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The Burn Pile


I love a great burn pile.  It must be contained and controlled, of course, but I love watching random wood clippings, dirty hay and old cardboard boxes burn.  Or at least I used to.  Back when we lived on gumbo clay which did not support much grass and where my burn piles were not likely to spread, it was wonderful. 

When I lit the first burn pile after we moved out here to Colorado County, TX, I didn't realize the conditions are totally different here.  We have sandy loam soil which supports great grass growth.  And I lit that first fire with no water available.  What the hell was I thinking?  The fire took off across the pasture and was headed for my neighbor's newly baled hay field.  Yes, 30 acres of round bales were in serious jeopardy.  I called the local volunteer fire department and they came running.  It took them about 5 minutes to put out the ever spreading fire.  Robert, Peggy's son, and I had struggled with that fire for 45 minutes to no avail.

So fast forward to our current burn pile.  Because I am very wary of burning out here and because our burn piles usually go up like a rocket, I almost never want Ron to start the burn pile.  I would be more comfortable with both our kids and their spouses here with us.  And maybe our hired hand and six guys from the feed store.  I'm afraid if something happened we might not be able to handle it on our own.

No surprise, Ron took offence at my lack of confidence in his burning ability.  Objectively, he does a great job and has never had a fire get away from him.  He knows how to burn a pile of clippings, dirty hay and old cardboard boxes with the best of them.  But it still makes me nervous.  And as I resisted burning the pile it just kept getting larger and larger.  We had trees growing in the center of our burn pile that had started from clippings and seeds.  

Peggy and I were packing up for the Houston Fiber Fest last month when Ron decided it was time to set the burn pile alight.  I was furious.  Was the wind supposed to pick up?  What about the storm clouds?  Was it going to rain or just blow?  As it turned out, I did not need to worry.

Ron did a craftsman's job with the fire.  He lit one corner of our very large burn pile and the fire worked its way slowly around the perimeter and finally into the center.  It was a wonderfully orderly fire.  We had a lot of green in that burn pile - trees, bushes and grass were all growing nicely on our burn pile so it did not go up like a rocket.  Ron tended it all day and by the end of the day not much was left.  Ron has gone back out there a couple of times in the weeks since to gather up what he could of the remaining burnables and set them on fire again.  

We are not yet to the point of being able to mow the burn pile area.  There are still a few large limbs not fully burned and the ground is very uneven with lots of holes.  There are some limbs that are mostly buried in the dirt/ash.  A couple of the trash trees that were growing in the center of the burn pile are still standing although they look dead.  If those trees make it, I'm happy to keep them but we won't know that for some time yet.  And we will need to have the area worked over with a tractor to smooth it all out.