Those crazy warm temperatures last week had me ready to bust out the summer sheets. Then BAM! back to the 30’s at night, which is much more February-ish.
It’s hard to resist turning on the heater when I wake up in the morning to 59 degrees in the apartment. It’s been about 34 degrees on the patio. So when I stumbled out of bed yesterday, I turned the oven up to 500 and got a bowl of dough ready for the oven – before I knew it the apartment was warm and smelling fabulous.
But we have another plan to keep our PG&E bill down to a dull roar – whenever we can we pack up and head for our camp shack in the hills. I always turn off all the power strips on the way out, the only things we leave running are the refrigerator and the chest freezer.
Up here we are working on fire clearance, although it’s been too dry to burn, we wander around the woods with rakes and chain saw, clear “fire breaks”, and make piles for later. Our kids made bike trails around our place years ago, digging out a single track with log jumps and little bridges made of scrap wood. I try to keep that clean with a rake so I can meander around the place and look for good firewood.
After a few good windstorms, I noticed two dead black oaks that were hanging over the trail a little precariously – like arches. When I showed them to my husband he took the chainsaw down the trail and cut them into sections we could drag up the hill to our driveway, cut them up small enough for the stove. They had been standing dead for who knows how long – perfectly cured.
We spent yesterday wandering the woods for more dead trees, dragging them up the hill, cutting and stacking. My arms feel like Super Play Doh, but I got a very admirable stack of wood for my own stove, and a pile in the back of the truck for our kid and his girlfriend to burn in their new house. We sent him a picture – we’re so broke right now, that’s his birthday present.
He’s going to be 27 years old, I can hardly believe that. I was just cleaning out a drawer and found a picture of him wearing a diaper, holding on the side of a garden bed to take his first steps.
We were holding on to the side of the truck, exhausted, admiring our haul, when we noticed smoke was billowing up in the sky – the light on the ground turned that curious yellow color of forest fire.
We knew it was a controlled burn because we’d seen the signs all the way back in Chico – “Controlled Burn. Do Not Report” Yeah, they must get sick of fielding those calls. We had seen crews all through Fall and Winter, kids from California Conservation Core and some from the Salt Creek jail facility, slashing and stacking all the way across Butte Creek up toward Paradise. But we hadn’t seen any of those piles being torched when we drove in.
The smoke was overtaking the sun.
We sat and watched from our picnic table over lunch, the wind blowing steadily toward Chico. I realize – these people have crews, tools, water trucks – I would never have considered torching a pile at our place in that stiff breeze.
And then the wind shifted. Before we knew it the woods directly around us were filling with smoke.
And then the wind shifted back toward Chico again, just as we were thinking about baling out. We watched the smoke dance in the wind for the rest of the afternoon. But we never smelled it or felt overwhelmed as we continued to chainsaw and rake around our own piles.
I’m glad for this kind of work to be done, it’s long over due. It’s been too politicized with the Obama administration, now I’ve heard Trump is funding these fire safety clearance programs again and that’s fine with me.