Farming: Part 9: Fire

My tractor is sized, designed for, and properly hitched it to a splendid two bottom plow but it was all for naught. The furrows I’d made the year before had taken root and formed foot high weed barricades of doom. Even the ATV kept getting stuck in the mess. The rest of the field was a mess too.

What little social capital I’d built up was ebbing. There can be no respect in the rural hinterlands for a guy who can’t grow a crop. The locals had surely dismissed me as an inept failure. They were right. I might as well shave my beard and quit homesteading entirely. A fool who can’t plow might as well form an interpretive dance troupe and become as publicly useless to reflect the inner failure indicated by his field. No amount of deer hunting and firewood stacking could save my reputation.

So long as the field was in disarray the pressure was on.

I decided my tractor simply lacked the balls to plow untilled sod. I’d need to either find a one bottom plow or feed my tractor steroids. I couldn’t find a one bottom plow.

Weeds were another issue. It seemed to me that no tractor could plow a field if the weeds were too thick. Remember, plows aren’t about brawn. They cut, or slice, or slide, or “fly” through the soil. They don’t just bludgeon it. If a real farmer had my field he’d turn to other implements in his toolbox. He might need a brush hog to cut down the weeds? Maybe a cultivator to break up the sod? Maybe a dose of glyphosate to kill the roots? I had none of this.

I turned to the only tool I could find on a budget of zero; fire! I decided to use my big monkey brain to clear the weeds by releasing nature’s energy to my ends. This is a lot like needing a ditch but lacking a shovel and therefore setting off a self sustaining nuclear chain reaction instead.

I got a permit, so quit thinking I’m just a damn pyromaniac. I’m all about being legal.

Before ignition I tried to mow a “fireline”. This vaguely cleared some of the burnable material in some of the area until I ran over loose fencing wire and my mower deck toasted out. So much for that. Then I burned (and extinguished) small patches along the mowed line. I wanted to establish a blackline which the fire wouldn’t cross. (Thankfully most of the field was bordered by a dirt road.)

It was too much to do myself. In desperation I called a friend; enter the Foxinator. With her help (and a couple other folks dumb enough to pitch in) we inched the blackline around the field. Mrs. Curmudgeon wisely cleared out of Dodge.

I was cautious. A few yards lit, let it burn out, light a few more yards. Slow and steady. Keep it cool.

It was taking forever. I’ve fought wildfires as a job (and structure fires too) but it’s a whole different stress level when you’re the guy with the match. I was super nervous. There is no upper limit to how bad it could go. Suppose, despite careful planning and diligent effort, the whole thing went pear shaped? I had visions of a firestorm raging through towns, villages, and orphanages. There would be newspaper articles about the moron who couldn’t afford a decent tractor so instead he burned out six farms and the nearest grain elevator. I would be tarred and feathered! I would deserve it.

Meanwhile, I’d become a “thing of interest”. Our road has only a few houses. We might see one vehicle go by every hours at most. (That’s all the traffic I want!) As I was out there touching off two foot high flames in little strips, it seemed like every damn car in a ten mile vicinity cruised by. They’d roll along, slow to nearly a halt, maybe walking speed. Being friendly (not wanting to alienate the neighbors) I’d wave. Then, as if they’d been caught watching porn through a keyhole, they’d look straight ahead and zoom away. Really? Is that how you’re going to play it? Sixteen cars pass in the last half hour and they’re all going to pretend that this is their evening commute?

One and only one neighbor came by in person. Even though I make fun of him, he was the only person with the balls to speak to me personally. He’s pretty friendly and frankly he deserves some sympathy for having me as a neighbor. He’s got a big ATV (actually a UTV) and never leaves it. As far as I can tell the ATV is in charge and the guy is just along for the ride. I’ve never seen him actually walk but I’ve seen the ATV go everywhere. To the mail box, down the road, to visit his horses, with a rifle on hunting season, etc… Usually he’s clutching a lite beer and smiling. I joke that the ATV is sentient and the driver is just there for disguise. He, like everyone else, inched past on the road. I waved to him. He sighed and drove across the field to where I was standing. Walking was out of the question. From the seat of his ATV he launched into a story about how this very day his brother’s uncle’s cousin had just had a fire that jumped six paved lanes and run amok and it took two local fire departments to put it out. It was obviously bullshit.

“Today?” I said.

“Oh yeah, just today. Really dry out.” He said.

The ground was still ice. He’d just driven his ATV over the ash of burned grass and I was moving at the speed of a glacier. His storytelling somewhat annoyed me.

“Want a beer?” He said.

All was forgiven.

Alas all he had was lite beer and I’d rather get kicked in the face.

“No thanks. But I appreciate the visit.”

With that he headed back to his house, or rather the ATV did and he was still sitting in it. Somehow he lumbered up and over the big furrows I’d made without spilling a drop of the beer that was in his hand. (In retrospect I’ve rarely seen him without a can welded into his left hand.) Nice guy though.

More to come.


About Adaptive Curmudgeon

I will neither confirm nor deny that I actually exist.
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1 Response to Farming: Part 9: Fire

  1. MaxDamage says:

    It’s too late now, but did you ever think of just unbolting one of the moldboards on your plow? Twice the work but half the effort, suitable for a 20hp tractor cutting through weeds.

    And you needed a permit? Really? For fire? What else are they going to take as your God-given right and only allow you to have at their whim? Tools? Beer? Chain saws? The garden? This sort of regulation has to be stopped immediately else everything this country stands for could be lost — we’ve already lost the right to trim tall cottonwoods with primacord from a safe distance, necessitating we climb trees with chain saws and endanger our very lives else the sheriff will return and by golly he’s not going to let us off with a warning and it’s a good thing we’d used up all the primacord supply already or we’d really be in trouble…

    To be fair, the noise did sort of upset his parent’s dog, and his parents are my neighbors so I should be a little more considerate and at least warn them if not invite them. So, yeah. My bad.

    – Max

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