It’s a spring ritual. While the ground is still frozen below the surface, and about the time the first robin is seen hopping around the still winter-brown lawn, we burn the brushpile.

We start building up the pile during the fall clean-up, and add to it right up until burn time. The brushpile consists largely of orchard prunings, but we also throw on bits of old honeycomb and broken or suspect pieces of woodenware from the beeyard. Just before the burn, we clear out winter-felled branches from the hedgerow to add to the pile, and pick up pieces of apple trees damaged by ice or winter-grazing deer.

Around here, it is the female of the species who is in charge of the burn. Males have a regrettable tendency, we’ve found, to have a surge of testosterone in the presence of an open fire. Bad things happen when the “bigger is better” philosophy is applied to burning a brushpile!

No, we make a tidy little fire, burning a person-high pile of branches and clean debris in a space no more than a armspan across in any direction. It’s a clean fire – no painted material, no foreign objects, only those things that need to be destroyed by burning in order to prevent the spread of disease in our orchard and bee yard.

It’s a chore that takes the better part of the afternoon, but gets us out into the brisk fresh air to welcome the first hint of our long-awaited northern spring. It’s a cleansing ritual, a celebration, a wiping clean of the slate to start a new season.

Raking over the last of the coals from the annual bonfire, this afternoon, I had a sudden insight. The new year doesn’t begin at the first of January, in emotional terms. Not around here. The new year truly begins today, with the ritual of the spring burn.

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  1. Sharon

    Sounds great, Jen. Winters aren’t cold enough in my part of the UK (though plenty cold enough for me).

    The testosterone thing also applies to barbeques and lighting fireworks. A male friend once used a flame thrower to start his industrial pyrotechnics. Naturally, I stood well back :-)

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