It’s been another cold week in Delaware. Certain Man was sick when the snow fell last week, and he didn’t get the lane scraped. He thought it was going to snow again and he would just do it all at once. The only problem was, there were state buses and many different cars and pickups going in and out and that first snow got packed pretty hard on the area right in front of the garage. Some days the sun would come out a little and melt the top enough to make glare ice when the sun went down.
And then, he was right! It did snow again. That is, it snowed again after it sleeted and put some more ice on top of the old ice. So bright and early on Wednesday morning, Certain Man got out his trusty tractor and pushed the little bit of snow around that was out there so the lane was somewhat clearer. But that ice, right in front of the garage, stayed right where it was — only slicker and thicker because of the sleet that had fallen on it.
In the mornings, when putting Cecilia and Nettie on the bus, Certain Man’s Wife would look at that thick layer of ice and could almost see one of them crashing down in disarray and disaster. The bus drivers weren’t happy either. CMW explained to them that it was because Certain Man had been sick, but it seemed to be falling on unsympathetic ears. It was beginning to concern her. What would be the liability if one of the drivers slipped? And what would happen if one of the ladies went down? None of these scenarios seemed to be such that it would simplify her life any. She thought she had seen some salt or ice melt in the garage, but a careful search had turned up nothing. And since there is no longer a cat in the house at Shady Acres, there was no kitty litter, either.
CMW likes to be warm and dry. She likes the pellet stove to run without interruption, and though it isn’t her favorite thing to do, she is well able to carry the 40 pound bags of pellets that supply the large holding area in the stove. It comforts her greatly that Certain Man is very conscientious about keeping a supply of pellets in the garage, off the floor and easily accessible at the top of the ramp that comes into the back door. A bag lasts a little less than 24 hours in this cold, cold weather, so it is inevitable that, some of the time at least, CMW needs to carry pellets and fill the stove. Lately it seems like it is all the time.
It seems like the job of cleaning out the ash tray at the bottom of the stove is also her responsibility. The very efficiently burned pellets make a fine, dust type ash that pushes out of the chamber and falls into the tray. Depending on the type of pellets, it hangs over the edge of the burn chamber like a blackened clump of snow, hanging off the roof of the chicken house. When this happens, whomever is tending the stove takes the pointed claw-type thingy that came with the stove and scrapes it off and into the usually overflowing tray so that the fire can burn a little more efficiently. It usually makes a bit of mess when the burn chamber is cleaned, but a greater mess is almost always forthcoming when the ash tray gets cleaned because, unfortunately, it seems like Certain Man and CMW tend to wait on each other to do it — and it gets quite full, indeed.
So, today, CMW was alone in her house — a rarity, and not unpleasant at all, to be truthful. She had turned down an invitation to go shopping and was pretty tickled about being able to stay in. And then she noticed that her fire was going out. She needed to carry pellets. Then she noticed that the ashes were hanging over the edge of the burn chamber and that the ash tray was overflowing into the bottom of the stove. That was when she got a bright idea. What would happen if she were to spread those ashes over that thick pad of ice in front of the garage? She went to fetch her bag of pellets while she pondered. H-m-m-m-m-m. This just might be a good idea! Whenever she cleans the ash pan, she always just dumps the ashes into the empty pellet bag to carry out, so it would really not be much trouble to just dump it out over the ice.
She hauled the bag of pellets in to the family room and plunked them down on the hearth. Certain Man always keeps a scissors on the mantel for opening the bags of pellets and she cut off the end and hoisted it up and began pouring it into the hopper. Suddenly there was the sound of a great spilling of pellets. Oh, dear! CMW rutched the bag around and peered under it to see what was going on. “Oh, dear!” is right!!! Somehow the bag had caught on the edge of the stove and there was a tear in the side of it close to the bottom and pellets were pouring out at an alarming rate. CMW stuffed her hand into the hole to stem the tide, and finished pouring the bag into the stove. Suddenly, a familiar stench accosted her nostrils that made her stomach turn. Cat pee. Male cat pee. Whoo-hee! Some male cat had found this bag somewhere and marked his territory but good! And CMW had been hugging that bag with all her might. So. Guess what (who) else was smelling like cat pee???
CMW wrapped the bag up good, and went over to the large family trash can to see if there was a bag there from the previous fill. There was. So she discarded the torn bag and went back to the family room and emptied the ash pan into the large pellet bag. When everything was in order, and the stray pellets brushed together and picked up from the floor and the hearth and the stove was steadily burning, she washed the offensive smell off her hands and forearms and changed her clothes. Then she proceeded to the outdoors and attempted to scatter the ashes over the ice pad in front of the garage. That was almost an exercise in futility. The ash was such a fine dust (see paragraph #5) and the wind was just strong enough that most of it blew away and ended up against the white siding of the farmhouse.
“Certain Man will not appreciate that!” Thought CMW, just a little bit ruefully. She looked at the muddy looking mess the ashes (that had managed to go where they were supposed to!) were making on the top of the ice and it began to dawn on her fur brain that there might be something else that Certain Man wouldn’t appreciate. He had just gotten his driveway sealed before the cold weather set in and CMW was suddenly concerned. “This might not have been the best idea,” she admitted, feeling guilty. “What do I do now?”
What she did then was to go back into the house and tried to forget about it. It was still morning. The sun hadn’t moved to that side of the house and who knew what might happen when the sun hit it? Besides there were things on her “to do” list that needed attention. But it kept nagging at the back of her brain, so a little before two o’clock she decided to go and check on things out there. The sun was shining brightly, but that ice pad in front of the garage looked pretty much the way it had three hours earlier. CMW decided to have a go at it with the snow shovel.
At first the going was tough. And the sturdy snow shovel just couldn’t move the ice. But as CMW kept chopping and hacking away, slowly, slowly, the ice started to chip off and let go. CMW began to feel a little bit cheerful. Chop, chop, chop. Shovel, shovel, shovel. The progress actually began to impress her. “I could be paying someone to do this, ” she thought. “I wonder what Daniel would have been willing to pay someone to do this?” And she began to hold imaginary conversations in her head with her better half concerning the dangerous situation if the ice wasn’t removed and how much he may have been willing to pay to have the ice removed if someone did a really careful job, etc., etc., etc., until the job was suddenly done! The ice was all gone and with it the ashes. (Which, incidentally had seemed to have a sort of reverse effect on the ice. Where there was a liberal sprinkling of ashes, it seemed like the ice had gotten harder and adhered to the blacktop and didn’t want to come loose!) It was getting colder, and even though the sun was still shining, it felt like it was time to get inside.
CMW took one last look at the clean area and was very content. If Cecilia or Nettie or even one of the drivers fell now, it wouldn’t be because the area hadn’t been cleared off. That felt a whole lot better to CMW.
And she went into the house to get a cup of hot coffee.