A few years ago, I exercised some seriously bad judgement. Judgment so bad that I ended up earning a spot on the local news. The headline ran something like “Local idiot starts big fire.” Let me explain.
We have not had the privilege of buying “good land” in our homestead journey. We’ve not had the romantic, pastoral, ideal pastures where our animal can get big bites of thick, lush grass. At our previous property, our land was incredibly sandy, and the pasture was in very poor condition after years of any type of management. There was a thick blanket of years worth of dead grass that choked out any potential for new life. The best thing that can be done in this situation is to unleash the cleansing power of fire. The worst thing that could be done would be to do this on a very windy day. Guess what I did!
I still have bad memories of just how quickly my one little match turned that pasture into a giant fireball headed towards my neighbor’s house and the beginnings of a large section of woods that very well could have started to burn.
Fire departments were called, neighbors were upset, bill was received, headlines were made. I am still thankful that no real damage or loss occurred. You might even call it a successful burn… (No, Jessica?)
Fastforward a couple of years to our current property, which was home to a pine plantation forest for about 30 years. This time, it’s not a thick blanket of grass, but of pine straw that chokes the earth. We had a our property logged when we bought it, leaving massive piles of the unusable tree tops. These piles needed to go. The pine straw blanket needed to go. They needed to burn! (Does that sound as sinister as it feels to write it)
What else is experience but a great teacher! This time around I was analyzing and thinking on my strategy for months, identify where potential hazards may lie, studying the ground in between piles and our borders, getting to a point where I was confident in where fire would spread and would not. I called my town chairman and obtained a burn permit. I called our local fire department and let them know what I was planning. They told me- and I quote- “Have fun.” OK.
I lit my first pile at about 10:30 a.m., and lit my last piles at about 7 p.m. At points, there were flames probably forty feet in the air. Pretty intimidating. I have never been so thankful for the due diligence that I put into a project, because fire is really serious stuff. At about 9:30 pm, a storm began approaching (which I also was expecting and was all part of my plan). Unfortunately, for a good while there just a dramatic increase in wind, with no rain. Smoldering fires were given new life, and for the first time a little smidgeon of concern crept into my gut. I’ve seen what wind can do with a fire.
Earlier that night, when I was checking on my fires, I just walked our land and prayed. I prayed that God would transform this land, that He would cleanse it with this consuming fire, that He would make our land and our animal fruitful, that He would help to be a steward of this land that He has blessed us with. And there I was, a few hours later, in the dark and making my way to start filling buckets to get those fires out, when the rain began. Sweet, blessed rain. Apparently ahead of schedule, according to updated forecasts. Thanks, God.