Endless snow sparks sidewalk wars

Maybe there’s a property line there somewhere and these rules of boundaries must be followed.

Or you can forget that we’ve reached the end of the “isn’t it pretty?” season and the fact the ongoing snow is now bringing out the worst in us and shovel the sidewalk.

As a public service, we now open the comments for your revelations about the cranky neighbor’s snow shoveling/snowblowing methods.

(h/t: Paul Tosto)

  • lusophone

    “we now open the comments for your revelations about the cranky neighbor’s snow shoveling/snowblowing methods.”

    Going the other direction on this one. I am so lucky to have a helpful neighbor on one side of me with a snow blower who regularly clears the whole block on our side of the street. He’s saved my back on more than a few occasions over the years.

  • wjc

    No problem with my neighbors, but I’m not looking forward to seeing what the end of my driveway will look like when I get home.

  • Kassie

    When shoveling the sidewalk, I always try to go a little bit further than I think is the end of the property line just in case I’m wrong on where it is. Both my neighbors seem to do the same thing if they are out there before me.

    • Jim in RF

      That is the way to do it.

  • kevins

    I live on a rural property in the Red River Valley …we don’t shovel. We have the wind, and God bless it.

  • MrE85

    No sidewalks in front of stately Moffitt Manor, but I did clear out the neighbor’s drive yesterday with my trusty single-stage Toro. He did same for us when I was in DC recently.

    • single stage? Oh fer cute. :*)

      • MrE85

        Size doesn’t matter. Reliability does. Two neighbors have giant 2-stage machines….in the repair shop, that is. Mrs. Lungs used to work in the Toro plant in Windom, so we are loyal to the brand.

        • jon

          the big storm last year(?) in the spring with the we heavy snow, my neighbors two stage couldn’t get through the plow wake… they’d get down to it and the auger would just stop turning.

          My 2 stage toro just plowed through it like a hot knife on butter.

          Reliability is important, but size matters when the snow calls for something bigger than a single stage…

          They got a new blower this year, went from an orange snow blower to a green one… seems to be working better for them so far, but I can’t help but feel they would have done better with a red one.

          • // and the auger would just stop turning

            That’s a belt tension situation. More of a lack of maintenance issue than a size issue.

        • My old Honda single stage gave up the ghost a couple weeks ago and I got the same model used one last weekend.

          $110 well spent.

          /Apparently, single stage machines are snow THROWERS, double stage are snow BLOWERS

          • Al

            The more you knoooooooowwwwwwww

        • Jeff

          Apologies but the oxygenated fuel has done in several carburetors at our house. I learned my lesson and now only use ethanol-free fuel in the garage appliances.

          • Yeah, I had to replace a carburetor last winter (she’s purring like a kitten, now). I also think the varnish from the gasoline just destroys those things. They sit around all summer. *Normally*, they don’t get used that much during the winter. I don’t know whether SeaFoam actually works, but that’s what I’m going with now.

          • Rob

            I still do the old-school method of draining the tank and then firing the blower up until the carb runs totally dry, before putting the blower away for the season.

          • The Resistance

            Using the advice of my small town mechanic, I never use ethanol gas (in any small engines), always use SeaFoam, and have good results with my ancient Bolens snowblower.

          • MrE85

            With E10 being pretty much ubiquitous these days, it makes you wonder why small engine manufacturers don’t make a product better suited to the fuel sold at most corner stations. Or do they?

          • A lot of stations sell ethanol-free premium specifically for small engines. It’s not that hard to find. Alternately, go to your local, small airport and get some avgas.

          • MrE85

            I’ll take your word for it. It’s not on my radar screen, so I don’t pay much attention to who sells it.

        • Barton

          My snow blower has a plug (it’s electric, boogie-woogie-woogie). Yes, I have to be careful about not getting the crazy-long extension cord caught in the blades, but it works great and I don’t have to remember to get gas. It works well for a city lot (it takes a long time to do my huge pad in the alley though, but still a lot less time than shoveling).

          • jon

            I wish I could get an electric blower with the same power as my gas two stage.

            but the biggest two stage electric I can find on the market is only half the power of my toro…

      • Jeff

        We sold off the 22 yo old faithful single-stage Honda yesterday and about the same time I went out to use the newish two-stage which then subsequently broke. I was asked by the SO if this was irony and replied yes. I did learn how to change an auger belt in the process. I’d rather have learned this on a warm spring day, however.

      • Jerry
        • Guest

          Not THAT’s a snow blower

        • Jack

          Thanks for posting the video – I’m a train geek and that made a great start to my day 🙂

  • The Resistance

    I also have beef with people who shovel or blow their snow directly into the street or alley.

    • Jerry

      Probably the same ones who rake their leaves into the street

      • …which in many cases is illegal.

        • Jerry

          More importantly, it’s un-neighbourly.

    • fromthesidelines21

      If the plow hasn’t been by yet I’m not too worried about blowing into the street. If it has already been plowed I’m careful to keep it in my yard. Everyone on the street also clears a good 8-10 ft of the street by the curb to reduce the plow pile in the driveway.

      • Jack

        Life lesson I learned growing up, shovel the street.

  • Mike Worcester

    No sidewalk in our current residence. At my former home thankfully I got along with all mine and we shared duties knowing that it wasn’t just for us, but everyone who used it also, such as the kids on their way to the elementary school.

    This brings up another issue, which I hope does not send this post sideways — the inconsistency of municipalities when it comes to enforcing sidewalk shoveling ordinances. Some do, with gusto; others just seem to say “meh, let it melt…”

  • Andrew

    I have a decently large snowblower I use to clear out our back alley for me and my neighbors. I also usually take it for a couple trips around the block to clear the main sidewalks (it’s self-propelled). Only takes an extra 10 minutes and saves everyone else a lot more time than that.

    If you have the equipment, time, energy, etc., it’s best to help your neighbor out so they are more likely to help you out in the future.

    • lusophone

      Good philosophy, kinda like when you have a party, invite your neighbors and they will be less likely to complain about the noise.

      • Andrew

        I’ve done that too. We had a housewarming party on our backyard deck after we moved in and were having some of our musician friends play live music (jazz). We walked around the block, let neighbors know about the noise, and invited them to stop over and check it out. Now my neighbors say hi or stop and talk when I see them outside. Feels more like a community.

    • jon

      With great blower comes great responsibility.

      • Seems like I’ve heard that before somewhere…


        • jon

          I’m just going to keep saying it until it catches on. (thinking I might start attributing it to some one fallaciously, because internet.)

          Though if you stop to think about it, those with great snow blowers likely only have them because they have the privilege of being able to afford them, those without them have either no need for them (i.e. they got a neighbor with a blower) or they lack the resources.

          “Privilege begets responsibility.” We’d all do well to remember it like that instead, but it’s not as catchy, and 3 of the 3 words in there are likely to trigger some one… (“Privilege” because many privileged people don’t like being reminded that they are, “Begets” because it’s the king james english people associate with the King james bible, and “responsibility” because as a society we decided it was some one else’s responsibility to be responsible.) Saying it the other way is much less offensive to people… let’s them have pride in their blower, without reflecting on why they are able to have it and why others might not be able to have one.

          • Yep. I was blessed to have that snowblower just fall into my lap thanks to my privilege. Well, that and working a second job before my MPR shift, delivering the Pioneer Press 365 x 7 from 2:30 a.m. until 5 a.m.

            I was privileged to do that while a lot of people telling me how privileged I am were getting their beauty sleep.

          • jon

            Privilege comes in many shapes and sizes.

          • So do second jobs.

          • What I meant was that I’ve been saying that particular phrase for decades.


            /Pretty sure I’ve said it here too

    • asiljoy

      I would like to shout out my super awesome neighbor who does this. He will also take pity on me when I’m shoveling and help me clear out the plow gunk from the end of my drive. At the end of each winter, we bring him baked goods as a thank you and it really doesn’t seem like enough.

      • John

        I always blew out the end of the neighbor’s driveway (they have a blower too, but I’m a little quicker on the draw most storms).

        Now they’ve moved, and the house has gone rental.

        I talked to the renters, and it’s the landlord’s job to deal with the snow, so I have mixed feelings about blowing out the end of the driveway. They pay that guy a lot of money to clear the snow out. I’m not as inclined to help him as I am them.

        The new neighbors are on vacation, and the landlord cleared out the driveway before the plow went by. He hasn’t been back since, and there’s a good 2.5 foot (soon to be solid) plow wake. There’s no way they’re getting the Prius they drive in.

        So I’m torn. If we do get more tonight, I’ll just do it tomorrow when I do mine. But, why should I help the guy making (buckets of) money off them, so I’m not going to pull the blower out of the garage just to do his job.

        MN guilt is real.

    • I think the (not so ) secret fact about people with snowblowers is they REALLY like blowing snow.

      • There is a reason we have the blowers.

        /I’d rather not have to do it at all, but I have the blower and it’s not that much extra work.

      • Andrew

        I just enjoy how easy it makes it, but ever since my wife found out how much easier it is I’m usually the one stuck with the shovel.

      • chucker1

        I haven’t done snowblowing in a while since I am now in an apartment, but this is true. I would get the same similar zoned out but focused feeling while mowing lawns too and sometimes feel like just continue going onto the neighbors lawn.

      • Guest

        YEP, my nirvana was a deep snow Friday night and all Saturday morning to clear. About 5 driveways when I had the time. Grinned like a fool……also that time 🙂

      • Mike Worcester

        When the day comes that I break down and buy one, it’ll be hard to tear me away from it.

      • We had a neighbor who was so proud of his two-stage snowblower. He’d clear the snow left by the city plows at the ends of the driveways – the real cruddy, icy stuff that is a nightmare to hand shovel – of the five or six houses next door and across the street. What a sweetheart!

      • John

        My dad bought a reasonably large tractor a few years ago, and is also retired. (Lives about 30 miles from Hibbing).

        Between the tractor bucket, four wheeler with a plow, and his big snowblower, I don’t think anyone in a 10 house radius remembers how to clear their driveway.

        Keeps the guy out of trouble.

  • Wayne

    Grew up on a small farm on highway 169 where our driveway was about a block long, and as the oldest I usually got to work the shovel.

    As an adult I have an old junky snowblower that I keep running (just swapped out the carburetor before the last snow), and as long as it’s running, I delight in using it to clear the block.

  • You can tell who the real Minnesotans are. One of their shoulders is dragging .

    • Al

      Husband: “Ugh, I ache all over. I think I’m getting sick.” Me: “…You shoveled yesterday.”

  • Floyd R. Turbo

    We need a gps app that can tell you exactly where the property lines are.

    • Brian Simon

      No, we need basic courtesy & a willingness to help one another out.

    • Al

      If you want to be Petty Betty about it, your friendly city GIS staff would be happy to help you. They know EXACTLY where your lot starts and stops.

      • Joseph

        Most counties also have an online GIS viewer so you see for yourself exactly where the property lines are. Just Google “(County) and GIS”.

  • Jeff R.

    I live in Seattle now (3 years) and with our “Snowpocalypse” (8+ inches) last week you could absolutely tell who the Northern midwestern/easterner transfers were on our block. Every 4th house was shoveled by 7:00 AM, the others, not so much.

  • AmiSchwab

    too bad the snow plow doesn’t go by and fill both sides up.childish.

    • Barton

      I mean, what the slow blowing person is doing is so illegal! I just find this cartoon really annoying – and I root quite strongly for the plow driver to bury him and bury him deep.

  • Al

    Suburbs here. For the record, guys, I would kill to have sidewalks to shovel in the first place. Thank your long-ago urban planners for those sidewalks.

    • jon

      Suburbs here too, I have the sidewalk on my side of the street, none on the other side.

      The city clears the sidewalks, but I cleared mine down over to the neighbors driveway mostly just to say hi to him while he was clearing his snow.

      • Jeff

        You talk to your neighbors?

    • ML

      Amen. I live in a part of Duluth with heavy pedestrian traffic and no sidewalks. Bad for neighborliness and bad for safety.

      • Al

        Only way to get to the nearest bus stop is down a two-lane county highway where folks like to pass on the shoulder. It’s a suicide mission. I hate it.

  • Rob

    It’s good to live in a neighborhood where, if your own snowblower craps out (like mine did yesterday), your friendly next-door neighor also has one, so you can borrow it. : )

  • Jeff C.

    Some mysterious neighbor and his buddy were using a 4-wheeler with a plow to clear the sidewalks on my St. Paul block before the snow even stopped. They even did hand shoveling in some spots! They were clearly having fun and the neighborhood is better for it.

  • Guest

    When I heard Toro was no longer putting Tecumseh Snow King engines in their blowers, I searched the stores for an older model that was unsold and snapped it up. Always started in the cold.

  • theoacme

    I prefer shoveling over snowblowing, believe it or not, unless the piles by the sidewalks are over 2 feet high (caretaking at an apartment complex I live at, over 700 shovel-width lineal feet for me to do, at least)…

    …one time, as an enterprising teen in Champaign in the early 80’s, I was shoveling, until the resident I was shoveling for said to use his snowblower, I did…and found that a local TV cameraman filmed me doing both shoveling and snowblowing when my shoveling backgrounded the current conditions, and the snowblowing backgrounded the forecast on the 6 o’clock news…

  • X.A. Smith

    At this point I’m satisfied if a property owner has at least attempted to shovel. There are enough people who just don’t do anything that I’m not going to critique an actual effort.

    • crystals

      Effort doesn’t really help people with disabilities navigate sidewalks like the one above, though.

      • X.A. Smith

        That’s an excellent point, but in my neighborhood, people with disabilities wouldn’t be able to get to that sidewalk, for all of the non-shovelers.

  • Veronica

    No sidewalks here. But I really wish our immediate neighbors were as kind as some of you about helping us blow snow. Our crappy single stage was broken all of last year, but that was ok since our driveway was so awful that chunks of asphalt were constantly coming up. New driveway this fall, so the husband worked super hard to repair the little snowblower…only to have it break after the first snow. So we’ve been shoveling through the winter. Ugh.

    Yesterday I broke. We hadn’t been able to find a snowblower at a big box retailer (well, husband couldn’t), so I called our local hardware store (thanks John!) where they had 3 left. The 2 stage had sold by the time we got there, but we managed to stage single-stage Craftsman. Thank heavens. Now my new driveway has a new snowblower, but I’m still crabby about my neighbors.

  • Joanna Jones

    I live in a rental townhome, so Tom the caretaker usually has the sidewalks cleared by 6am (god bless you, Tom!) but the plows often don’t come clear the parking lot ’till later. Digging out cars and pushing them to a cleared area becomes a community effort, especially for the older and less mobile residents. We meet more neighbors after a snowstorm than during the summer!

    I love that Bob invited complaints, and got cheerful stories instead.

    • Joanna Jones

      And one more comment. People who stoop to the level of pettiness in the photo don’t care about mobility-impaired people. And I’d bet money that if that was in the neighborhood of any of the people who’ve commented here, one of us would have crossed the street to finish the job, because most people aren’t a******s.

  • Mike Worcester

    Yeah I’m getting really tired of having to toss the snow over the height of my head (I’m 6′ 3″) to get it off the driveway 😐

  • Barton

    I worked from home on Thursday, with my desk (i.e., folding table) set up to look out of my sunroom with the blinds all open: I really enjoyed watching the snow come down.

    Around 11am, a neighbor 4 houses to the north came down the sidewalk with his snow blower. I was so happy to watch him remove the snow. Then at my property line, he stopped and turned around. So, he ended up snowblowing sidewalks for his house, 6 houses north of him and three houses south of him. SO FRUSTRATING! At noon, I went out and shoveled my walk. 20 minutes after I came in, a neighbor who lives 3 houses south of me came out with his snowblower and did all the houses on the street south of me. It was frustratingly hilarious, to be honest.

  • Rosemount MN

    Most of our neighbors with blowers help the ones without, and kind of take turns doing the mailbox and fire hydrant. We don’t have sidewalks here in the suburbs but really big driveways. If people are on vacation somebody will always get that driveway. Sometimes it’s a contest to see who’ll do it first!

    • The trick on the “on vacation” driveways is to not get the plastic-bagged newspapers in the snowblower

  • Stacy N

    It is sad and frustrating to see things like this. But for every case of pettiness there are more cases of unseen, quiet kindness. We had our first baby in late October. We have never had a snowblower – just couldn’t seem to find a place for one and couldn’t seem to justify it when our sidewalk and driveway isn’t that big really. Well, as I am sure you can guess a new baby (who also got sick) and this past month of snow could have been very trying. But the neighbors on either side of us here in St. Paul have just quietly taken turns snow iblowing our sidewalk and driveway for us. We never asked them to – and when I thanked them, they just smile and assure me they have no idea what I am talking about (with a wink). Unlike pettiness, kindness doesn’t leave a big pile of snow on the sidewalk but it does fill a heart up with joy. A huge thank you to everyone who chooses kindness.

  • TBH

    I just returned from London and had my sidewalk and walkway leading up to my home taken care of by a neighbor! I did make arrangements for the sidewalk, but I was not expecting any help for my walkway. That was certainly a pleasant surprise. I made sure to get out early yesterday morning to shovel his sidewalk before he had a chance.

    Very fortunate that I have great neighbors on all sides of me.