Here's the Scoop: May 21, 2014

Burn, baby, burn
Sometimes, you just can’t rake rocks. Or shovel things. There are times when planting stuff is out of the question, too.
When you reach that point, a logical option is to burn something. Preferably, a large amount of something. It was good for news for me then, that I have been saving up a few large piles of brush for just such an occasion.
I’ve had a few pretty darn big piles of branches lying around for a while now. The small animals liked the maze of wood, leaves and hemlock needles, but the novelty quickly wore off on me. I counted down the days until the state’s annual burning ban would expire. As luck (the good variety) would have it, just a few days after the ban was over, we had the kind of rainfall that begins to inspire visions of Arks in this area.
We were fortunate that no flooding was reported around here, but the earth certainly got a well-deserved soaking. The conditions were perfect for torching up Mt. Brushmore. Both of them.

Torching it up
I had a lot of commitments on Saturday, so I didn’t get around to firing up the pile until late in the afternoon and only sort of “warmed up” the stack. Sunday, however, would be dedicated to a Big Brush Bonfire. The rains had pretty much turned the areas on each side of Mt. Brushmore into small streams, mixed in with swampland. Time to fire it up for real.
The brush had been piled up for awhile, so it was pretty dry, despite the recent downpour. Tangled, too. Those of you who have experienced burning large brush piles realize that the process is not quite as easy as striking a match and standing back to bask in the glow.

Stick with it
Burning a decent-sized pile of brush is work — the hard variety. I’m proud to say that I’ve torched my share of brush over the years, but this pile was on the top of the heap in terms of difficulty. You see, this brush wasn’t merely piled — it was put into place as the remnants of a small-scale logging operation and been tightly stacked and packed using heavy equipment. Sardines would have had trouble squeezing into the mound.
Before the ceremonial match lighting, I cut out the usable pieces of firewood that I could reach (ironic, I guess). Then, it was time for flaming up. I think burn piles are where the term “feeding the fire” originated.
It doesn’t really matter how dry a pile is, if you don’t keep pulling apart the pile and adding to the hot spots, the burning just isn’t efficient. Since I wasn’t terribly worried about the fire spreading, I “heaped on” wood at a steady pace. This was hot, hard work. If the fire did start to get unwieldy, I was confident that I could just direct a spray of sweat at the flames and quickly bring them under control. The perfect fire suppression system.
— Brian Sweeney