Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Country Living

The nice thing about the long, cold, wet winter is the limited availability of yardwork. Since we both work out of the house, we sit cooped up inside all day leading to scintillating lunchtime conversation:

“Anything in the news today?” St. Pauli Girl will ask.
“Nope. Anything new on Facebook?”

Then we stare at each other until dinner when we repeat the conversation. Every ten days or so, St. Pauli Girl will ask:

“I’m going to town, do you need anything?”
“I reckon not.”

And that has been our country living this winter. The trees did not shed their leaves here until December. Hence, while most people are thinking about planting gardens in March, we are raking leaves.

There is a long list of things I never thought I would do in my life: be an opera singer, build a car from scratch with my partner Sonny, get waterboarded, etc. Having a burn pile is somewhere in the top 100. A burn pile is where you put things that you used to throw in the dumpster in the alley behind your house. When the pile gets really big, you burn it.

Actually, it’s not even that good, because you can only burn things like leaves, tree limbs, and other natural items. No real trash. And so what do you do with your old Camaro, Trans Am, or pick-up camper top? You leave it parked in the yard where archaeologists will discover it 10,000 years from now. You might think it’s fun to laugh at country folk who leave old vehicles, appliances, tires and chainsaws scattered about the yard. But seriously-- what do you do with all that stuff when you can’t throw it away or burn it? You dump it as far away from the house as possible, out of sight. Or pay hundreds—thousands--of dollars to have it hauled off.

Prior to last week, we had only burned the burn pile once in a year. The area had been in a drought, under a burn ban for two years. One day, a nice heavy spring storm rolled through. Someone we worked with commented , “Just watch, tomorrow the whole county will go up in smoke.” And it did. You learn to take advantage of the limited time between burn bans.

(Except after we started our fire, we found out the burn ban had just been put back into effect. Country living takes getting used to.)

So over the past few weeks, we’ve groomed the yard and created a burn pile that would make any bonfire-loving Aggie proud. St. Pauli Girl decided to light it last Saturday. After spreading diesel fuel over the pile, a single match sent a raging ball of fire skyward. Armed with a garden hose, St. Pauli Girl watched nervously. A sudden gust of wind pushed smoke and flames toward the neighbors which would have been alright except for the dead oak tree standing between us and them. And I mean really dead, with long, very dry limbs hanging almost down to the ground. The flames nipped at the dry branches, singeing some of them. But in a matter of minutes, the flames died down and our burn became quite manageable again.

Of course I heard about this after the fact. I was busy doing much more important things like blogging or something. St. Pauli Girl said she was about to come and get me, but she was afraid to leave the inferno unattended.

We spent the rest of the day feeding the fire. To help with future burns, I pulled down all of the overhanging dead tree limbs and threw them into the fire. At the end of the day, we sat and watched the last remnants burn down. As the sun set, Mr. Roo (our rooster) led the four other chickens back into the pen. Two of the chickens were still upset because they had built a nest in the burn pile. (St. Pauli Girl reported quite a symphony of squawking when she pulled them out just before the burn.)

We enjoyed the campfire smell and debated roasting hot dogs over the coals. The chickens worked their way around the yard, scratching and pecking for bugs. I marveled at this country life as if I were Mr. Douglas from “Green Acres.” I noticed Mr. Roo getting a little rambunctious as he herded the hens this way and that. Then he pounced on the brown hen, bit her neck and well, had his way with her. It lasted maybe three seconds (ladies insert your own joke here).

Ah, the ways of nature, the circle of life! (Fireside, we eventually listed every “Lion King” song we could think of.)

Then suddenly, Mr. Roo pounced on another hen and had another three second romp.

“Mr. Roo is feeling frisky,” St. Pauli Girl said.

“Well, it is Saturday night.”

A few minutes later, Mr. Roo took his third partner of the evening. Three in ten minutes! (Gentlemen insert your own joke here.) This was bordering on chicken porn; I was waiting for the inevitable hen-on-hen scene. But as darkness fell, the hens and their man wandered into the coop where I’m sure Mr. Roo had a very good night’s sleep.

So these are the things you learn living in the country: chickens actually have sex, you should burn the burn pile when you can, cut down dead tree branches hovering near the burn pile, and roosters actually have a lot of sex. Especially on Saturday night.

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