It started to get cold yesterday afternoon and then it started to snow at the end of the day and then the snow finally started to pile up and stick.
I regretted the fact that I’d burnt the last of the season’s firewood a week ago.
But I was happy I’d swilled out the swale into which the road drains at the top of the hill.
The swale, basically a ditch, collects the water and allows it to soak down into the ground instead of flowing downhill and carving gullies and carrying soil away.
Drainage is sort of a big deal when it rains and one is atop a steep hill.
And then dawn broke out this morning, and everything was lovely and good, and the day perfect.
It’s been raining all night and all day and most of yesterday and the day before so the ground finally soaked up all it could and now it is draining down the road and a couple dozen little creeks along with the big creek have all filled with water and are moving it downhill as fast as possible.
Sadly, the bottom of the road is washing out, so it will take an hour or so with a shovel, wheelbarrow and rake before it’s in shape for the car to pass over.
That’s okay, the road is over 10 years old now, and it was poorly constructed with regard to drainage. After several days of rain on the top of a hill, drainage becomes something to be managed, lest runoff carve gullies or sweep important things away.
It rained for several hours last night, I could hear it pattering atop the cabin’s metal roof. When I woke up in the morning and took a walk under the scudding clouds there was little runoff or standing water, and the ground underfoot remained firm.
The rain was gentle and long lasting, which was good in that the ground was able to absorb most of it, but also something of a concern in the second week of March. We’re behind, and maybe slipping into another drought.
Meanwhile, time to burn brush!
I got up here a few days before the rain so was able to cut quite a bit of brush. Because of the threat of fire, the goal is to cut and remove as much as possible where it is close to the top of the hill.
A year ago, this whole hillside up to the edge of the road was covered with big and little manzanita. All hail the power of the DeWalt demolition saw and an endless supply of pruning blades.
It’s so much easier to cut paths in the winter and spring than in the summer and fall.
I came up the first week of March for one last cut and burn before it stops raining.
I was walking around the hill thinking “now what shall I cut down and burn before the next forest fire, hmmm?” when I noticed the tall manzanita was starting to flower. Holy cow! Flowers become berries, berries become more manzanita!
So it became clear the tall manzanita nearest the top of the hill needed to get cut down lest it spread a new load of seeds upon the ground.
Tall for this bunch is 6 to 10 feet, coming up and out from a bunched clump at ground level too massive to cut. And even if you did cut such a enormous plant as a single piece, it would weigh hundreds of pounds and good luck heaving that onto a burn pile.
Nope, it’s branch by branch and then uphill with the lot to the burn pile.
The law of the burn pile: it is always uphill.
Stumps scattered across hillside, with beer can for scale.
This one was spared. It’s huge, a tree, like the young oak just uphill.
I spent a couple exhausting days with the reciprocating saw, sometimes called a “sawzall”, sometimes called a “demolition saw”. The battery powered DeWalt demo saw is a thing of beauty for cutting manzanita, and so it was I spent a couple of days bending over and cutting 1 and 2 foot tall manzanita, the crop of the original much larger manzanitas which had grown on that hillside until March 2008 when they were bulldozed down, pushed into a pile, and burned.
Bulldozers are perfect for churning up the ground and burying the seeds and berries of whatever had grown upon the surface and lo, 10 years later, I am up here cutting down babies at their roots and heaving them into a file to be burnt.
Hopefully the cycle is broken and I have cut them down before they have had a chance to mature to the point of making berries.
So: two exhausting days, then an exhausting morning making a fire and heaving the recently cut manzanita into the flames as the forecasted snow started to blow in on the wind.
A bunch of hillside cleared, and whole bunch more to go.
Right after the Conifer guys fixed the Internet and left, it started to flurry snow off and on. It’s really cold up here the last couple of weeks or so, and rain and snow were promised in the weather forecast.
As soon as it started to snow enough to keep the forest from burning down, I got down to the business of burning brush. No matter how cold it is, it’s warm when one is throwing brush into a blaze, and even something of a pleasure in a snow storm.
The snow fell off and on all night, and when I woke up the world looked like this.
Brr. It was really really cold in the morning.
The snow started to melt pretty quickly in the sun, as it always does, though it was only 20 degrees.
It started raining last night in the wee hours and kept up through a grey wet dawn.
Brother Nick put on his almost dry gloves and trudged down to the bottom of the hill to a nice little meadow where we’d spent the previous day cutting brush, pruning low tree branches and dragging it all into a burn pile for the expected rain.
Soon, the white smoke of his attempts to induce wet wood to burn rose over the glade and was dispersed north by the wind.
I dragged a handful of dry paper and cardboard down to my burn pile and managed to get it going and spent several hours feeding it while getting rained on.
When the stacked piles of dead manzanita disappeared, I started picking up the loose stuff on the ground and walked amidst some pines when I noticed that most of them were foaming.
Foaming as if with soap bubbles. In the case of a couple of trees, foaming a lot, with the foam puddling at the base of the tree.
In all the years of visiting this place, I’ve never seen pine trees do this.
So I asked the smartest person I know what was going on. I asked Google.
Pine sap has fatty molecules like soap that lather up in a heavy rain.
Particulate matter adheres to the pine bark during the dry times, and during a rain, alters the surface tension of water dripping down, air gets in which creates bubbles, the bubbles collect at the base of the tree and look like foam.
The pines all have slime flux.