Night of the “Plops” and its Aftermath

By , January 16, 2010

Thursday, we set to work preparing for the looming thaw. The recent snows had swirled around the cabin from all directions, thoroughly coating all available surfaces. Once that snow started to melt, everything would be soaked, including almost every single piece of firewood in the shelter. We’d neglected to tarp up the woodpile; now we’d pay for that oversight.

We shoveled snow away from the wood and swept each piece free of snow with a brush. We swept the pile of greener wood; it would no doubt get wet again many times before it seasoned properly. The dry wood got special treatment, to ensure that it wouldn’t get soaked in the thaw. Once done, we tarped it up.

We knew the thaw would come soon. The weather forecast told us so, but we guessed how close it was from the “plops” that had disturbed our sleep the night before. “Plops” is the inelegant but highly functional term we use to describe loads of snow that fall from the trees. They are a major concern for us in the wintertime. If the snow’s light, it’s no worse than a frigid shower down the back of our necks, most unpleasant when we’ve ventured outside for a bathroom break without a coat. If the snow’s heavy enough, or frozen, there’s the possibility of injury.

These rafts of heavy snow thunder on our metal roof. Often it sets off slides that dump the accumulated snow off of the roof. One of these hit just after we’d finished with the wood, covering the tarp with a quarter inch of snow. The crashing noise always makes us think someone’s messing around on the porch, or a moose is getting into things. At night, the noise overhead can be particularly disturbing.

On Friday, the wind switched to the south, and the real thaw began. Snow loads that had melted, then freezed during the night smashed down from the trees—we even considered wearing hardhats in the woods.

We had an errand in the woods that would not wait. If the current thaw goes too far, we’ll lose our snow cover, so we needed to hike to the blow down to retrieve rounds of firewood we’d cut from the fallen trees there. We managed a single trip before the plops made the path too uncomfortable, at least for the day.

That’s the first part of the challenge. The second part comes when I have to chop those rounds. I can’t do it under the shed roof—there’s not enough headroom to swing an axe. I have to stand out in the open, under the trees, focusing on my chopping, but ready to dive undercover when the plops come.

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