There's pluses and minuses that come with living on ten wooded acres in rural south Salem, Oregon. Our property is a heck of a lot of work to maintain.
But some of that work is so pleasant, it's better termed fun. Especially if that word, fun, is loosely defined.
Today Laurel, my wife, and I tackled a large burn pile. Originally it consisted of a massive amount of branches that I'd hauled up to our burn area from a pile under two tall redwoods -- remnants of some tree work we'd had done after a destructive ice storm last February.
Here's Laurel tossing a branch onto the super-hot fire this afternoon.
It had bothered me to see the branches scattered under the redwoods.
So over the span of several days last summer, I filled up our nifty electric cart with supplies -- chain saw, gas, bar oil, water, safety gear -- and worked away at cutting up the largest branches into a size suitable to carry to the burn pile.
When most of the branches had been hauled away, I liked the way the ground under the redwoods looked.
The redwoods seemed happy also, though tree emotions can be hard to discern.
I had a relaxing 73rd birthday on Friday. Saturday was a day of labor. Laurel had been asking when I was going to get around to cutting up a bunch of wild plum trees that had collapsed in the ice storm. Some were still alive, but laying on the ground.
They were on a trail just a few feet from our yard. So I spent three or four hours with my chainsaw cutting the base of each tree, then laboriously removing the branches that had gotten tangled up with other fallen trees and surrounding brush. I carried the trunks and branches to our lawn, then cut up the larger pieces so we could carry them to the burn pile.
Today was set everything on fire day. The Jefferson Fire District said it was OK to burn. The weather was dry and sunny. We were tired from the work we'd done the day before, but had enough energy for the burning.
I've written several other blog posts about the Joy of a Burn Pile: "Firing up a big burn pile reminds me: life is ablaze, yet ends in embers," and "A big burn pile reminds me why we're not in a retirement community." I find it really satisfying to see a lot of wood that we've carried to the burn pile go up in smoke.
However, this year smoke from the fire was pleasingly minimal. The branches that were under the redwoods were dry to start with, and they'd spent the summer under a tarp getting even drier.
So we were able to get the fire going strong, then gradually add green branches from the wild plum trees I'd cut yesterday. I'd worried that the green wood wouldn't burn, but that worry faded as I saw that even green branches didn't stand a chance against the high heat of the fire.
We started burning at abut 1:15 pm. It only took us 90 minutes or so to get rid of the branches. Here's Laurel and Mooka, our dog, contemplating what we had wrought.
When all of the wood had been put on the burn pile, I enjoy pushing long unburnt pieces onto the hot coals, doing my best to avoid setting fire to myself. I wear leather gloves, though I took them off for this photo of Old Man and His Burn Pile.
The brown area in front of the fire used to be a pile of branches about five feet high.
A burn pile thus is akin to natural magic. You start with a huge pile of wood. You end up with a small amount of ashes. Plus heat and some smoke. By late afternoon the fire had shrunk even more, with all the wood, both dry and green, almost totally consumed.