1. How to put snow chains on the car.
For 28 years of driving, I've lived within 90 minutes of some of the best snow-play wonderlands in the entire world - the Sierra Nevada ski resorts and snow-parks. For 28 years of driving, I've avoided winter driving in the Sierra's unless the weather is pristine, and the roads absolutely clear, for fear of having a wreck or sliding into a snow drift.
Monday I learned to put chains on the car, and found out what an amazing difference it makes. Granted, you can't drive much more than about 25mph, but you can go almost anywhere on plowed roads, and my car, a Dodge Magnum, even makes it through 4-5 inches of fresh snow with the chains on. What an amazing invention, and what a shame I'd gone so long with out learning how to use them,
2. How to split wood.
I bought a cord of wood, pretty well split already, but not all of it small enough to fit into my little wood stove. My buddy Steve loaned me his axe. I've learned how to set a piece of wood on end and split it down the center with one strike. Splitting enough wood for 2 nights' fire takes maybe 10 minutes. Easy-peazy.
3. How to build a fire and stoke a wood stove.
The key? AIR. The fire has to get air. I cheat a little bit, in that I don't do kindling. I bought a bunch of fire starters (think miniature Duraflame logs) that go under the wood pile in the stove, and light the wood with ease. I leave the front door of the stove open just a 1/2 inch (there's a latch so it can't open any further), and the air rushes in and stokes up a hot fire in no time. Then the key is keeping the fire fed. After about an hour of hot burning, the flue is good and hot and draws the air in and up from the heat convection of the hot flue itself. Just before bed, I load the fire box about as full as I can get it, close the front door tight, close the air-intake down a little bit, and off to bed. The fire will keep hot for several hours, and the stove stays warm until morning.
4. How to shovel snow and use my electric snow-shovel.
Shoveling snow is a lot like shovelling anything else in the world, except the key is to keep up on the shovelling and don't let the snow melt or a day or two. Snow, when it's fresh, seems to be much lighter and fluffier than it is after a couple of days of melting and re-freezing. Shoveling snow when it's fresh is kinda like shoveling cotton. Let it sit for a day or two, and it's like solid ice.
Same goes for the electric snow-shovel. It will chew through about 4-5 inches of fresh powder with ease, tossing it 20 feet away. After 2 days? It'll go through the ice, but it takes a lot more elbow-grease to chip off the ice layers down near the ground.
5. How to weather-prep a house.
I'd never even heard of putting plastic over the windows to make an air seal between the window pane and the inside of the house. I've covered the windows. weather-sealed the doors, learned (or remembered) to roll up blankets and lay them at the bottom of the doors to cut down on drafts.
6. Use salt on the porch to keep down the ice.
Salt is amazing. Need I say more?
7. The weatherman isn't always right, so be prepared.
If the weatherman says it's gonna snow buckets tomorrow, it's as likely as not that what they predict will come true. Be prepared.
8. The weatherman sometimes IS right, and when they are, they usually forecast LOTS of snow.
Again... Be prepared.
Week One in the snow, done. Check.