Some claim that there are four seasons: Spring, summer, autumn/fall and winter.
In this area, not so.
There are but two seasons hereabouts: Mowing and snowing.
Last week, I applied what I hope will be the final mowing of the season to our 6 acres of yard, chunk by chunk. I had not planned on thinking about what comes next, after that final mowing.
Finishing up, I shoved the pull-behind mower into the lower barn. I bumped up against a tarp-covered, lurking hulk.
The snow thrower.
Its oil must be changed. I neglected to do that in the springtime frenzy to keep up with miraculously regenerating grass. I'll change the oil soon. The second season has been known to arrive in October - and sometimes overlap the first season.
There are snow throwers, and there are newer snow throwers.
Back in the 1990s, my first snow thrower wore me out. It needed dozens of yanks on the starter cord before growling into life.
I finally grasped a winter-weather fact. In bitter temperatures, regular motor oil congeals. Pulling a starter rope in those conditions is akin to dragging a crankshaft through mud. Synthetic oil costs more, but is much less prone to congealing. The snow thrower uses a relatively small amount each season, so the cost is not huge. I switched.
The current snow thrower has an electric starter as well as a starter pull cord. I still use synthetic oil in it. Sometimes, I shut it down while out of extension-cord range, perhaps to replace a shear pin, more likely to engage in see-our-breath chat with a passing neighbor. If the shutdown is lengthy and the oil cools, the synthetic type makes a hand-pull restart less likely to cause me to emit snow-melting words as I react to the shoulder pain.
I'll change the oil now because of another learning-late-in-life principle: "If you prepare for it, you probably won't need it for awhile." This theory was painfully learned after decades of attempting to juggle home ownership, marriage, multiple parenting and working for a living. In those days, "preparation" was about as scarce a commodity as was "leisure time." Just staying even with the inevitable leaky faucets, broken bed slats ("Jumping? Us? Why no, Dad. Not us!") chauffeuring and extended-family birthdays, etc., made "preparation" an unattainable concept.
When the first substantial snowfall inevitably wet-coated the still-mowable grass, I was left with shoulder-dislocating yanks on a cranky snow thrower, filled with last year's semi-curdled oil.
Still, having a machine that eventually did start and actually throw the snow was less bad than regressing to using a shovel and enduring back-wrenching distress. One aching shoulder is less bad than a fully throbbing back.
These days, three things have combined to make winter snow throwing less onerous. Computerized fuel injection systems, synthetic oils and electric-start gadgets ease the burden.
Heck, my wife could do it, easily enough.
Oddly, my wife has never, ever run the snow thrower.
She is no shrinking violet or pampered princess. She unhesitatingly runs the riding mowers. She uses the walk-behind power mower more frequently than I do. She is also adept with garden shovels, rakes and hoes.
But there are some tasks that she deems to be "man's work." She suggests that attending to oil needs falls in that category.
I suspect an ulterior motive: she dislikes being cold. Yet, despite her urge to be warm, she also dislikes heavy winter outerwear.
She is a shiverer. I have bought warm winter boots, warm hooded coats, warm gloves, scarves, mittens, hats, for her.
They are largely unused. In winter, she moves from house to car to store, then reverses it from store to car to house clad in low shoes, light sweaters or jackets. She shivers, but she is not swaddled, unless grandchildren arrive during sled-riding season.
Then, she'll get outwardly roly-poly, along with the rest of us.
It is fun to ride sleds and coasters down our gentle hill, while I sit astride the ATV, offering rope-assisted pulls back to the top.
For that, she will bundle up.
For the driveway, no.
In truth, I don't mind. I use the need to run the snow thrower in subzero temperatures as justification (or rationalization) for having bought a hunting parka that is more expensive and more heavily insulated than my hunting habits require.
And I like growly, brawny machines, e.g., my four-wheeler, the riding mowers, the snow thrower. I especially love it that I can use these machines to get vital work done without straining my vital innards.
I am not yet psychologically ready to move from mowing to snowing.
But in the shadows of the barn, the snow thrower lurks, awaiting fresh gulps of lubrication and the arrival of our second yearly season.
Mowing and snowing. Better get going.
Denny Bonavita is a former editor at newspapers in DuBois and Warren. He lives near Brookville. Email: email@example.com.