Monday, January 14, 2013

The Icy Trail: Salt or Sand?

The ice on the trail I use to go up to the fenced-in portion of the yard has gotten pretty dangerous.

What I should have done when it was raining is gone out onto the trail and brushed away the slush that covered the steps.  Naturally, however, I didn't.

That would've been way too smart!

Instead, I allowed it to sit, and when the cold front blew through, it froze the slush solid.

Yesterday's slipping and sliding was nothing like what I'm going through today.  The temperatures have stayed low, and as I write this, it's currently 3 degrees... and snowing.


Putting things off is very rarely a good idea.  In this case, the resultant ice caused me to nearly fall over a few times while walking down the path cut into the hill.

The area below that path is frozen even worse, due to the heavy foot traffic, but I can avoid that danger zone.  It's a wide area.  It's easy to step around it.  The steps leading up, however, are unavoidable.  Something needs to be done.

A thick layer of ice covers a walking path with only a few unswept leaves from fall and one leftover brick disrupting the perfect layer.
Good thing I never removed that brick, right?

Last year, before I knew any better, I used salt.  This worked quite well, because salt lowers the melting point, ensuring that ice has a harder time forming.

One slight problem.

It's bad for the soil.  Salt inhibits growth.  For someone who gardens in the area alongside the path, that makes for difficulties.  I still wonder if last winter's salting of the path helped cause the zucchini I planted to die off.  Probably not, since it appeared to have succumbed to root rot, but I can't shake the feeling.

Sand is my choice this winter, and fortunately, I still have some left over from my daughter's sandbox.

1 old, white bag of play sand with green and red accents.  Water stain off to the lower right side.
Works well to soak up unexpected water, too, as you can see.

Sand helps provide grip... something my boots really need on that path!  My only concern is that simply placing sand on the ice isn't enough, given the temperature.  How will it help provide traction if it isn't actually gripping the ice, instead forming a layer on top?

I think this is a valid concern.  When the snow plows come by, they release sand onto the streets, but the plows also break up the ice, helping the sand to sink in.  If all I do is sprinkle sand, well...

That doesn't sound like a good idea.

Fortunately, I have a plan.  I'm going to heat some water, then use it to melt the top portion of the ice.  Then, and only then, will I sprinkle the sand on top.  The sand will mix with the water, then ice over, providing ice with increased traction.

I'd much rather use a blow drier to heat the ice that's already there, but since mine has only a cord, well, that won't work particularly well.  My extension cord isn't long enough, so boiling water it is!

I think it'll work.

Of course, if it doesn't... well... at least you'll have a humorous failure post tomorrow, right?

What other eco-friendly ideas can you come up with?  You know... just in case this one doesn't work out.  Ha ha!

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