Lessons learned from farming in winter: snow fences work, eventually

After a pleasantly mild fall and then a lovely warm week on a beach over Christmas, reality has set in.  There is no longer any doubt about what season this is; the instant piles of snow and very cold temps and wind (-20C/-4F) here at home are hard to ignore.  And as I listened to the wind whistling outside our house the past few days, I thought back to some lessons we learned on the farm that were “special” to winter.

As I mentioned in my first blog about lessons from farming, my husband and I had led urban existences until choosing a farm as our first home.  Pretty well everything we encountered was new.  We moved into our new home in May, had our first child three days later, and spent the summer and fall learning how to be parents ( a lifelong experience), how to be country folk, and how to garden (another lifelong experience!), as well as what haying was all about.

Sometime during the fall my husband announced that there was some snow fencing rolled up in the barn; he figured that it must be meant to keep theSnowfence001b snow from piling up in the (long) driveway.  Of course, this was before the days of the Internet, where you could just look up “installing snow fencing” and get several YouTube clips to guide you.  But my husband is a clever guy, an engineer by training, and he figured out where he thought it should go.  I, of course, didn’t have a clue, and left him to the undertaking of hammering in fence posts, unrolling the heavy and awkward rolls of old fencing, and somehow getting it all laid out and staying upright while he secured it in place.  Come to think of it, that must have been quite a job.  Good thing I had that baby to look after!

He was pleased with how it looked; it looked like a snow fence should.  Unfortunately, as we came to find out after a few snows, it looked better than it worked.  It was placed so as to exactly create an impressive drift right in the middle of the driveway.  Not before the driveway, not past the driveway, but Snowfence002bright in the middle of the driveway.  The upside of this situation was that he now knew how much past the snow fence the snow would fall.  He purchased more snow fence and added a second line at that magical distance on the west side (from whence comes the troublesome wind).  This was an even more effective solution than we would have had if we had known and had started with the fence at location #2.  Our country neighbours, who were obviously keeping an eye on us, commented, “We wondered what you were doing when you put Ralph’s snow fence so close to the driveway, but now we see that you had a good plan all along.  Looks great.”

One too-close snow fence = drifting driveway

One too-close snow fence = drifting driveway

Lessons learned from installing your first snow fence:

  1. If you don’t have Internet, ask for advice.  Better still, it’s here now, so just get the Internet!
  2. Once you get the positioning right, snow fences are very useful.
  3. If you live in the middle of a very large open field with no trees, lots of wind and plenty of snow, your snow fence will create a terrific hill of snow for playing on with your boys.



Other Robby posts on farming:

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11 Responses to Lessons learned from farming in winter: snow fences work, eventually

  1. Sartenada says:

    Very interesting to read about snow fences. In Finland it was last time in the 50ties when I saw one. Anyway it is great.

  2. Thanks for a great read, Jane … nifty diagrams and all!

    “… he now knew how much past the snow fence the snow would fall.” I calculated the position of my snow fence in a similar way. When I finally erected it IN FEBRUARY, I had two months’ training in the drift distances produced by various strengths and durations of wind, and many calories burned on it. I just wrote a post about how erecting the fence made the wind stop blowing!

    “… now we see that you had a good plan all along.” I got a good laugh from this.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks, Dennis. I really enjoyed your post as well. I grew up spending holidays at Glens Falls and Lake George, so know your part of the world. In fact, I came to Canada via McGill because I loved the winters in the Adirondacks so much better than on Long Island. What I didn’t realize when I made that decision so long ago was that “good” winters take a long time to leave and let spring have its chance! 🙂

  3. Pingback: Wind Slayer – Scribblement 20130223 | The Balsamean

  4. I have done the amateur snow fence! In my yard at my home in eastern South Dakota, U.S.A. and managed to direct the snow up the driveway to deposit in a large drift against my back door. Seemed like a good idea at the time! Thank you for your post!

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Ha ha. Mother Nature must spend a lot of time being amused by our abortive attempts to thwart her. You must get “those cold winds sure blow way out there”, too, just like ours. It keeps life from getting boring! Thanks for stopping by.

  5. Adam says:

    If you ever make it to Baker Lake, Nunavut (the geographic centre of Canada), make sure to check out their snow fence: 5.5 metres tall! The picture here doesn’t do it justice without something for scale, but trust me it is impressive: http://www.rwdi.com/project/baker_lake_snow_fence

    There were still some impressive drifts too though, so I can’t imagine what used to happen.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Mon dieu! Totally cool. Thanks for the terrific link. As interesting as it is, it doesn’t make me want to go check it out in the middle of winter!

    • I read it three times to be sure my eyes worked right … TWO KILOMETERS of it! “… comprised of wood beams, steel pipe poles, and wooden slats …” All pressure treated wood, I presume. That is one fence I would not want to paint.

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