Sweetheart Al bought me a pair of leather gloves today. Not the sleek, black leather dressy gloves he bought me at Christmas.
Today’s gloves are leather work gloves: two-tone brown, with extra padding over the knuckles and long wrists to cover the edge of sweatshirt sleeves.
I got the gloves because this weekend we start the annual spring work of cleaning out the brush and dead undergrowth that’s accumulated over the winter. As soon as the rains stop, we start the cleanup. It’s a never-ending job. And it’s essential.
This year we hired a crew for the hardest work – taking down and cutting up dead trees and cleaning off steep hillsides around our house and outbuildings.
Despite their work, we have many more acres to clean. We cut and stack brush, and haul dead limbs than have fallen during winter storms. We clear as many bulbous mistletoe growths as we can. Al cuts the lower mistletoe with special clippers, and shoots the higher growing balls loose with his rifle. As they fall to the ground, I gather them up and put them on the burn pile.
We both cut and haul, building large burn piles, which we light and watch to make sure the flames don’t escape.
With all the soggy soil and green growth still moist from rain, the chance of an escaped vegetation fire is slim. But if we don’t clean and burn as much dead stuff as we can, our place will be more vulnerable should a wildfire come raging through.
Summer, when the temperatures hover in the low 100s and the days shimmer with so much heat it’s hard to breathe, wildfires are a constant threat.
Most wildfires are caused by (you guessed it, humans). Someone carelessly flicks a cigarette or match out the car window, and it lands in tinder dry grass and the fire begins. Or someone doesn’t properly douse a campfire and the flames spread. And, of course, there are arsonists who set fires just for the "fun" of it.
California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection requires a 100-foot cleared perimeter around houses, barns and other buildings as wildfire protection. We try to clear 300 feet.
The clean-up work gets more difficult each year as our aging joints and muscles rebel. Our knees, back, arms, wrists, shoulders and necks hurt from the work. But the place looks better when we’re done. And we feel much safer.
In addition to safety, I love being out on the land. Today I got to see buttercups and shooting stars, some of the earliest spring wildflowers in these parts. Water was seeping into deer and coyote tracks in the mucky part of the pasture. And farther up the hill, I saw the first purple lupine of the season. Beautiful!
When Sweetheart Al pushed over a dead tree trunk, he was surprised by a gorgeous blue snake with an orange stripe down its side. He said the blue was a very intense Robin’s egg blue, and the orange racing stripe was brilliant.
After the blue snake slithered off, Al discovered a baby rattler nearby. It also slithered away without incident.
Although I didn’t see any snakes, I noticed that the hummingbirds are back, clicking happily as they check out nesting sites in the various trees.
And the poison oak is sprouting red. That means next weekend, we’ll have to get out there with the clippers and start cutting it back. Thank goodness for my new gloves. They keep my hands safe from the poison oak, and also protect against blisters. It’s always good to be properly attired for outdoor work.
To read more of my work, go to sunnylockwood.com
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