Snowboarding... on our driveway!

Thu Mar 03 2022

Our 1,000ft driveway was covered with a foot of fresh snow so there was just one question - could we snowboard down it? Only one way to find out!

Snowboarding... on our driveway!

I'm writing this while sitting in our RV on our property. Yes, we made it to Vermont!

Returning to Vermont

In just a few days we'll be towing our RV from Virginia back up to Vermont, hoping to arrive before the snow melts and turns the roads to mud!

Returning to Vermont

The last week feels like it has been absolutely non-stop - we've driven hundreds of miles through 7 different states, sleeping in the RV in 3 different states, but finally we've made it. It wasn't easy though....

We had been keeping a close eye on weather conditions and decided to pull our plans forward by a few days - it was a good job we did!

Preparing for Winter RV Living

If you're going to spend a cold winter living in an RV, you need to be prepared. Here's what we're doing to stay safe and comfortable in northern Vermont.

Preparing for Winter RV Living

Sunday: Virginia to New York

Our goal on Sunday was to make it to our friends' house in upstate New York where we'd be spending the night - 500 miles away from the campground where we'd been spending the winter near Williamsburg, Virginia.

Knowing that the trailer was fully loaded and given the price of gas right now, we opted to do the drive at 55mph - meaning a long day of driving! We prepared the RV the night before and after our final checks on Sunday morning, we were on the road by 7:30am. It still took us all day, until after 6pm, to make it to our friends' house.

We saw the first snow around central Pennsylvania, and by the time we reached upstate New York there were a good few inches of snow on the ground. Fortunately our friends' driveway had been plowed and after a little shuffling, we made it in without too much difficulty.

Monday: New York to Vermont

Our neighbors in Vermont had been sending us regular updates on the road and weather conditions, so we knew our driveway was under almost a foot of snow, not to mention the plowed but unpaved town road leading up to our property. Snow and ice is one thing, but when the snow melts, the mud would make towing the trailer through impossible.

On Monday we left New York early, about 5:45am, and headed to Vermont, via our storage unit to collect a few items - including the battery for our tractor that we had kept in heated storage all winter. We didn't bring the RV with us, opting to visit first with the truck to make sure everything was ready for the RV the following day.

Arriving at the property at around 10:30am, we called the neighbor who had kindly offered to come and clear the bottom of our driveway with a tractor-mounted snow blower. He promptly arrived and set to work, and within half an hour he had cleared about 100ft at the bottom of the driveway.

Snow Blower Driveway
A neighbor with a tractor-mounted snow blower cleared the bottom 100ft or so of our driveway so we could drive up with the truck and trailer.

While I headed up to the shipping container to reinstall the tractor battery, do some maintenance checks, and get everything ready, Diana began shoveling snow by hand on the area we had covered with wood chips where we planned to park the RV - we were worried the big snow blower would make a mess of the wood chips!

Chipping Away

Building our dream home is going to take us a long time, but we've been chipping away at it - literally!

Chipping Away
Snow Shoveling
This is where we planned to park the RV and since there are wood chips underneath, Diana cleared this area with a snow shovel to avoid spraying wood chips everywhere!

With the benefit of hindsight, we should have brought our RV with us on Monday. Conditions were perfect - clear blue skies and icy cold temperatures around 10°F to keep everything frozen and not melting. We had finished everything by early afternoon and it would have been plenty of time to maneuver the RV into position.

But, we had played it safe, not wanting to find ourselves caught out with the RV and nowhere to go, so we had to make the 200 mile return journey back down to New York.

Tuesday: New York to Vermont (Take 2)

If Monday was an early start, it was nothing compared to Tuesday - an alarm at 4am and by 4:30am we were on the road with the RV, beginning the 4 hour journey back to Vermont.

It hadn't snowed overnight but temperatures were cold, about 8°F (-13°C), ensuring the roads were frozen. But the forecast showed temperatures rising through the morning so we were keen to arrive early before the road turned to mud as it had the previous afternoon.

We made it down the unpaved town road to our property without issue, and after a brief pause at the bottom of the driveway to formulate a plan, we went for it. I put the truck in 4WD Low, and once I was on the driveway I engaged the rear locker.

With barely any indication of wheel spin, the truck effortlessly pulled the trailer about 100ft straight up the driveway - a testament to our new tires, but also the reason we had cleared the snow the day before!

F-150 New Wheels & Tires

The time has finally come for a new set of tires on our F-150, but this time we decided to change the wheels too - find out why and what we chose!

F-150 New Wheels & Tires

But now the hard part - reversing the RV back into the spot we had cleared. It wasn't a particularly sharp turn, nor particularly steep, but it was just sharp enough and just steep enough to thwart our efforts. The truck just couldn't get enough traction and would slide sideways down the driveway as we tried to turn - not a nice feeling when towing your house!

Reluctant to go through the hassle of putting snow chains on when we were so close, we instead opted to air down our tires. This did the trick, but it still took us about 30 minutes to shuffle the RV back and forth, creeping it a little further around the turn each time, until we finally had it in the position we wanted.

RV in Snow
Our parking spot for the next few months - home sweet home!

Making sure the trailer was really well chocked in place so it wouldn't roll, we unhooked from the truck, and leveled it as securely as we could. As the ground thaws, we'll almost certainly have to adjust the levelers some more, but we had done it.

We were home.

Moving the log

Before we had left for the winter, we had used the tractor to position a big log to block our driveway. It worked great, and there were no signs on our cameras or from tracks in the snow that anything had ventured up.

But, now we had to move it so we could get the tractor down. Our first thought was to use the tractor to push it, but we weren't sure how much traction the tractor would have in the snow.

Kubota L3901 Compact Tractor

We bought a brand new Kubota L3901 4WD HST compact tractor with attachments and accessories for helping build our house.

Kubota L3901 Compact Tractor

So instead we opted to use the new front tow hooks on the truck that I had installed thinking of situations just like this one! The logs were frozen solid to the ground, and it took a little bit of work even with the weight of the truck to dislodge them.

Rough Country Tow Hooks

We replaced the OEM tow hooks on our Ford F-150 with the Rough Country tow hook shackle mount and D-rings to improve our recovery capabilities.

Rough Country Tow Hooks

With the log out of the way, the driveway was once again open for business!

Rough Country Tow Hooks F-150
Putting our brand new tow hooks to use - they worked great to pull the big log out of the way, even though it was frozen solid to the ground.

Solar panels

Our first night on the property was great. It's so quiet here, and after an early start and a long day, we slept so well!

However, on Wednesday morning we had to deal with the first of our utility issues - electricity. Our batteries had been fully charged when we had arrived the previous morning, but were now down to 35% due to the furnace (propane powered but still has an electric fan) and Norcold cold weather kit on our fridge running in the sub-freezing weather.

Norcold Cold Weather Kit in Action

The Norcold Cold Weather Kit is an easy upgrade that allows Norcold RV fridges to operate down to 0°F. We monitored ours to see how our RV fridge performs in freezing conditions.

Norcold Cold Weather Kit in Action

The previous evening we had retrieved the solar panels from our shipping container and brought them down to the RV, but realized the wiring was in our off-site storage unit. We made the trip over there on Tuesday evening, but it was dark by the time we returned so we put off connecting the panels.

Snow Covered Solar Panels
I think solar panels covered in snow is going to become a familiar sight for us!

The sun rises before 6:30am so not wanting to waste good sunlight, I headed outside early to get the panels wired up. Soon enough, we were producing free electricity from the sun!

Over the course of the day we generated about 900Wh from 600W of solar panels - not bad considering the time of year and the frequent shading from trees.

DIY Portable Solar Panel

A portable folding suitcase solar panel is one of the easiest ways to get started with solar, but they can be very expensive - so we built our own for half the price!

DIY Portable Solar Panel

Generator

But 900Wh in a day is nowhere near enough for us in the RV at this time of year, so it was time to give our batteries a boost with the generator.

Choosing a Portable Generator

We need a portable generator for our RV and house-build, and thought we knew what we were going to buy ... until a last minute change of plan!

Choosing a Portable Generator

A few weeks earlier I had broken in one of our two WEN generators, and on arrival we had plugged this in to make sure everything worked. Rather than using that one, I instead opted to break in the second generator so we had both generators available for use.

I followed the same break-in procedure as before, but rather than using a dummy load, I plugged it into our RV with a modest current limit to charge our batteries rather than waste that free power.

WEN 56235i Generator Unboxing and Break In

We unbox our brand new WEN portable generator for an unbiased review as we put it through a break-in procedure to help ensure its longevity.

WEN 56235i Generator Unboxing and Break In

We don't love having to run a generator, but being completely off-grid here for the next few months, it's inevitable.

Snow plowing with the tractor

Yesterday, while Diana put the finishing touches on this week's video (yes, we're almost real-time on our YouTube channel now), I went to play work with the tractor. My goal was to clear an area around the shipping container so that I could take out the sawmill. With the sawmill out, we'd be able to start packing things in the shipping container without blocking the sawmill in.

Snow Clearing with Tractor
My goal was to clear the area in front of the firewood pile and sawbuck to park the sawmill.

It's the first time I've ever cleared snow with a tractor, and we don't have a plow or blower so all I had was the bucket. Between my inexperience and using just a bucket, it was slow going, but surprisingly effective! It took me about an hour, but I managed to clear a good sized space on the driveway.

Finally we were able to hook the sawmill up to the tractor and tow it out of the shipping container. Rather than taking the sawmill back up to the top of the driveway where it was last year, we're going to keep it down near the shipping container for now.

Snow Plowing with Tractor
Job done! Hopefully a few warm days in the week ahead will melt away the remainder in this area I cleared.

Over the next couple of months we're going to be clearing trees up at the house site near the top of the driveway, so we don't want any more obstacles up there than absolutely necessary!

Snowboarding down the driveway

When you see a 1,000ft snow-covered slope, what's the first thing that comes to mind? For Diana, it was snowboarding!

Before we cleared any more snow, Diana wanted to see whether it was possible to snowboard down our driveway.

After trekking all the way up (we don't have a chair lift), she strapped onto the board. The snow was really powdery (we don't have a grooming machine) so the board was sinking in pretty deep, but soon enough she was off - snowboarding down our driveway!

Snowboarding Driveway
Yes, that is Diana snowboarding down our driveway!

She didn't set any speed records, but I think that's a good thing! As far as driveways go, steeper isn't better, so I was relieved to see her struggling to pick up speed.

After a few days of hard work getting our RV all the way from Virginia to Vermont, it was nice to have some fun and play in the snow for a bit.

Next week

We're beginning to feel settled in here, but there's lots still to do. It snowed again last night (I'm sensing a trend here!) so this morning I'm heading out to clear our solar panels, and use the tractor to move some more snow.

Once again our batteries need charging, which means running the generator, and later today I need to take our water bladder to our neighbor's house to fill up our dwindling fresh water supplies (we arrived with the tank almost empty to save weight).

Aquatank II - Portable Water Bladder Review

We review why we chose the Aquatank 2 for hauling water to our RV, which size we opted for, and our first impressions about its construction.

Aquatank II - Portable Water Bladder Review

We've also decided not to get a big propane tank since the local supplier wants to charge almost $5 per gallon! We can get it for a little more than half that price by refilling our own 30lb tanks, so we're going to try doing that instead.

Tomorrow I'll be collecting our new Woodland Mills WC68 Wood Chipper for our tractor. Notice I say "collecting" rather than "have delivered". Given how bashed up the packaging was last time, and road conditions meaning a delivery truck wouldn't be able to make it to our property anyway, we've decided to collect the wood chipper from the Woodland Mills warehouse...in Buffalo, NY, about 400 miles away!

Assembling the Woodland Mills HM126 XL Sawmill

After waiting more than 3 months, our Woodland Mills saw mill finally arrived! It took us about 2 days to get it assembled, but now we're ready to start milling!

Assembling the Woodland Mills HM126 XL Sawmill

It's going to be yet another long day of driving, almost 800 miles, but after that, hopefully the long driving days will be done for a little while.

5 Tips for Winter RVing

Winter RVing can be amazing IF you can handle the cold! Here are our top tips to stay warm and cozy in your RV, even during the coldest winter weather!

5 Tips for Winter RVing

We're so happy to be here on our property. While the next couple of months of off-grid camping in cold weather will be tough at times, there's nowhere we'd rather be.

Now, time to go and clear some snow....

Previous postReturning to VermontNext postKubota Tractor Snow Tire Chains