The Hunter has three standing goals every spring.
The first is to build a fire that can be seen from space. He is always eager to light that match, and for the past five years, we’ve managed some pretty spectacular fires.
This is largely due to the crazy weather we had in 2011: a tornado on June 1, a microburst at the end of July, an earthquake in August, followed a few days later by Hurricane Irene and finally, in October, 18” of heavy, wet snow, which left us without power for a week. (I should say ‘which left me without power for a week’ as The Hunter conveniently left for a conference in Reno the day after the snowstorm. Had I been blogging then, I imagine I would have had quite a lot to say about the differing quality of our lives during that cold, dark week.)
With that line-up of events, no matter how you look at it, 2011 was a memorable year weather-wise. By the end of it, we had piles and piles of cut up trees and branches. Much of it was pine, which wasn’t good for the fireplace, so to bring some order to the property, we decided to take advantage of the open burning season.
In theory, as long as we have filled out the forms at the fire station and obtained a permit, we are allowed to burn any day from the middle of January through the end of April. However, a windy day or a series of dry days can derail that and you must call each day that you want to burn to find out what that day’s status is. The fire can’t be started before 10 a.m. and must be out by 4 p.m. And finally you are only allowed to burn tree branches, brush, cane, driftwood and debris from tree trimming and pruning.
So many rules and so different from when I was small and my father would rake a pile of leaves to the edge of the street and throw a match on them. He wasn’t bothered by permits or phone calls. Those were also the days when we had an incinerator in our garage and burned all the household waste. These days burning leaves or grass is strictly forbidden (it says so right on the permit) and incinerators are highly illegal.
What with our work schedules, no burning days, and rainy days, it took us five years to go through the 2011 weather debris. And when each burning season was over, we would start the tidying process all over again by building the next year’s burn pile. What we were really building were cozy (temporary) dens for whatever wildlife wanted to move in: bears, foxes, bobcats, coyotes, raccoons, rabbits or squirrels. I never thought about that until last year when The Hunter told me about a friend of his in the next town over, who, last spring lit an enormous pile of debris that he had been stacking for over a year. After a bit, a bear dashed out.
Our modest pile this year (really just scraps from hedge and tree trimming, along with two Christmas wreathes) was far too small for a bear. It was a quick fire too; only a couple of hours. Sadly, for The Hunter, anyway, it was also far too small to be seen from space. Still, he admitted after he had finished dousing it, it was a day spent playing with fire and that’s always fun when you’ve never grown up.
He fared much better on his second spring goal: bag a wild turkey. Monday was opening day of the turkey season and by Monday noon, a 20-pound turkey had taken up residence in the freezer. This, too, will prove temporary, as wild turkey on the grill is pretty darn tasty.
I must be getting really old, because Monday’s turkey, just like the weekend fire, prompted some reminiscing about how much the world has changed. In the “old days” you didn’t hunt turkeys, because there weren’t any. They’ve only recently been re-introduced to the wild in New England.
In the “old days,” the birds in the freezer would have been partridge. To get them, The Hunter would put his 12 gauge shotgun over his shoulder, hop on a bus and ride to the southern edge of town, where there were a number of fields, at which point he would hop off and go hunting. After he had his birds, he would board the return bus (with gun and dead partridge) and ride home.
Taking the bus hunting only lasted until he learned to drive. Once he had his license, he would take his car to school, leave the shotgun in the trunk, go to class and head out immediately after the final bell. This all took place in a suburb of Boston – not some remote wilderness. The mind boggles what would happen if someone tried it today.
Now that the annual fire is done and the turkey is in residence, The Hunter plans to turn farmer and tackle his third goal. This involves outwitting Mother Nature and planting his tomatoes two weeks too early. It didn’t go well last year, but that hasn’t stopped him from telling me that tomorrow he plans to get the pots ready. Apparently he is leaving all the reminiscing to me this week.