Thursday, 29 December 2011

Cinderella and the Bonfires

I haven't grown up in a rural environment but I can certainly appreciate one. Winter in France offers the opportunity to do something that is forbidden in Auckland. Lighting fires outdoors, big fires.

In Auckland, NZ it's forbidden all year round to light fires outdoors, no matter the reason. Absolutely no rubbish fires any time. There are bylaws enforcing air quality. I've been known to dob-in the occasional neighbour who transgresses this rule and sends toxic smoke into our breathing air. CO2 emissions and all that too.

It was therefore with surprise that I watched Jean-Claude igniting ginormous bonfires on his property over the past three days. With so many trees on his property needing management there's always dead wood, fallen trees and leaves, prunings too big to be mulched but still needing to be got rid of.

Fires are forbidden from the 15th February in this area so burning has been underway solidly this week. JC's piles were huge, much taller than me and the heat was unbearable, I felt my eyes drying out immediately but it was interesting. He's make a nest of newspaper and kindling wood and slosh the diesel all over it and off she went.

The columns of smoke twisted upwards in spirals and the gorgeous reds and golds and oranges inside the inferno roared and flicked and consumed.It was dangerously beautiful.

There were two main bonfires, both very large and JC and I were kept busy stoking and feeding; tough on the back. I was wrapped up against the biting cold; cinders all over my hat and through my hair. JC had to stop from time to time to put his hands in mis trouser pockets to warm his hands, they got so painful from the temperatures not much above zero.

On the second day JC got up early, stirred the embers and started again. This morning, the third one continuously, he was at it yet again, raking and throwing twigs and stumps in the middle of his property; hot tiring work. The man has energy, fitness and more stick-at-itness than most twenty-something year-olds.


While the twigs were cooking he then started work on planting a fruit tree in his orchard. Last week it was a plum to join the figs and apples. This one might be a cherry tree to join an older one.

Digging is too heavy for me these days but I help when I can and when the mood takes me. Mucking around in gumboots with twigs and branches, standing around while clouds of bush smoke swirled over me was rather fun. My parents would never have let me do anything so 'un-girl-like'.

Right now, much smaller heaps are gently smoking like reluctant volcanoes, puffing into the clear sky and sometimes adding to the fog that comes over the valley. People have been doing this for years. It's not great for the CO2 issues but not having trees is worse.


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