The Joy Of

Dateline: 6 February 2015

My Snowblower

Central New York state is known for getting quite a bit of snow, and this winter is shaping up to be a particularly snowy one.  When I was growing up, my parents never had a snowblower or plow to clear snow out of the driveway, and they never had the money to hire someone to plow their driveway, and I was the only boy in the family, so I got plenty of experience at shoveling snow by hand. It was good work.

My three sons grew up with the same shoveling experience because I didn’t have a snowblower or plow, or an excess of money to hire someone else to do the work. Besides that, I felt that it was good for boys to be outdoors, shoveling snow by hand, just like I did when I was their age.

But three years ago, after hearing from so many of my co-workers who had snowblowers, and after coming to the realization that my body is not the physical specimen it once was (and with my boys not living here any more), I spent the money for a good-quality snowblower.

Since I don’t have a garage or barn, I keep my snowblower on the back patio, covered with a tarp (weighted down around the edges with blocks of firewood). I have a power cord there for the electric starter, which works like a dream.

I’ve discovered that my snowblower is a simple, efficient, and economical machine to use. And, with the perspective of hand-shoveling snow for so many years, snow-blowing is a real joy.

A snowblower is a great example of how incredibly efficient an internal combustion engine is at getting work done. Or, more specifically, how efficient fossil fuels (i.e., gasoline) are at getting work done.  

I did some searching on the internet and found that one gallon of gasoline has an energy potential equivalent to 300 man-hours of work (another source said 500 hours). That sounds kind of high to me when I consider my snowblower. 

I think I get around six “shoveled” driveways out of a gallon of non-ethanol gasoline. Six into 300 man-hours per gallon of fuel would be 50 man-hours of work. It certainly wouldn’t take me 50 hours to hand-shovel the driveway.

Nevertheless, small engines are capable of doing a lot of work, and I’m thankful for my snowblower.

Yours truly, February 2015


vdeal said...


Snowblowers are fun to use to boot. I got a snowblower attachment for my BCS walking tractor and it's proved it's worth many times. I also have a tractor and blade since our driveway is so long and has a decent slope. Haven't had too much snow here this year - not like you have but the potential is still there. Happy snow blowing.

Clinton Johnson said...

From the engineering perspective, the delta between you shoveling your drive and the snow blower comes down to the efficiency of your engine/machine. With a snow blower you get a lot of wasted effort throwing the snow up into the air, whereas were you doing the work you would be much more purposeful with the energy being exerted...

That said, they sure are a lot more fun than a shovel, I'll give you that! Since we moved up to the northern half of Ohio, I've often times wished for one, but I don't have any idea where I might put one. Till I solve that problem, well I still have a shovel and I just got a sled to help haul away the snow!

Herrick Kimball said...

I almost got the snowblower attachment for my BCS. I understand they work really well.

Check out this unique snow "shovel" idea...

C Hopper said...

While not a definitive resource Wikipedia says that you loose approximately 75% of the energy in your gasoline to heat,friction, noise, and air turbulence. That's probably where your delta in man hours comes in. Also, I imagine you are quite efficient due to experience.

Chad Butler said...

Ahhh... Herrick, I'm glad to hear you've come around to experience the joys of snowblowing. And as always, you've put a wonderful nostalgic spin on your story telling that makes it most enjoyable.

I love to get out the 'ole snow blower when we get the heavy stuff. It is efficient and it's fun. That's not to say we've thrown away the shovels. My girls are still expected to shovel a few times a year - it's good exercise and it teaches them the value of hard work.

I grew up being expected to shovel. My dad had a snowblower, mainly because we had a pretty big driveway. But only my dad was allowed to run the blower (even after I was an adult - go figure). And there were many times, especially when the snow was not so deep, that my brother and I were told to go shovel the drive - including the ends (it's on a corner so there are two ends) where the plow had gone by. It was hard work, but but good lessons.

Years later, my dad has gotten a small tractor and has snow removal attachments. He gave away that old snow blower to a friend and it is still blowing snow today somewhere in northern Wisconsin.

I mention this because that snow blower was an Ariens, which I see you are using. I don't know if they are still made here, but the Ariens company is in Brillion, WI just around the corner from where I grew up. (Which, incidentally, is not too far from Waushara county where Jerry Apps is from.) And the Briggs & Stratton engines came from Wauwatosa (outside of Milwaukee).

Thanks as always for sharing your stories - and welcome to the snowblower club ;-)

Sheila Gilbert said...

That video you posted is fantastic! I would love to try one of those devices, but since it's not in English I guess I will just have to enjoy the video. It was a "Cool Tool"
You look so happy in your photo, and that is really good to see. You don't often see someone clearing snow with a smile on their face. The snow blower must really be fun. Bless, Sheila

vdeal said...


Yes, the BCS snowblower attachment works very well. For me, it came down to having less to store and having only one engine/tractor to service versus several units. Still looks like you're enjoying yourself though.

Survival Gardener/David The Good said...

The idea of shoveling snow is so completely alien to me... I never really thought about how much work that must be.

Anonymous said...


Isn't that snowblower the product of slave labor?

Herrick Kimball said...

Hi Chad,
I don't want my kids using my snowblower either. :-)

I did my online research and found that there are Arien snowblowers out there that are over 25 years old and still doing the job. That kind of feedback, and the US manufacturing history were a major factor in me buying an Ariens.

Yes, I'm happy when I'm moving snow with that machine. And I smile all the way. :-)

The push-button starter made a difference. I have a Honda engine on my BCS, and it usually starts with one pull, but not when it's freezing cold out.

You, my southern friend, are missing out on a lot of fun!

Not that I know of. Do they use slave labor in Wisconsin?

Tacketts Mill Farm said...


I love my snow-blower! It was gift, no less, from my son. He knows what a pain shoveling is for me, literally. Like most veterans, I have herniated disks in my back from carrying heavy loads and equipment as a soldier. For some reason, shoveling is one of those movements that puts my back in a snit. After shoveling, I am a cripple for at least a day. My snow-blower is a God-send. I see people drive by and look at me using my snow-blower, I just know they are wishing they had one too!