Mark and I had a ditch burning date last evening. He worked on one side of the pasture and I worked on the other. The dogs went with him digging for gophers along the way.
The mourning doves and robins kept me company. I swear the robins get louder as dusk approaches; or maybe it’s just that the world gets quieter.
I’m glad to burn with Mark. Not so much by myself. With him close by I never have to worry about the fire getting away from me. It’s satisfying when there is enough weeds or dead grass to carry the flame along so that each waterway gets a buzz cut before the first stream enters. And as we appreciate what fire can do, we’re careful to extinguish the flames just as they clear the embankment. Plant material, old and new, protects the structure. Our sand ditches can be fragile if left naked.
One spring when we were newlyweds, I got adventurous. Mark was teaching at the nearby high school and I decided to burn ditch over at the “Bartausky Place.” I was doing fine until the fire got into the willows along the large adjoining canal. I panicked. I had a thermos along that I dunked into the canal to throw on the flames, but the vegetation kept popping. I figured Mark’s last class was almost over so I drove into town for his help. He knew I was in trouble just looking at my red face and near tears expression. He followed me back, assured me the willows would fill back in and saved the day. It wasn’t the last time.
Why do humans love fire? The flames are beautiful for sure. And their power is breathtaking. There’s no tool to compare with fire for many purposes. What makes me cranky is when country dwellers think they need to burn weeds and old grass along fences, edges, etc. to create a clean slate for new growth. What they don’t realize is the shelter and concealment for birds and other small creatures they’re eliminating. Old organic matter feeds soil life, moderates soil temperatures and holds moisture in. Nature isn’t tidy for a reason.
|you'll need a pitchfork|