to fall each day to cover the ugly grey snow. And not enough to justify a snow day.

But our day may be coming this week. Finally!

This is a piece I wrote a few years back that I figure would be very timely right about now. I know it’s tough, but do try to enjoy and appreciate the quiet and beauty of the snow. Because in a few months, we’ll be wishing for some cool weather.

We actually do have a snow blower. A Toro Powerlite snow blower that our relatives gave to us as a housewarming gift when my husband and I moved to Rochester from New Jersey with our two small children nearly a decade ago.  It is nestled on the left side of our Tudor’s tiny one-car garage – a garage that was built to fit 1920’s model cars, not today’s SUVs or minivans.  Over the years, it has certainly served us well.  My husband uses the snow blower on mornings when he has to get out early On early winter mornings I often wake to the sound of him repeatedly pulling on its cord to get it whirring to a shuddering start, the smell of the gasoline seeping upward from the garage directly overhead to our bedroom.

But I left the snow blower in the garage today and opted for my ergonomic snow shovel.  If I used the snow blower, I wouldn’t have delighted in the soundlessness that a snowstorm creates, the snow’s ability to absorb noise in our motorized world.  I wouldn’t have had the chance to watch the snow change from white to the slightest tinge of blue when it is pushed aside by the shovel’s blade. Or hear the chickadees chirping in the backyard and think about how I may at some point want to train them to feed out of my hand.  

The snowy weather does get a bit old here in Rochester, here at January’s end when at least two more months of snow await us and with the knowledge that we could not afford plane tickets to Florida for this year’s February break. 

You can’t stir a sleepy child out of bed at January’s end with the exclamation of

“Look! It snowed last night”. 

Maybe you can get away with that in November, or even mid-December, when snow is still a novelty. But when one’s alarm has been buzzing before dawn since November, and grass and brick and garden beds have not been seen for over a month, the child looks at you as if to say “big freaking deal, MOM” and rolls over in a vain attempt for one more minute of sleep.

We are not bears. And we cannot sleep all winter.  So out we go into it.  Whether it is to school, work, food shopping, we must. 

And you know something? If you are wearing enough layers, and there is no bitter wind to bite your face, shoveling snow by hand, and then taking a walk in it can be very invigorating, just about as invigorating as the Zumba class that I decided to blow off today.  As I walk, I turn my feet outwards, and then in, just like that boy in Ezra Jack Keat’s beloved children’s book. (Need I tell you the name?) I think about diverting my children from the television and getting them into the snow to play as they get off the schoolbus. I feel the gentleness of the flakes hit against my hat.  And when the one other person out walking today in my neighborhood passes me, we smile at each other knowingly, as if we are privy to a very well kept secret.  

As I turn home, an enormous truck with an eight-foot high snowplow turns the corner and packs the snow bank blocking our driveway even higher. Okay, there is no romanticizing anymore, and I head to my garage to start up the noisy, smelly snow blower.

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About stacylynngittleman

I have been a reporter and public relations professional for over 30 years, specializing in profile features and investigative longform writing. During my career I've profiled WWII Honor Flight Veterans, artists and musicians and have written on topics that range from environmental and gun control issues to Jewish culture. Click around on my writing samples plus read my blog on my personal life raising three kids over 27 years and three cities.

10 responses to “Snow Blower vs. Snow Shovel”

  1. timkeen40 says :

    I remember once when I was little it snowed a massive thirteen inches in January. In southern Kentucky, a state that is not equipped for such a snow, everything shuts down. As a kid it was fun for the first three weeks, but as January turned to February and we still had not gone back to school from Christmas break, it was no longer any fun.
    Good luck with the spring thaw.


  2. transplantednorth says :

    I hope that the spring thaw comes soon, it can’t come soon enough! thanks as always for reading.


  3. munira's bubble says :

    ‘If I used the snow blower, I wouldn’t have delighted in the soundlessness that a snowstorm creates, the snow’s ability to absorb noise in our motorized world. I wouldn’t have had the chance to watch the snow change from white to the slightest tinge of blue when it is pushed aside by the shovel’s blade. Or hear the chickadees chirping in the backyard and think about how I may at some point want to train them to feed out of my hand. ‘

    Loved the description!! It just transported me into your world..


  4. sherou says :

    just moved to cherry hill, new jersey and this piece hit home for me. you described everything with perfection down to the tee…here’s something i recently wrote…

    A Reflection of ‘Winter Storm Alerts’

    I grew up in a place where there was basically one predominant season – summer to last year round! I grew up in a time when it wasn’t unheard of to go through an entire monsoon season without a hint of rain. In the lucky year, when the heavens would unleash rain clouds our way, we would rejoice at the thought of school being closed due to rain or better yet we would be in school when the rains would come and our teachers wouldn’t even try to hold us back – we would rush out of our classes to feel the drops fall upon us. The streets of the city would inundate with water accumulating and everyone would rush to get home safe rather than get stuck on those inundated streets. Rains always brought about an excuse to have chai (tea) and pakoras (potato fritters) and basically put all in a merry mood – a mood that made us forget the normal temperaments that come with heat! Of more recent times, the effects of global warming have certainly changed a bit of what I grew up with and one does experience changes in weather throughout the course of the year in Karachi. Now I find myself in an altogether different surrounding here in South Jersey and weather is certainly a huge contrast to what I am accustomed to. I have landed here in the midst of one of the coldest winters, they say, in years. Rains are a common occurrence here and I think to most a nuisance. When the skies descend upon us with dark clouds, it’s considered depressing weather. Currently, we find ourselves in the constant blow of snow storms. Our last one left us with a foot and a half of snow. My house is surrounded by what seems like a sea of white. Just turn the radio or TV on and you will only hear a tired people who await the day the winter subsides and better weather comes their way. For my family and I, it’s a different scenario altogether. We aren’t necessarily awaiting the warmer weather. Rather, we are taking it all in. The kids are enjoying the snowmen, the snow-tubes, the shoveling, the days off from school, the heavy jackets and boots, the list goes on…As I watch the kids jumping around in the snow waiting for the school bus, I think – this is what they will grow up in. What a contrast to my childhood. As parents we tend to infuse a bit of our past and our knowledge of “how to grow up” into our children. Rain was a blessing where I grew up and I will always feel excitement at the slightest possibility of rain. Now my kids are living in a place where they won’t need to long for rain so naturally they won’t jump at the idea of going out and getting wet the way I will! If global warming will bring upon us the extreme weather systems the world is experiencing, I hope my kids will grow up always enjoying nature’s wonders and not get caught up in the frustrations that come with the so-called “bad weather”.


    • transplantednorth says :

      thanks for your very detailed comment. where did you move from? I’m guessing it was india? I love south jersey and I was hoping my husband would have found a job there and not here, but up here isn’t so bad.


  5. Northern Working Man says :

    Haha Nice post. As someone who has lived in the northern regions of the midwest for my entire life I am not stranger to great quantities of snow, but I have not had to worry about a driveway of my very own until recently. I shoveled for the first part of this winter and I think I am fed up and might break down to buy a snow blower.

    After seeing your complaints of the gassy smell and difficulty getting gas snow blowers started do you think that electric would be better? I hear that they are more quiet than gas snow blowers too! I did a little research on This Used Snow Blower site and I think I will look for a used electric snow thrower to help ease my back pain.

    Kudos to all of you warriors who continue to pile the snow up on the side of your driveways! Know that you are not alone!!


    • transplantednorth says :

      thank you for reading and your very detailed comment. Unfortunately, Western New York has received an embarassingly small amount of snow this winter. So we haven’t used our snow blower at all this winter. Thanks for reading and check back often.


  6. The Balsamean says :

    I enjoyed reading this, as a former Rocha-cha resident (8 yrs) and now Adirondack person (10 yrs) who sympathizes with your choosing the shovel over the beastly, noisy machine. I use the shovel for snow accumulation less than 3″ and most drifting. It does a better job than the machine, plus I get better exercise, and the peace of the forest is not wracked by the engine noise. I cannot understand why they don’t put real mufflers on such machines. Best wishes for your life out there in lake effect country.


    • transplantednorth says :

      thank you so much for reading and commenting. Just got home from Florida and while I was grateful to get away to the warmth, it was good to be back to the cold snowy north, where everything feels more real. Was even more grateful that there was not a whole lot of snow waiting in the driveway. Thanks for stopping by my blog and come visit again soon.


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