hydrangea blossoming

hydrangea blossoming
Hydrangea on the Edge of Blooming

Friday, April 4, 2008

Burn, Babies, Burn!

Today, we did our bit for global warming. Normally, we try to keep a pretty small footprint: we don’t drive much, our thermostats are set at 65 degrees, we wear sweaters year round, our light bulbs are the efficient kind, etc. But twice a year, we go all out to do our part. These are the slightly rainy days when we set afire all the debris that has gathered in the garden over the past 6 months.

In the rural part of the U.S., burning garden stuff (but not garbage or construction materials) is still fairly common in my experience. Unfortunately, the stuff you are burning is pretty damp and sometimes, as it was today, it is downright wet. However, if you waited until it was dry, you would have entered the period when you aren’t allowed to do backyard burning. So, wet it has to be.

Here in Point Roberts, you are required to buy a permit (sold at the local hardward store) for $3. The state wants to know when you are burning and it wants to make sure that you aren’t doing it when you shouldn’t be; thus, the permit requirement. You are expected to post your permit and it is good for two consecutive days. Our next door neighbor, newly moved to the Point, seems not to know about this because he has been burning daily over the past week with no permit posted. But, then, how would a newcomer know the rules? I suppose I ought to tell him, but it does seem less than a kindly or helpful conversation: “Oh, Sam, did you know that you are burning without a permit?” There must be a way to put it that doesn’t sound like you are just telling him that he is breaking the rules of the game. It would be easier if I actually knew him, but I don’t, except to know his name.

In any case, we burned today in part because the grandchildren are visiting. We try to schedule a burn whenever any of them are visiting because they all seem to have a streak of arsonist in them and will work almost non-stop to drag wood and push wheelbarrows full of leaves around the yard if at the end they’re allowed to set it all on fire. I can never decide whether we are encouraging their arsonist tendencies with this activity or letting the tendency work itself out. I hope it is the latter, but time will tell.

I am not, myself, such a fan of the burning because it creates so much smoke. My step-daughter assures me that much of it is steam from the dampness of it all. I also worry about the global warming aspect of releasing all that carbon. My son points out that burning is just a speedier method of carbonization that’s going to happen anyway with all that rotting wood. It goes up now or it goes up later, but up it is going to go, he says. And I don’t seem to have that arsonist yearning, although maybe the years of watching it happen have just worked it out of me.

Maybe our neighbor hasn’t worked the arson thing out yet and is trying to do so with the daily burning. Will a permit help or hinder him? Maybe I could just send him an anonymous note and let him figure it out?

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