Slash and Burn

Last weekend there was an inch or two of crusty snow on the ground in the orchard, so we headed to Maine to burn the brush that Vance had piled up in the middle of the clearing when he stumped it out. The usual Maine custom for burning a brush pile is to fill up an old tire with newspaper, douse the newspaper in kerosine, stuff it in the pile, drool used motor oil over the whole works, and torch it off. I figured that in the spirit of ecological responsibility I’d try a cleaner approach, and the brush was pretty dry, so I cut a hole in the side of the pile with a chainsaw, laid a fire inside with a few pieces of paper and an armload of pine kindling, and set it going. There was a strong, gusty northwest wind, and the pile lit off right away. Pretty soon it looked like this:


At its height there were some pretty impressive sheets of flame coming off of it, but with the recent snow and rain there was no danger of spreading. I dropped a medium sized pine tree from the south side of the clearing towards the fire, and Emily and I cut it up and fed it in, with the exception of a 10 foot butt log that Dave will have sawed into boards. By evening the fire was pretty much burned down to ashes and some of the bigger chunks, which we gathered up and piled together so they would keep burning down. In rough numbers, I suspect a total of about 100 gigajoules were liberated, mostly over about a 10 hour period, or approximately 2 megawatts average.

As I was clearing the orchard I had dreams of renting a chipper and turning the brush pile to mulch, and it’s a shame to waste all that good organic matter, but time constraints being what they were, this was the best we could do. I do hope to get a chipper in the spring to grind up the brush that I’m generating in clearing the perimeter of the orchard and down towards the cove for the maples.


One Response to “Slash and Burn”

  1. Keith Says:

    Ok, so you started the fire in an environmentally sound way, but now what are you going to do with the old tire?

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