Facilities Manager Snow Report

 Snow? Ice? I'm over both! 

Hello! Facilities Manager here. It's time to share recent events at Chickadee Gardens. And the massive snowfall seems a great time to do so. I confess that I like snow or, hey, I thought I did. Of course, since we average only about 1 inch per year here in Saint Helens it is normally no big deal. Well, that said, we  lately see a pattern of mellow Decembers and mild Januarys and then snow-nastiness in February. Son of a beep! Our snow came in last Thursday and then added more on Friday and then again Saturday night. Tamara and I figure some 14 inches of snow collected on our property. Oh, boy!

Looking from the house to the Blue Shed, you can see the depth of the snow on the porch roof. You can see where I shoveled off as much as I could reach.  And you can see how the snow held to the Rhamnus alaternus 'Variegata' there to the left.

This is looking east along the berm on the north side of the house. If you squint, you can see the frozen bird bath on which we sprinkled seeds and suet chunks for the birds. Way too many hungry birds to name. The retaining wall, which forms a slight horizontal line here, is about 3' tall for scale. The snow has made it nearly indistinguishable.

I like the look of this alien grass creature. This was taken Saturday before the freezing rain started. It was not quite so peppy on Sunday (Stipa gigantea). 

And then there is the 20 x 50 (foot) hoophouse! Now! Now I know why some hoophouses come with the gabled center along the central spine. The snow is more likely to slide down and away. Not quite that easy on our hoophouse. As you can see, the snow (and later ice) accumulated in a frightening way on the two layers of 6 mm poly film. While it tended to slide from about mid-wall it collected and sagged in the middle. So, what to do?

Tamara and I spent three days pushing the snow from the roof with a wide, soft-ish push broom! That is how you deal with it. I suppose we could heat the hoophouse and let the snow melt as it lands, and we may go to that next year, but this year . . .  we pushed, we punched, we banged the broom against the poly walls. It is a testament to the strength of the poly film that it did not break. We were not gentle. 

This is how we wanted it to look. More or less. Interestingly, the colder it was outside the hoophouse, the easier it was to loosen the snow. The ice that came Sunday was fairly easy because it was hard and heavy, and once cracked it just slid away.

The temp stayed above freezing the entire weekend in the hoophouse. A couple of times Saturday before the ice came it reached 40 degrees. 

This was the result. As this is the north side of the hoophouse, I suggested to Tamara this snow will stay until May! Ha. Well, likely not, but, wow, no wonder my arms and shoulders feel like noodles. Nobody worked out in our gym this weekend. No, sir! This was our gym!

Next year we may heat the hoophouse but also find something called a roof rake. We shall see.

Tamara has veggie starts springing up. We could not allow snow nor ice to ruin this scene.

You know, it was kind of fun for a few minutes. It satisfied in some fashion as the snow and ice slid away down the roof slope. To clear the entire roof took about three songs on KGON rock-n-roll radio. And, of course, I wore my best farm clothes. 

Ah, the frozen tundra of our veggie garden. Those are the bean poles. You folks who love our jars of pickled green beans please note Mother Nature at work.

 Yucca recurvifolia still keeping the garden spiky with a hint of relieving green.

Cupressus macrocarpa 'Golden Pillar' looking fetching.

While we can appreciate the beauty of it all, too many people lost power, trees, heat and it's not fun for long. We briefly lost power; we were lucky. We also did not have nearly the freezing rain that our friends in Portland and outlying neighborhoods experienced.

Solidago 'Fireworks' still standing even in a snowstorm. Even though there are no birds in this photograph, the amount of birds looking for (and finding) food was stunning. Grasses and plants with seeds such as this go a long way toward providing nourishment for birds and the stems of many perennials act as shelter for insects which birds went searching for. Many shrubs and grasses that collapsed from the weight of freezing rain became hiding places for birds, especially when the great melt began and the crashing of tree limbs, ice, debris and snow became dangerous.

We saw this handsome Yucca 'Blue Sentry' on the last blog post, without snow. To have this much winter weather this late in the season is unusual. We were hoping for a mild winter, we did not get it in the end.

Folks have asked about the honeybees. Our bees are spoiled. About a week ago I wrapped the hive in fleece blankets and then pulled over a perfectly sized plastic bag. And then replaced the roof cap. Please know that after I took this photo I cleared their entry hole so they have some fresh air. I expect to see them out buzzing about, which they were doing last week, in a few days. 

Buddha on Saturday

Buddha on Sunday. Heavens, the snow!

Buddha East on Saturday

Up to his neck on Sunday. So were we.

Finally, a very sweet varied thrush. He and two buddies hung out near the bird bath discussed earlier. Like most birds we saw over the cold weather, he was puffy and looked a bit chubby. A pretty boy, for sure. A silver lining to these winter storms is that we observed hundreds of birds in the garden, a far greater number than on a typical day.

I am writing this Monday, the day of our Big Thaw. A light coating of frozen rain covered everything Sunday night, and we awoke to find several plants pinned to the ground, some bent over, some broken off, some just looking mangled. And the many fir trees lost many limbs, including the row of firs near the hoophouse. But, except for the tree debris and the few broken limbs, we consider ourselves very lucky to surface without too much damage. 

Tamara here. I would like to add that this snow, this ice is devastating this late in the year when, after a mild winter plants are beginning to break dormancy. Many shrubs were flattened with the weight of ice on top of the bountiful snow (some 14" all told over three days) and now that it's melting, many are returning to their upright position. Many, but not all and there will be casualties. I have been reading with much sadness so many friends in Portland who lost trees that were snapped in half, prized plants, power, heat, even water for some. We were lucky by comparison, we somehow managed to be just far enough north of the ice storm to avoid the big problems. Even friends in Austin and other parts of Texas are experiencing unprecedented winter weather storms. We are thinking of you. In the end, I suppose whatever plants we do lose will be an opportunity to replant. I just hope it's not my favorite Quercus hypoleucoides or silver oak that reached a height of about 10' this year but is currently at a 45 degree angle. I really hate this stuff. Let it be said. No winter wonderland for me. Good riddance we say!

That's it for this week from Chickadee Gardens. We had snow, we had ice, we had hoophouse roof-cleaning, we had imprisoned chickens and we had flocks of hungry birds, but we survived and are happy. Best to you all, Facilities Manager!


  1. That first photo was very pretty but, as your account continued, I began to hate the snow on your behalf. I'm glad to hear that you're starting to thaw out and pleased that you were able to keep the bees safe and the that you accounted for the winter needs of the birds. My fingers are crossed that damage is limited.

    1. FM here: Thanks, Kris. We don't really hate snow, we like it in its normal place, i.e., piled up on Mount Hood! Good for skiers and 'boarders, but not for chickens nor hoophouses. Take care.

  2. Great post FM & T :) I'm happy you got *mostly* manageable snow but 14 inches is a lot, especially while trying to protect a hoop house. I'm glad you came through relatively unscathed.

    1. FM here: Thanks, RDG! Good to hear from you. We still have snow and can easily box up some and ship it your way! Heehee. Just kidding. Today I am sending a note to the company from which we bought the hoophouse materials. They deserve a pat on the back. Take care.

  3. Erik Johnson8:23 AM PST

    Beautifully done, sir! I always knew the combination of KGON and a spare mop sitting nearby would prove useful. I am really surprised at the strength of the hoophouse!

    1. FM here: Thank you, Erik! I tried to work the word "ramen" into the post, but I only got as far as "noodles"!! Take care.

  4. Hi, enjoyed the report, and I have to ask, what is the amazing plant behind Buddha??

    1. Thank you Shannon! The amazing plant (isn't it gorgeous?) is an Arctostaphylos 'Howard McMinn' - a manzanita. Highly recommend any arctostaphylos for West Coast gardeners.

  5. At first, the miracle of snow is always so welcome and pretty until you have to shovel it continually. Currently the large amount we have now was actually welcome as we plunged into deep Arctic temperatures for a week. Makes a nice blanket. Hopefully you haven't sustained too much damage.

    1. FM here: Thank you for writing. We are lucky. We did not have much damage. Other than damage to my arm and shoulder muscles!! Haha. But we are golden. Thanks.

  6. That was a lot of snow there. Glad to hear you had your thaw now.

    1. FM here: My roof cleats took a beating, but saves us from roof iceberg decapitations! Cheers.


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