Sunday, February 24, 2013

(Feb 24) Burn, Baby, Burn

Came back with Riley and the girls today. Andrea brought a friend to spend the day with. (Lets just say that was a disaster and leave it at that! Nuf said!) We decided to fire up the new burn tub, our 4' wide round water trough. I fashioned a wire screen as a topper and we loaded it up with logs and brush. Soon after we lit it we had a roaring fire. Wow! I had about 8 - 4' logs plus loose timber packed in. We had failed to appreciate that the 1000° fire would light the leaves on the ground around the giant fire pit. I quickly raked the debris away as we realized the enormous burning power. No more chopping branches into 8" pieces so they would fit in the chiminea. We would be burning entire branches by the dozens. 50 years of neglected woods had left a lot of downed trees. Yes, we would keep much of it for heating fuel but there was lots to deal with. I'm not one of those that wants the land cleared. Hell, I don't even want to rake the leaves if I don't have to. I just want to clear the debris and fallen branches so it doesn't look like the aftermath of a storm all of the time. We reloaded the pit several times and finally let it burn down to a pile of embers about 2' deep. Realizing it would be a long time before these all burned out we decided to stop feeding it. Even after the flames had died down, you couldn't sit any closer than about 10' away. Kim brushed her shoe against the pit at one point when repositioning the screen and watched the front bumper of her shoe melt away. Eventually, when the bottom has burned out of this trough, we could use this as a burn "ring" to get rid of tree stumps that are in the way. The wife has seen plans for some of the really large ones. Hollow them out and use them as planters or use them as small cafĂ© tables in the woods. But face it, most of them have to go. Put the ring around them, build an inferno for 2-3 days (attended burn) and move on to the next. Better than paying $100 each for stump removal or putting up with them in the way for years.

We also learned several good lessons today. Embers burn a long time and should not be underestimated, and walkie-talkies are more reliable than cell phones. Kim had decided to empty out the ashes from lunch the day before in the chiminea. Problem was they were put in a paper sack and set on a pile of leaves. Yes, I know, sounds ridiculous now but that's the way it happened. It had been long enough to cook and finish hamburgers for lunch. Delicious, I must add. We decided to take a walk through to the back of the property. Sabrina was asleep so we left her lounging an a chair.  As we were returning to camp from our walk, we heard Sabrina yelling for help. As I ran closer I could see her running back and forth out to the path and waving for me to come. I see a tower of smoke near the camp table as I near. I grabbed the rake as I ran by and found a burning ring of about 12' at the edge of our camp. There had been some embers in the sack of ashes from earlier that morning.  They eventually burned through and ignited the sack and a pile of leaves spreading fairly quickly. A felled tree nearby was also burning but had acted as a stop for one side of a live tree. Sabrina had awakened to the smell of smoke and the fire already going but was unsure how to stop it. She worked at it a bit with a shovel but the soil was not very loose and she didn't have much luck. She tried calling me but my phone was in the truck charging. She tried calling Kim but we were out of cell coverage. The fire got our brand new camp table we had bought that morning, a bag of bird seed and a couple of tools. I worked for about 30 min making sure we had contained all the burning material into a central pile and putting out the log. We realized how close to disaster we had come and we worked on a plan for future ventures. (1) Don't put anything from the chiminea in a paperbag (duh!) being extra careful with ashes and such! (2) Keep a large pump spray with water available along with numerous gallon jugs. (3) Showing the kids how to deal with fires. Rakes work better that day than shovels. (4) No fires on windy days. This was pretty calm by any measure but it was a good wake up call.

Firing up the new burn trough

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