Weather here in northern Minnesota has an ebb and flow. Just look out the window. We are lucky not to have hurricanes, earthquakes or dust storms, but we do have weather extremes. Floods and recent high water on the big lake get our attention. Seems lately we are getting some good snowfalls, too.

Cold weather without a white blanket to cover unraked leaves and debris from the fall season is a reminder of all we didn’t get done. It’s nice to get snow if you’re going to have winter. When it does come, however, it has to be moved if you’re going to have a life.

We use all kinds of ways to get snow out of the way. Growing up in a small town in central Minnesota, some of my earliest memories were of Dad heaving piles of compacted snow with a big, heavy coal shovel, the same one he used in the early morning hours to stoke up the furnace for the day. Soon, he would buy lighter scoops that didn’t weigh so much. The first snowblower came, wouldn’t you know, after I left home. Now I have my own.

Snowblowers come in all sizes. I’ve had a one stage Toro for years, the one with rubber flappers that tosses snow halfway across the yard. I bought it with my father-in-law and used it till it croaked, and then bought another one. I wussed out, though, when it came to the purchases and bought both machines with electric starters. No sense in heating up the air around me cussing trying to get the thing going. It got to the point where I was doing three and sometimes four homes with snow removal needs, our own and older folks in the neighborhood.

After moving to Duluth, I struggled with the amount of snow we had to get rid of. (Of course it has nothing to do with a creakier body and worn out joints.) Fortunately, my son-in-law upgraded his blower and made me the beneficiary of his older, two-stage machine. It gets the job done and has an electric start, too. I still keep the Toro as backup for the lighter stuff.

All this equipment has to be maintained. Waiting till the first flakes arrive is asking for trouble, so I try to think ahead and make sure oil and gas are ready, spark plugs are new and anything that’s broken gets replaced. That’s when the hassles come. I tell myself, “I can do this. I can fix this. I’ve got all the time in the world!” Except that those hours disappear, and it’s crunch time, the weather guy is predicting doom and gloom, and another Polar Vortex looms. I cave. The repair is above my pay grade or patience level. I need to get the thing to the shop. Unfortunately, seasonal repairs on any small engine bunch up at the same time. The shovel will end up being the tool of choice.

After each lift and toss of the shovel, a breath must be caught. As I stand there, I see diamonds reflected in the snow cover on a sunny day. Too bad they’re not real. Sure would be an easy way to pay for the bill on the blower!

Doug Lewandowski is a retired counselor, educator and licensed psychologist. Write to him at