A ninety-degree morning isn’t really what you look for in a day for burning brush but the pile had grown large and ugly and the air was calm. Within five minutes of me lighting the mess of dead branches, wood scraps and broken limbs, the red flames were lancing up thirty feet high, blacking leaves and shimmying small branches on the elm tree another ten feet higher than that.
Even though the grass, bushes and trees are still green and I was confident there was no risk of the fire spreading, I put a large trash can in the back of the pickup and filled it with water, just in case I found my optimism misplaced or my judgment a bit suspect. When the flames subsided to around ten feet high, I began raking up the long grass from my little reclamation project.
When we first moved here in 2011, the east lawn included three step-down levels and stretched from the house clear over to the tree line, nearly two hundred feet away. With an old small mower and another acre or so of grass that needed mowing twice a week in April and May, I fairly despised the steep banks of the transitions from each level to the next. With two horses and a drought last year, I gladly converted the two lower sections into pasture.
With one horse and ample rain in late spring this year, the grass had grown long and the weeds even longer. While Randa and I were eating breakfast on the porch last Friday, looking at the weeds and the big brush piles, I decided it was time for reclamation.
That evening, I took down the electric fence, pulled up the steel posts and then mowed with the Bush Hog. That left thick rows of heavy grass and weeds, leading me to the raking on Saturday morning. Within thirty minutes, I had blisters on both thumbs from the rubbing of the rake handle, even though I was wearing leather work gloves. Shade gave way to sun and my clothes soaked with sweat. By the time I finished five hours later, the blisters had broken and the skin had torn away.
I’ll have these little reminders for a week or so, but when we sit out on the front porch, we will be looking at trimmed lawn instead of overgrown vacant lot.
At the point of reclamation, regaining control of what has been surrendered is not an easy task. There may be a few blisters and a tired back. Be careful while burning the ugly and then bury the ashes. Work in the shade as long as you can but do not fear the sun. When you are done, there will be rest. And beauty.