A week ago, at least a dozen pine trees were cut down in our yard. D. and M. left the debris scattered all over the meadow, for James and me to clean up later.

Since the burn season officially ends on May 1st — after which it is necessary to get a permit — we decided to burn the many branches scattered throughout the meadow last Saturday, before conditions became too dry.

I played with the Modesto Symphony Wednesday through Friday, while James completed his interior painting project at the family house in Sacramento. We stayed there for three days, then I had two days free before having to perform the final kiddie concert in Modesto.

So we decided to come home on Friday afternoon, were able to spend all day Saturday and then return to the valley on Sunday. It was a lot of driving, but we really wanted to be HOME — even for such a brief time.

Shortly after noon on Saturday, James went out to the meadow with loppers and began trimming the branches off the usable tree trunks for kindling and small starter firewood.

Pine is good for this, because it’s soft and fast-burning in the Franklin stove. Later, oak or other hard wood is added after the fire is well established.

I joined James with another pair of loppers and our work began in earnest.

There were four large piles of debris to deal with in the side-meadow. We soon amassed enough branches to haul off to the burn pile, so James drove the pickup truck into the meadow and loaded it while I continued to lop off branches from the next tangled heap of limbs.

Most of the locals would not save any of these branches and might laugh if they knew that we were doing this, but we feel strongly that it’s our obligation to save as much of the tree as possible, after cutting their lives short.

We placed the burn pile near the well, so that we would be as close to the water source as we could get. When the fire was roaring and crackling with the green pine branches, it became my job to tend it while James continued to load the stacks of greenery from the meadow into the truck.

Hauling. Chopping. Tossing branches onto the fire. Adjusting the branches on the burn pile. More hauling, chopping, tossing etc. The non-stop cycle continued for hours. It turned into a meditation, and time floated by in billows of fragrant smoke.

At last, the sun was about to set and we were down to chopping up the last pile of branches. Whew. We put in a seven-hour day.

We sat in our folding chairs near the burn-pile and contemplated the mountain of coals, which looked like a miniature city on fire.

James joked that we were indulging in a redneck activity, settin’ ’round the burn-pile faahr watching sh** burn. Wellsuh, guilty as charged I guess.

My muscles ached from the unaccustomed labor. James is in a bit better shape because he does more physical work on the land, but said that he ached too. My thighs and lower back growled a protest from all that bending and lifting.

But it felt really good to work outside on that lovely sunny mild afternoon in early Spring. It was beneficial for both body and soul, and we’d like to think that we made the best of the tree-cutting situation.

Here’s a video of the crackling fire. If you listen closely, you might hear James sighing a time or two. We worked hard that day!

Now there are piles of the larger trunks still residing in the meadow, that need to be cut up with the chain-saw and then stacked in the barn to dry out over the next six months. Only one pile of green branches remain to burn. I don’t know if we’ll make the May 1st deadline; we’ll probably have to get a permit to burn the rest, or wait until Fall.

In the following picture, branches from a dead willow tree are in the foreground. James plans to use these to create a lattice-work effect in combination with mesh screen for our proposed Summer Kitchen. We will remove the outside wall and replace it with support-beams and a screen. The wall is practically falling down anyway!