Vermont Home Fires Burnin’

At Darlusz Zabagaiski’s insistence, I had my annual brush burn Saturday.

Darlusz is the Polish frog who has lived with me since spring and taken on the role of mascot and all-around muse and sometimes nag. He woke up Saturday morning and looked out at the snow-covered brush pile.

As we got ready to set the burn pile in my yard on fire Saturday, Darlusz, barely visible to the left of the shovel, is buried in snow.

“All dat snow on da pile iz no problem. You shovel a bit, you get underneath with da dry stuff and you light. You see,” he said.

I’m definitely a fire bug, having gotten in trouble constantly as a kid playing with fire, so the brush burn is fun for me. It’s a safe outlet, too. Nobody ever has to worry about me burning down their house for kicks, because I can do my brush pile.

I always burn a brush pile in my yard in early December. I’d already obtained a burn permit from the town of St. Albans for Saturday’s burn, but I was wondering if all the snow on the ground Saturday would get in the way.

“Ah, you good arsonist. You light pozar,” Darlusz said, using the Polish word for “fire”

It wasn’t encouraging when Darlusz joined me out there, hopped onto the brush pile and nearly disappeared beneath the snow.

“Ah you worry too much. It work,” he said.

I cleared as much snow off the pile as I could. There was nearly a foot of it. I’d invited Denis and his friend Jon to Saturday’s burn. I would meet Jon for the first time.  Denis loves bonfires, and he said Jon likes them too.

“The more the merrier,” I said.

Maybe I like fire than most people, but the majority of people can’t help being fascinated by blazes.  I don’t know why. Does the heat signify safety from the cold? Do flames hypnotize? Fires are a bit dangerous, do people like to be around things that are a little dangerous, to add spice to a mundane day?

In any event, Denis and Jon showed up, hot chocolate in hand to help me through the cold pre-fire set up in the snow.

The snow did get in the way at first. Usually, I can light a brush pile with one piece of paper and a match, as I am a good arsonist, but the melting snow meant I had to keep stoking the fire for the first ten minutes with pieces of crumpled up newspaper.

Jon, left and Denis, holding Darlusz, enjoy the burn pile in my St. Albans, Vermont back yard Saturday.

 It turned into a nice, hot satisfying fire within 20 minutes.    Denis and Jon stayed for about an hour, assessing the growing flames as they pushed their way slowly through the brush pile.

I had another immense pile of brush nearby, and started dragging the sticks and tree trunks and branches to the fire. A nice full body workout, which was an added bonus for me.

After Denis and Jon left, I dragged brush from one pile to the flaming bonfire for the next three hours. It was almost like a the year in review as I remembered where I got each branch that I threw on the fire. There’s the branches that fell across the driveway that windy November night. There’s another sizeable branch that fell from the giant poplars as  the wind gusted that Saturday afternoon in September.

Ah, the remnants of the tree I hated that I cut down in  August.  Branches from that nasty June thunderstorm.  The part of the lilac bush that was destroyed in a late April snowstorm. The grapevine I cleared in March. Finally, at the bottom of the pile, the branches I picked up from the yard during a February thaw. A nice year in review.  It was an excellent time to think about what I accomplished getting my landscaping in shape, and the piles of happy work I have in that regard in the coming years.

Through all this,  Darlusz stayed safely away from the flames, spending most of the afternoon in the shed playing with field mice.

By the time Jeff got home from work, I had burned up pretty much every branch I had. I was exhausted. Jeff likes fire too. He pushed sticks the fire missed into the flames with a metal rake. We shared some beer and just stared at the hot pulsing, mesmerizing coals.

I was exhausted and wet from working in the snow all day. I smelled of smoke and sweat, and it felt good.  Darlusz was unimpressed. “You need shower,” he said.

Night fell. Time to go in the house.  For much of the night, the remnants of the burn pile glowed. The house was safe and warm. Keep those home fires burning.

The next day, a thaw set in and much of the snow melted off the yard. Already, a few branches were littering the yard, brought down by storms in recent weeks.

No matter what, I accumulate enough branches each year for a big December burn. In twelve months, I’ll remember the sticks I saw in the yard yesterday as the basis for Burn Pile 2011.  I’m already looking forward to it.

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One Response to “Vermont Home Fires Burnin’”

  1. denis Says:

    you are a good arsonist. i want to be at your next bonfire.

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