You might wonder what Alyssa and I were doing in between our play times. Our principal job was fire-smarting. Since the 2017 fires, I have spent a lot of time clearing and burning dead tangles of fallen trees and rotten logs.. This has been mentioned several times in other posts.
The volunteers I had in April helped me with some of it, but we were not allowed to burn after April 15. This was ridiculous here as there was still snow on the ground. Politically, we are part of the Cariboo and spring is much earlier there. However, fines were going to be strict this year due to the covid in order to minimize unnecessary travel.
Conversely, we could legally burn on the first of September. But this was just as ridiculous as it was far too unsafe here. Because of the wet summers, the grass was high and any kind of wind would have driven a fire out of control.
So Alyssa and I built piles. We could not make big piles at first because if these caught, they could throw sparks. So we built smaller piles and ringed them with feeder piles.
Fall was nudging the seasons along.
Unfortunately we spent a lot of time working in scrub birch like this. Alyssa is wearing a blue shirt. She was absolutely tireless. I chainsawed stuff up – she dragged the material together.
The fall colours became briefly intense.
But they only lasted a couple of days as we had wind and rain. The rain was heavy.
Above is kale, below is pineapple weed.
My garden, by now, had reached the jungle stage. I let things grow like this as the migrating fall birds love the seeds.
But the rain meant we could start to burn – nearly two weeks after being allowed to do so.
To help us along, we got a little snow.
Now we could burn in earnest. Some of the piles were a bit hard to start but once they get going, anything will burn.
Alyssa was due to depart. She wanted to spend some time with friends and family before she flew to England, then she had to isolate there for 2 weeks before starting her winter’s tree-planting. But I got her to help with one more job. Because of the wet summers and much greater use, our road is deteriorating badly. We filled one puddle with four loads of coarse soil from a little quarry nearby. (Alyssa took this picture.)
The day after Alyssa left, it snowed much more heavily.
I visualized having to shovel the burn piles clear to get them started, but it melted. The damp air created hoarfrost.
However, then we had a big dump (three times more than was forecast.). Below I am moving the snow with the plough on the ATV.
This was only just past the middle of October. We’ve had a lot of snow by the end of October in the past but some years, like last winter, we don’t get much until January. And then, unprecedentally, the temperature dropped to -22C for a couple of days. Very unusual so early in the year. This was going to make my burning job much harder.
The air was hazed with ice crystals.
But, unbelievably, it warmed up. A dramatic sunset presaged more unstable weather.
It turned the whole world pink
And then it rained, and all the snow melted.
Then it froze again.
And we had a very rare clear sunset. I don’t remember when the last one occurred.
I was lucky with the weather reprieve, and now I started burning the big piles.
Problem was, in one area, the rotten aspens that Alyssa had stacked so well were now sitting in frozen water.
The middle of the fire would burn out leaving the outside still anchored in the ice.
I got a splitting mall and knocked most of them down and pushed them together for the night. Normally there would be embers in the morning to continue the burn. But the frozen water had melted with the heat and extinguished the coals. The remains of four of the piles will have to be dragged to drier ground and dealt with next year.
More snow was threatening, but there was one more fire I wanted to make. It hadn’t yet been piled. A fallen spruce and dead beaten down willows made a very big fire hazard.
But the stuff was light to carry and the ground was dry so the embers burned all night and everything was consumed. That is the last burning I will do this year, but a huge amount has been achieved.