Change You Can’t Avoid

Let the politicians continue to talk about change you can (or can’t) believe in. There also change you can’t avoid.

We woke up this morning to find a light coating of snow on the ground. The average first snow fall in this area in recent years has been on December 7, so this was six weeks early. Early or late, the first snow triggers a chain reaction of events to prepare for that which is to come: change we can’t avoid.

The sun came out after lunch, so I thought to myself that I would bring up some more wood to the wood pile but first I would ride the tractor down to the pond and see whether the recent rains (and snow) had restored it to something closer to its normal level after a rather dry summer. And while in the area, perhaps I could bring up some of the maple I had cut down beside the pond a year ago.

The path down to the pond was deep in dead leaves. They blow across the field and collect there between the scrub on either side of the path. I paid no attention to the fact that the tractor was plowing the leaves up under the mower deck. The pond was fuller, but not full. Good. I started to turn the tractor around but the leaves had built up between the mower deck and front wheels and wedged themselves in so tightly that the tractor wouldn’t turn. And it was just at the edge of the rather steep embankment of the pond and moving toward it at a shallow angle. I should have stopped but continued to try to turn it. The mower deck, fortunately, got hung up on the edge of the embankment preventing further progress and choking the engine or I would have found myself and the tractor in six feet of water. I got off and analyzed the situation. Clearly the leaves had to be cleared out but they were packed in so tightly they could only be removed a few at a time and with great effort. It took ten or fifteen minutes. Now, start the tractor and put it in reverse. But the front wheels were too far over the edge, the mower deck was still hung up, and the back wheels spun in the soft ground. Not the first time I’ve had to deal with that. What you do is pick up the front end of the tractor and move it toward higher ground a few inches at a time. It’s excellent exercise.

That done, I turned my attention to the maple tree I had come for on the other side of the pond. I had the chain saw with me and before much longer had six pieces of maple about twelve to fifteen inches in diameter piled in the tractor cart. Back up the hill to the house. Unload the maple. Get out the maul and wedges and whack away. Knotty maple makes pretty paneling for the den but it doesn’t always want to be split. So that’s good exercise also. Twenty minutes more and I had a couple dozen pieces of firewood added to the woodpile.

Next, to deal with the tractor. Clearly the mower deck was now an impediment, not an asset. It took me a few years to realize that I could save an expense by taking the mower deck off myself in the fall and putting it back on in the spring. No need for the nice man from the hardware store to make the ten-mile trip from Kent to Sharon. Pull five cotter pins, detach the side pieces, unhook the cable, pull the deck out from under the tractor, and haul it into the shed. Ten minutes.

But the mower deck gets stored behind the maple syrup evaporator and that means getting the snow blower out from behind the evaporator and a collection of rusty tomato cages. The snow blower needs to be moved into the garage anyway for ease of access when the snow gets serious. And while we’re at it, why not sweep out the shed for the first time in six months?

So. A good afternoon’s work. Disaster avoided. Wood cut, split, and stacked. Mower deck removed and stashed for the winter. Snow blower relocated for the coming season. Shed swept out. And it was starting to snow again. It’s a new season in the northwest Connecticut hills. Change you can’t avoid.


p.s. You can hear our daughter, Caroline Grant, discuss her new book at

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