December 22, 2009

Icy sidewalks and hating to use salt.

I don't want any floor-damaging grit either. So, what's left? I found this:
When I had a wooden deck I used to scatter cracked corn after shoveling, and I used it on the sidewalks as well. The cracked corn provided plenty of traction, and if it was tracked in it wouldn't damage flooring. Besides providing much needed traction on the otherwise slippery deck, the cracked corn was also a great snack for the birds and squirrels. Nothing went to waste, and no one ever fell on my sidewalks or backyard deck.
We love corn here at Meadhouse, so I love this idea, assuming it works. And, yes, I do care.

ADDED: Or am I going to have to fight my way through swarming squirrels to get out of the house?

45 comments:

sammy990099 said...

i don't get it. Could tracking wet foodstuff (corn) onto your floors and carpets be a good idea? Sounds like a huge mess to me.

holdfast said...

The salt is also really hard on the dogs' paws - you have to be really careful to clean them with a warm, wet towel after walks.

Original Mike said...

I have a steep driveway. It's salt&sand or death. I choose salt&sand.

Of course I fully expect the city council to outlaw salt, which will then make my house unsellable.

AprilApple said...

I detest salt too. It's horrible for the grass and it can pock-mark concrete.

shovel shovel shovel.

Lockestep said...

If you are overwhelmed by squirrels, just get one of these:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l3Ya6z-NlDo&feature=related

Scott said...

The starlings, pigeons, and rats thank you too.

When I was growing up in St. Paul, shoveling the walks and driveway of the little old lady next door, she insisted on using chicken grits. She said it wouldn't damage the concrete like salt would, and it provided more traction than calcium chloride.

Why not just make people take their shoes off at the door? That's a common practice around the world.

(wv: polarin, as in "The weather is polar in Wisconsin")

Kirk Parker said...

"Am I going to have to fight my way..."

Too late!

bearbee said...

Or am I going to have to fight my way through swarming squirrels to get out of the house?

One with The Squirrel.

Perfect Meade present for AltMeade

See 'Women's'


An Acorn campaign.

Ron said...

Think of the squirrels as "commenters" and the corn as a "post" on the blog that is your life at Meadehouse.

k*thy said...

We use ash from the wood burning stove - and what Scott said.

PJ said...

Speaking as a guy whose house is surrounded by shagbark hickories, swarming squirrels (nicely turned, Professor) are no small annoyance.

edutcher said...

We have a stoop with three steps all pre-cast concrete and The Blonde (2 foot surgeries, 3 knee surgeries) is scared purple of it in the winter because we can't salt it or use melting chemicals.

Be glad you have an option.

Ann Althouse said...

I feel like there should be some kind of microwavable material that you can just spread out on the front step to melt the ice. Or a waterproof electric blanket...

Big Mike said...

I used to put out cracked corn, but the local Audubon Society warned that the sharp points were bad for small song birds.

I don't think you'll have to "fight your way through swarming squirrels" because they tend to scatter when humans appear on the deck. But between birds and squirrels you'll have to keep replenishing the cracked corn and then might get expensive.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

When I was young I us'd to wait
On the boss and hand him his plate;
and Pass down the bottle when he got dry,
And brush away the blue tail fly.

peter hoh said...

There are heated sidewalks and driveways.

You don't have to be a tree hugger to eschew salt. It's bad for concrete.

That said, there are times that nothing else will work, especially in late winter when the sun melts snow during the day, and then the runoff freezes on the sidewalk.

traditionalguy said...

The famous battle for heat retention goes on. How do the cold blooded fish do it? I know that blood is mostly salty water, andfish have blood. Should we just eat more salt?

JohnAnnArbor said...

It would be expensive, but I bet you could run pipes with antifreeze through concrete and melt the ice geothermally, with the pipes running down far enough to pick up some heat from a few feet underground.

Wonder if that's been done.

bearbee said...

Heated outdoor mats

Sofa King said...

She said it wouldn't damage the concrete like salt would, and it provided more traction than calcium chloride.

The purpose of salt is not to provide traction, it is to lower the melting point of water below the ambient temperature.

It is nasty, but effective like almost nothing else. Though I've often wondered if you could use less salt if you used a super-saline liquid spray rather than scattering chunks. You ought to be able to get a nice, even light salt crust that way. Only problem is you'd have to apply more often to keep up with runoff.

MadisonMan said...

Does Meadhouse not have an entry vestibule where you can exchange outdoor footwear for comfy slippers? I agree it's a pain if you're in and out all day to have to change shoes, but it does keep grit out of most of the house.

kimsch said...

In winter I put out an extra 3 x 5 "berber" rug by the door. They are available pretty cheaply at WalMart and Target. Then the shoes come off for the rest of the house.

wv: ivelat

kimsch said...

One can also keep an old towel near the door to mop up any spills.

wv: inglap

AllenS said...

Wait until you open the silverware drawer, and there's a mouse turd in a teaspoon. Snow needs to be shoveled, plowed or blown off of sidewalks as soon as possible. I know just the guy for the job.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

sammy990099 said:

Could tracking wet foodstuff (corn) onto your floors and carpets be a good idea?

Sure, if you havethe right type of carpet

Kev said...

Speaking as a guy whose house is surrounded by shagbark hickories, swarming squirrels (nicely turned, Professor) are no small annoyance.

To paraphrase Dave Barry, Shagbark Hickories would be a good name for a rock band (perhaps in the Americana genre). Swarming Squirrels could be their opening act.

Kev said...

I have a steep driveway. It's salt&sand or death. I choose salt&sand.

I have a steep driveway as well, but thankfully, I live in Texas, and ice has only been an issue a few times in the 8+ years that I've owned this house. I'm also happy that, on our bridges here, they only use sand--no salt. The undersides of our cars look much nicer than they do up north.

wv: booth. First time I've gotten a real word for this!

Hey said...

There are these things called boot trays. Along with welcome mats they're ideal for keeping the house clean despite slush and such.

Northern half of the continent is unlivable if you forgo salt.

A brine solution is more effective than scattering crystals, but only on removing existing ice. Crystals are excellent as they provide ongoing ice removal without additional applications. Brine is used by many cities for their streets as crystals will be scattered into ditches by traffic and tracked away onto residential roads, vastly increasing the amount required and not having any protective effect. Your walk isn't getting that much traffic, which is why salt is ideal.

traditionalguy said...

In Atlanta there is no salt or gravel needed. We just wait a day and it all melts. Also, we avoid buying used cars from the icey north country. We do see cars all dirty and salt covered headed south on the interstates to Florida in the winter. What a mess.

Scott said...

If you petition God for His grace in prayer, eventually it will go away.

A Collect for Sidewalk Safety

Oh God,
Whose Grace sustains us in times of peril,
Send forth Thy beams of radiant sunshine from the Heavens,
That the snow may melt and its life-giving waters flow from our [deck/sidewalks]
And find its way thereby into our tulip beds,
And so safe passage for family and guests thereby may be procured,
Through Jesus Christ our Lord,
Amen.

Scott said...

Too many "ands" and "therebys" but you get the idea.

mikec said...

If these were swarming rats, would it make a difference? If you are a true Madisonite, concerned about all natures creatures, it shouldn't.

Michael Hasenstab said...

It would be expensive, but I bet you could run pipes with antifreeze through concrete and melt the ice geothermally, with the pipes running down far enough to pick up some heat from a few feet underground.

Heated sidewalks and driveways for single-family residences are prohibited by Wisconsin's Uniform Dwelling Code For One and Two Family Residences.

Using a foodstuff for winter traction is an odd idea. Why waste it? Save it for animal geed or, cue the choir of singing angels, manufacture of ethanol.

Deer are attracted to corn, by the way. It will kill them if they eat it during winter as their stomach cannot digest it when they are starving. Hence, feeding corn to deer has been outlawed in Wisconsin.

You don't want croaked deer in your back yard, do you?

Sand is the best provider of traction when it's icy. Works in all temperature ranges. Salt and calcium chloride don't melt ice well when the temps are below zero.

Salt will cause spalling (the release of large, round pieces of concrete) on low-quality concrete like driveways. Not on highways, which are made of higher quality concrete. Calcium chloride is best for residential use. It won't cause spalling, and is less harsh on surrounding vegetation.

Michael Hasenstab said...

Added: Neither salt nor calcium chloride should be used on a wood deck or any other wood surface. Doing so will substantially shorten the life of the wood material.

Use dry sand or kitty litter for traction.

Original Mike said...

Swarming squirrels are the best. You can take out several with a single shotgun blast.

Elliott A said...

We use salt at the office. Don't want one of our patients to fall. Most years we have to use it once or twice at the most so we don't feel too guilty. Ultimately, go with "Safety First"

jeff said...

What's your position on bird shit? Lots of it. Hope the crows don't discover your feeding sidewalk.

mariner said...

But surely calcium chloride has been outlawed by the state of Wisconsin.

;)

rhhardin said...

A township I bike commute through went to gravel and dirt last year, and as a result had horrible icy roads for weeks.

Daily treatment with more gravel did no good.

It took until October for the last of the gravel to get swept off the roads afterwards.

This year they're back on salt.

I assume the gravel greens lost at the latest town council meeting after that experience.

Palladian said...

Perhaps douse the sidewalks with warm ethanol and then apply a match?

Or else I'm thinking a flame-thrower?

How about cleated shoes?

Or why not use the corn to attract the squirrels then kill a bunch of them with a shotgun and use the warm squirrel blood to melt the ice? Then you could toss the carcasses onto the walk and their tiny frozen skeletons would provide future traction!

jpr9954 said...

Swarming squirrels makes me think of easy pickings for Brunswick Stew!

http://www.astray.com/recipes/?show=Squirrel%20brunswick%20stew

Yum!

Triangle Man said...

Squirrels can provide reasonably good traction under some circumstances. Not as good as corn but better than ice if the are claws down.

MG Prime said...

Try white dolomite used in interior plaster work. It is about 3/32 inch in diameter. Because it is bright white, one can easily see if it has been tracked into the house. It is soft enough to crush to a fine powder on a hard surface which minimizes scratches. It is easy to vacuum up the small spheres and crushed powder. Cheap, clean and effective on icy sidewalks

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