I am getting old and this is the end of a long day and I am tired. I got up just before 5am to head down to Brodnax to participate in a patch burn with Adam Smith. We were doing about 20 acres, so this one was easier than the one we did on Freeman. I am not very worried about most of the trees, but I am concerned that my little longleaf got too burned. I think they are okay, but I don’t know and will not know until April. It will be a long couple of months.
I had to leave a little early and let Adam and his crew finish off. I was off to Lexington, VA to do a talk about Aldo Leopold at Washington & Lee University, about a three hour drive from Brodnax.
I enjoy doing talks on almost any subject. It is one of the things I miss most since leaving my old job. Talking about Aldo Leopold was especially interesting for me.
Aldo Leopold. I feel a special relationship with him, or at least with his outlook. When I talk about him, I feel like I am going home, or at least back to my conservation roots in Wisconsin.
The group was mostly students, although it was open to the general public and there were a few old people. I think the students had to come as part of their coursework. I was a little surprised how much the audience knew about Aldo Leopold and it was gratifying to see how much his ideas resonate still.
I talked about what I like most about Leopold and what I think is the meta-message he advocates. My favorite among Leopold’s writing is his essay “Axe in Hand.” I think about that whenever I am cutting, burning or planting on my land. Leopold says that we put our signature on the land and that is how we develop our land ethic. It is the interactions that count. And that leads me to the other thing I like. Leopold does not have a dogma. He points in the general direction, but leaves to each person on the land the responsibility to develop a morality, a land ethic. It is not something that can be written once and for all.
I deployed two of the short idea that I very much believe. The first sometimes sound depressing but I think is very uplifting. “Yesterday’s solution is today’s problem.” Why is it uplifting? Because it implies choice and for me it also implies success. We make plans and we make progress, even if it created an opportunity for people of the future to make plans and make progress. Life is an eternal unfolding and that is beautiful. The other truth (with hat tip to Heraclitus) “You cannot step twice into the same forest.”
My pictures are from our fire this morning. Fire pictures are always sort of the same. I chose the middle picture because it was pretty. No big issues. I got stuck in some green briar for a few seconds and felt the momentary fear that I would get burned, but that was never realistic.
You can see from the pictures that all you need do is step over the fire to be safely in the black.
There is a story from the Mann Gulch tragedy in 1949 that killed 13 young fire fighters. Of course, this was a lot bigger and hotter fire than ours.) The leader of the group was a guy called Wag Dodge. He saved his life by lighting an escape fire. The fire was coming up a hill faster than a man could run. Wag Dodge understood he could not get away, so he lit a fire of his own and then hunkered down in the black, like what you can see in picture #2. The fire passed over him and he survived. Of course, an escape fire works only with fine fuel, like grass. If you tried that in thick timber, you would likely get slow roasted.