I started "winter operations" at Butter Valley over the 2010 Christmas Holiday Season. First was just a short trip around the pattern, next a 45 minute flight with my son to introduce him to the airplane. After that I did another solo flight to work on my basic airwork and landing pattern. The last flight of the year was with my sister, again just an intro flight.
I learned a lot. Proper tie-downs, fueling the plane from gas cans, ice and snow removal (plane and runway) and generally how to operate out of a small non-towered field. None of this stuff is written down, it is the DOING that teaches.
An example: The 'little blizzard' left us with patches of snow and the above freezing temperatures gave us some unfrozen soggy sod for a taxiway. I had less then half of a fuel load, but two full sized occupants in the cockpit. When the nose wheel didn't respond while taxiing to the run up it was easy to believe that it was slogging through the wet turf. The longer then normal takeoff roll could be attributed to some ice in the wheel pants, or the heavy load, but in no case did I think any thing was wrong. Until I tried to back taxi after a normal (smooth) landing and found that full power wasn't enough to get her turned around. Shut 'er down and inspect to find a nearly flat nose wheel.
With parents and relatives watching I got out the tow bar and pulled her back down the center of the runway, and when sure it was safe restarted the engine (hot start procedures) to taxi back to the tie down spot. Fortunately I had some help to keep the situation under control and keep the on lookers off the active runway.
Yes, I did preflight which included checking tires. Yes, I will check even more closely for now on. Yes, there is light maintenance on the field, and I did go over to meet Harry. I can get his help next week to troubleshoot and repair the tire.
There are dozens of small but important lessons I've learned just in this one short month of airplane ownership. 2011 is going to be a real learning experience.