winter activities

Time to make sure you are prepared for winter!

Many of us Northampton area residents are wondering whether this winter will come close, in snow accumulation, to last winter. So far, it's not looking that way - though you can't seem to go anywhere in town today without hearing conversations about the upcoming Nor'easter (the Emperor's New Nor'Easter?). But, impending storm or no, it certainly makes sense to stock up on the types of materials and gadgets that you will be thankful to have on hand once the snow really does start falling. Our local Northampton paper, The Daily Hampshire Gazette, had this article to share, with great ideas about how to be ready for the snowfall when it finally comes. I imagine these items are flying off the shelves at local hardware stores, so put them on your shopping list if you don't already own them!

 

Stock up on the right tools to beat back Old Man Winter

 

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Photo credit: Kevin Gutting

 

By ERIC GOLDSCHEIDER
For the Gazette

Rock salt mixed with sand is the first thing that comes to mind for many people when the task is melting the ice beneath their feet.

This is a perfectly acceptable solution for a limited number of applications, according to David Chaisson, co-owner of Stadler Ace Hardware in Belchertown. Maybe the bottom of a sloped driveway could use a sprinkling of this gritty concoction that provides the benefit of added traction along with its melting properties. It will give you the grip you need to build momentum as you ascend.

But in most cases you'll want something a little less harsh.

Rock salt is not only hard on metal, accelerating rust, but it also does no favors for concrete. In fact, "it will eat your concrete," said Chaisson. It may not seem like much at first, but the salt, which is perfectly fine on asphalt or blacktop, will start pitting a concrete walkway. Small cracks can develop and when water gets into those and freezes, the expansion will lead to a cascading cycle that will eventually destroy the concrete.

Salt is also not great for shoes, it will burn your pet's feet, and if you track it into the house the carpets will suffer.

The alternative is a product that comes under a variety of names but is usually referred to as Ice Melt. Chaisson carries a brand called Mr. Magic, which he prefers because it goes on orange, allowing for easy even distribution.

"When you are putting it on the white snow you can see where you are putting it to get a nice even mix," Chaisson said, "so you are not putting it on too light or missing some spots."

The active ingredient is calcium chloride. It keeps melting ice even when the overall temperature drops to minus 25 degrees Fahrenheit. That is considerably colder than rock salt, which only keeps melting down to minus 10 degrees.

Chaisson recommends getting your Ice Melt early because it often sells out. Last year it was very hard to find by midwinter.

Depending on your needs, the cheapest way of buying Ice Melt is in a 50-pound bag, though Chaisson recommends buying it in a drum the first time, and then buying refills.

"It's always a good idea to have a drum or some kind of sealable container so you can do your job and then fill it back up," he said. "You have to cover it up and keep the moisture out because if the moisture gets in, it will make it hard as a rock and you have to break it up and it becomes a pain in the neck."

Chaisson said you can apply Ice Melt on the ground before the snow falls or you can put it on ice that has already formed. "Let's say you have a thin layer of ice, you can put it down and it will stay there until the next storm," he said. "It keeps melting until it's melted out." How long that might be depends in part on how well the melted water drains off, or whether it puddles and refreezes.

Roof care

Driveways, walkways and paths to the wood pile are not the only places you want to think of in terms of keeping the snow and ice from piling up, Chaisson said.

A little bit of early intervention when snow starts piling up on the roof can go a long way toward preventing bigger problems.


Most importantly, he said, is to get the right kind of rake (with a long handle) so that you can clear snow off the first few feet of your roof. If you do that, the rest of the roof will take care of itself, as normal sunshine will heat up the shingles just enough to let the snow dissipate in an orderly way.

Ice dams were an issue that people in our area used to deal with once in a decade, said Chaisson, but in recent years they have become an annual phenomenon. That is when ice builds up toward the bottom of the roof and stays there, preventing the melting snow from dripping off. In fact, it can build up and start pooling on the roof and then as it repeatedly melts and freezes it can seep under the shingles and over time cause major damage.

"If it's looking like it's going to stay cold for a while, you should get a bit of your roof opened up even if there is not a lot of snow," said Chaisson.

There is also a relatively new product that has come to the market in the last five years that looks something like a hockey puck that you can put on your roof to help keep the ice from building up.

These are a little pricey, Chaisson said, but they work very well.

"If your roof is frozen solid, especially your gutters, you can throw them up onto your roof a couple of feet," he said. "You don't have to be very accurate and you don't have to send them way up."

The effect may seem to be almost imperceptible at first, but as the pucks (or discs) slowly melt the ice around them the chemical (just like the Ice Melt, it is calcium chloride) drips down with the water, clearing built-up ice along the way. "It may not look like it's doing a lot, but it is doing all the work under the top surface," said Chaisson.

One of the reasons it is so important to clear the lower portion of the roof is that starting in the late afternoon the chilled air coming up can quickly freeze any moisture that gathers there during the day, Chaisson said.

"The wind is what starts the thing because you are melting every day," he said. "Around 4 o'clock you get the uplifting cold."

Throwing snow

Back on the ground, ice is one thing, but snow measured in inches and sometimes feet can be another. Shovels come in at least 30 varieties and brands, ranging from less than $10 to up to $40.

"You truly get what you pay for," Chaisson said. The major differences are between the "pushers" and the "lifters." There are also the so-called "back savers" which have angled posts that allow you to stay in a more upright position as you heave the snow to where you want it to go. The advantage is that you get to let your legs take some of the weight that your back would otherwise handle.

Another variable to look for in shovels is whether the blade is made of metal or plastic. As you might expect, the metal blade is more durable but it might not be the right solution for a deck, for instance, where scratching could be an issue.

And then there are snowblowers. Tom Perron, the owner of Boyden & Perron in Amherst, prefers to call them "snow throwers" but, he said, the terms are interchangeable and are usually dependent on who the manufacturer is.

There is a lot of variety there.

The simplest power tool for clearing your front steps and maybe a walkway or small driveway is a power shovel, which is electric and plugs into the wall. An obvious advantage is that you don't have to deal with smelly gas and oil. There are also no spark plugs or carburetors that need to be serviced. Besides being clean, they are also light, so you can easily take them out to a deck you want to clear. The obvious down side is that you have to be within reach of a power source and you have to manage the cord while you are doing your work.

Perron sells three sizes of power shovels.

When it comes to gasoline-powered snow throwers, there is a major distinction between single-stage machines and double-stage machines.

For the first, the auger (think spiral blade) touches the ground directly. As it spins it throws the snow off to the side. This is good when you are working on smooth surfaces and the snow is not too deep or tightly packed.


The motion of the blade helps propel the machine forward as you go. Depending on use, the blade needs to be replaced every few years. It can throw the snow 25 to 30 feet, according to Perron. He sells these in seven different models.

For bigger jobs you will want a two-stage snow thrower. In this case the auger does not touch the ground, which means you can use it on a wider variety of surfaces, including rougher terrain like a lawn or a gravel driveway. The rotating blade in this case cuts into the snow and feeds it to a secondary mechanism, called the impeller, which is what throws the white stuff up to 40 feet.

Unlike the single-stage snow thrower, this machine has a transmission, which means that you can adjust the power depending on the job. The wheels are also connected to the transmission so you get a power assist in moving the machine forward.

"Some of the larger snow throwers are easier to use than the smaller ones," Perron said.

He sells seven models of the two-stage snow throwers. Those at the higher end include features like heated handles and headlights as well as, of course, more power and a wider intake so you can move more volume more quickly.

Finally, if you want to go really large, there are riding snow throwers. These are for people who have large surfaces they need to clear quickly.

The added benefit of these is that they have a dual use as lawn mowers in the summer.

That is something nice to think about as you head out into the frigid environs of a heavy blanket of snow left behind by a winter storm.

Eric Goldscheider can be reached at eric.goldscheider@gmail.com

 

How To Keep Holiday Spending Under Wraps (wink, wink)

Over lunch with my husband today, I subtly mentioned to him that the credit card bill next month might be a bit higher than usual. Instead of being disgruntled, the way he can be when I don't forewarn him of such things, he said "thank you for letting me know". I was glad to have gotten that piece of news off of my chest, but I am still feeling a bit anxious about the spending that I have done, and inevitably do this time of year. I came home to a text from my sister saying "I'm scared of what my credit card bill will look like for this month!". 'Tis the season.

Living in Northampton, MA, there are so many wonderful sales at open studios of local artists and artisans this time of year, as well as home-based sales, and the generally great stuff you can find at our array of local shops. Add to that the overall charm of our New England city, all dressed up in her holiday finest - it's hard to resist the urge to shop til you drop, as the saying goes.

I came across this article a week ago. one my go-to blog site, Apartment Therapy, with some sound advice about how to stay on top of spending over the holidays. Read on!

 

How to Avoid a Major Financial Hangover After The Holidays

by Dabne Frake


It’s not too late to ensure you make it through the holidays without going into serious debt. Even if you waded through the 5am crowds on Black Friday, the gift-buying season is in full swing, with plenty of time to say to yourself, “Oh, I just know Dabney would love that [insert item here]. I should just get it for her.” While I appreciate the thought, I’d much rather see you be free and clear of financial worry and set yourself up for budget-happy 2016.

1. Set a Budget
If you already budget, you’re probably in good shape. You know how much you have to spend this month and have planned for it. For the rest of you, take a minute to look at your bank accounts and figure out how much you have that can go towards gifts. And then stick to it.

2. Pay With Cash
Resist the urge to whip out your credit card at checkout register. Using cash makes you more aware of what you’re spending. And if you don’t have the cash on hand, then you can’t buy whatever it is you have your eye on.

3. Use Up Those Gift Cards
If you tend to accumulate gift cards, this is a good way to use them. They might come from actual presents you’ve been given, but we often get free gift cards as rewards for other purchases. Shop throughout the year using these bonus windfalls, and you'll have less to buy in December.

4. Don’t Buy For Absolutely Everyone.... or Yourself
A lot of overspending comes from getting everyone you know a little something, along with splurging on yourself whenever you come across a good deal. Pare down your holiday gift list by focusing on those people you care about the most, and leave off all those random people with whom you don't have a real connection. (Note: By this I don't mean you shouldn't buy gifts through programs like Toys for Tots....)

5. Start Saving for Next Christmas…Now
Set up an automatic savings account (Like Capital One 360) and have $10 slide out of your account every week and into a safe place where you won’t think about it our touch it for another twelve months. By next December, you’ll have roughly $500 to put towards presents.

6. Regift
This might be controversial, but sometimes it just makes sense. If you are gifted things you have no use for, pass them on to others who you might be genuinely happy to get them. Doing so reduces clutter in your own household, and saves you from having to buy more gifts. If you're unsure, check out our guide to regifting, and see what others had to say in the comments.

7. Make Your Gifts
Homemade gifts are way to make the holidays meaningful, and ease pressure on the wallet. Start with our Homemade Holidays gift ideas, and get to making!
 

(Image credits: Ashley Poskin)

 

Craft Idea: Interesting Ways to Reuse Plastic Bottles

I'm not sure about the rest of Northampton, but I am starting to experience cabin fever of enormous proportions. I love a good snow fall as much as the next guy, but coupled with sub-zero and single digit temps, I'm going outside only when absolutely necessary!  A friend posted a link to this interesting article on architechturendesign.net depicting 20 ways to repurpose plastic bottles...While, admittedly, some of these projects may be a bit time and labor intensive -- there are some great ideas here. Looking for a fun project to do with your children on yet another snow day? Read on!

 

20 Creative Ways To Reuse Old Plastic Bottles

Posted by MMK

 

DIY recycling projects are always cool, especially when you can turn your trash into something new and useful. We’ve not written any posts about ways to recycle before, but it turns out there’s so much that you can do with recycle plastic bottles that they deserved their own post.

The PET plastic that most plastic beverage bottles are made of is a fairly useful material – it’s resilient, flexible, transparent and food safe. As such, there are probably countless applications for these bottles that will give them second lives. These 20 are a great place to start, but can you think of your own as well?

 

1 | Vertical Garden

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2 | Chandelier

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 3 | Broom

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4 | Beautiful Mosaic From Caps Left By Hurricane Sandy

 

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5 | Spoon Lamp

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6 | Jewelry Stand

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7 | Parking Canopy

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8 | Bouquet Lamp

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9 | Christmas Tree

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10 | Cute Planters

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11 | Intricate Bottle Vase

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12 | Durable Purse

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13 | Sci-Fi Rocket Jet Pack

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14 | Hanging Chandelier

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15 | Lake Boat

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16 | Solar Light Bulb

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17 | Ottoman Seat

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18 | Curtain

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19 | Bottle Cap Decoration

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20 | Napkin Ring

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Photos by: Architecture & Design (via Google & Bore Panda)

 

Wintertime Fun - Art's Night Out and Northampton Ice Art Festival!

For those of us who are staying put this President's Day weekend/week, here amid the piles of snow and the cold temps, it's nice to know that we have the 5th Annual Northampton Ice Sculpture Festival to look forward to. While we certainly have more than enough snow to go around, the Northampton Center for the Arts who hosts this annual event, is having nearly 5 tons of ice delivered tomorrow for the creation of ice sculptures for the festival. The festival coincides with the monthly event Arts Night Out, where local area artist's and artisan's work is on display at Northampton's art galleries, stores and other spaces. Looks like the makings of a wonderful winter night on the town! - and another great reason to make your home in the Pioneer Valley. The full article from the Daily Hampshire Gazette to follow.

 

Frozen: Area artists put frigid temps to good use at fifth annual Northampton Ice Art Festival

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  • CAROL LOLLIS<br/>Peter Dellert in his wood working studio in Holyoke, sketches what he is going to carve for the ice festival.

    CAROL LOLLIS
    Peter Dellert in his wood working studio in Holyoke, sketches what he is going to carve for the ice festival. 

 
 
 
 

As officials in Northampton try to figure out how to get rid of the city’s overflowing piles of snow, many residents are looking forward to the delivery Friday of nearly five tons of ice. 

 

All that frozen water will be divvied up into 300-pound blocks, which will then be used by 11 artists to create sculptures for “The Northampton Ice Art Festival,” sponsored by the Northampton Center for the Arts.

 

The artists will get to work Friday morning at a dozen downtown locations (professional ice artist Joe Almeida will sculpt at two sites), and plan to finish up in time for “Arts Night Out” that begins at 5 p.m.

 

A close call 

 

The festival almost didn’t happen this year, says Penny Burke, director of the Center for the Arts. Its future had been in question since the event’s former sponsor, the Northampton BID, was dissolved late last year. 

 

Burke, who spearheaded the battle to preserve the festival, says an infusion of funds from the Northampton Radio Group, and support from the City of Northampton and Northampton’s “Arts Night Out” ensured that the festival would go on. 

 

“We didn’t want to see this special event fade away,” said Radio Group general manager, David Musante. “It brings people to town to stroll, shop, and dine. It creates great memories and keeps people coming back to downtown Northampton.”

 

And it’s more than a money-maker, Burke says. It also offers an opportunity for artists, both professional and amateur, to have their works seen. Among them will be a V-One martini luge in front of Eastside Grill on Strong Avenue. The luge, a sloped block of ice that cools beverages as they flow down its channels, will actually be put to use, Burke said.

 

“Who doesn’t wanna see a martini luge?” 

 

This year’s festival coincides with the city’s “Arts Night Out,” which takes place on the second Friday of every month. And it’s not an accident, she added, that it falls on the eve of Valentine’s Day.

 

“It’s supposed to be a holiday-like environment,” Burke said. 

 

Here’s how it works: Artists will arrive at their stations Friday between 8 and 10 a.m., where they will labor over slabs of ice, picking and chipping away with ice tools and chain saws, until the late afternoon. Completed pieces will be revealed during “Arts Night Out,” from 5 to 8 p.m.

 

“It’s a festive atmosphere,” Burke said. “You can go in and out of venues to stay warm and happy and, depending on the weather, sculptures may stay around for a while.” 

 

From newbies to pros

 

Featured ice artists come from diverse backgrounds with different levels of experience and expertise. Several have participated in all of Northampton’s ice festivals, including professional ice carver Joe Almeida, painter/sculptor Greg Stone and Don Chapelle, founder of Boston’s “Brilliant Ice Sculpture.” 

 

The other participants are mixed media artist Peter Dellert, sculptors Tim de Christopher and Matt Evald Johnson, installation artist Chris Nelson, the eclectic Sally Curcio, wood carver Nathan Peterson and sculptor Tom Kellner. 

 

Dellert is participating in the festival for the fourth time. 

 

Calling himself an “amateur” ice sculptor, Dellert says he uses his skills as a carpenter and mixed media artist to make his ice carvings. At first, though, the learning curve was a bit steep. Before his initial attempt at ice art, Dellert says, he was given an impromptu, hands-on lesson by Almeida, the professional ice sculptor, in the parking lot behind Spoleto’s restaurant. After the lesson, Dellert sculpted abstract shapes. The following year, with more experience under his belt, he says, he made a basket that held a heart. Last year, he produced a frozen representation of a Heliconia, a tropical flower.

 

With experience, he says, his ice-sculpting skills have developed over time.

 

This year, he will carve a representation of a drawing by the late Armenian-American painter Arshile Gorky. 

 

“I am becoming more familiar with the material,” Dellert said.

 

Carving ice is actually easier than carving wood, Dellert said, because ice is softer than wood, making it easier to make swift cuts with a chain saw, ice pick or other tool. Plus, he added, ice holds an edge nicely, and is easily manipulated.

 

Although he enjoys carving ice once a year, he says, his favorite part of the festival is the social and community interaction. 

 

“It’s good because I get to hang with my buds,” Dellert said.

 

Sculptors will begin work Friday at 10 a.m.; the art walk, “Arts Night Out,” begins the same day at 5 p.m. and runs until 8 p.m. A map of artists and their installation sites will be available at “Arts Night Out” locations. For more information, visit www.nohoarts.org.

 

Our Own Winter Wonderland!

In the wake of "snowmageddon", (which turned out to be more of a run-of-the-mill snowstorm in the Northampton area), I've been thinking about how we experience winter here in Western MA. Around this time of year, the topic of winter seems to be on the tip of everyone's tongues. We are growing weary of the cold, the shoveling, the ice, the extra clothing and boots, the mess that the snow and ice creates in our homes, etc. This weariness is predictable. We yearn for the warmer weather, the ease with which we can move about, and get from place to place. This winter, 2 things are different in my household. For one, we have a puppy - which means one of us (me) is out walking that puppy every day. For another, my family is finally on the same page about skiing together. Between my daily hikes at one of the many beautiful hiking trails which surround us, and my weekly skiing jaunts with the family - I have a newfound love of winter!  On that note, I wanted to list some of the beautiful places nearby where we can ski, cross country ski, snow shoe or hike here in the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts (or nearby):

Photo credit: dreamatico.com

 

1. Notchview - Ok, so technically this beautiful 3,100 acre reservation is in the Berkshires, rather than Hampshire County. However, we Northamptonites love to take advantage of the myriad trails for nordic skiing and snowshoeing this time of year. It's just a hop, skip and a jump up to Windsor, MA.

 

2. Fitzgerald Lake - Right here in Northampton are opportunities for hiking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in winter

 

3. Mineral Hills Conservation Area - This beautiful conservation area, just off of Sylvester Road in Northampton, does not yet have a website. The trails are clearly marked, and their is a MHCA facebook page for more information.

 

4. Berkshire East - What a great family mountain!  With a newly renovated lodge, the addition of a lounge/bar for the over-21 set, and just enough groomed trails to keep all levels of skiers happy for the day - this mountain helps make winter fun!  For those who don't ski, there is a mountain coaster, and tubing park. You can also snowshoe or hike on the trails.

 

5. Stump Sprouts - This cross country ski area and guest lodge is a lovely place to come ski for the day -- or rent the lodge (complete with delicious vegetarian home cooked meals) with friends and family. Situated in Hawley, MA, Stump Sprouts is less than an hour drive from Northampton.

 

So remember, we do live here for a reason, or many reasons. Among those reasons is the change of seasons!  So, bundle up and get out there to enjoy what our beautiful valley has to offer.