Saturday, November 10, 2012

A November Fire!

We were in the new green wagon, sitting on the buckboard and taking turns driving Patty's big gray Percheron, Steele. We had bellies full of ice cream and were talking and laughing. It was a happy scene. If you think a 30 degree day is cold enough to keep Washington County residents away from Battenkill Creamery, well, you don't know us very well.

Both of us enjoyed the few mile trip in the wagon. It was a beauty, and as a new driver I was jealous. It had a nice front seat and a bed in the back that could fit too comfortable adults, a load of hay, or any other gear you wanted to take to friend or field. I had finished my writing work and when I got a call around noon to come over for a cart ride I happily accepted. It was a sunny day, and as we made our way fast farm and field we waved to deer hunters by their trucks going over their game plans and stopped to chat with locals.

We were just taking in the Days of Grace. That's what this time of year is called around here. That window between the last of fall's warm foliage but before the first snowfall. It's your last chance to oil the tractor and repair fences, get in hay and feed, sight in your rifle for deer season, and get snow tires on the truck. It's both a ticking time bomb and period of repose. If you're ready for winter you can just throw some more logs in the stove, sip your tea, and wait for the snow to fall. Some of us with less experience or resources...we're working on putting walls on our horse barns yet. But either way, each team is grateful for the Days of Grace.

So you can imagine our surprise when we crested the Lake road and came into view of Patty's historic farmhouse and saw billowing clouds of smoke. At first, Patty just thought her husband was home from work and burning trash, but from the half mile away we could see if was coming from behind the house and their dog, Harley, was pacing and yelping. This was bad.

Patty had Steele speed up from his Sunday Trot into a full out canter. I was hanging on to the buckboard as she leaned forward to give him a little more chase in his reach. If you have never been on the back of a speeding wagon towards a fire with a ton of horse thundering ahead of you then you haven't known the true meaning of haste. It was wild! It seemed like seconds before we were running up Livingston Brook Farm's driveway and as we got towards the horse tack barn Patty just threw the reins in my hands and sped off the cart towards the fire.

I knew what I had to do. I had to get the horse in the cross ties, remove the cart from the harness, remove his harness, and get him away from the house and into the pasture. I didn't know what was happening so I just went into action mode, and when the cart was removed and the horse secure I ran up to the direction I saw Patty speed towards.

To my great relief, she was on the phone behind the house with a garden hose. The fire was in the woods, not the farmhouse, but it was spreading out over a 30 yard semi-circle downhill. She said that ashes were dumped in the woods in the morning and must have caught on fire. She was calling the local fire department because she didn't want the cold wind moving the foot-tall flames and burning leaves towards the house (which was 2o feet away). She seemed to be doing all she could so I decided to go take care of Steele.

I move the cart out of the driveway so the fire trucks could get up towards the flames. I undid his belly band, but the tug chains up the hooks on his spider, and was unhooking the hame's latch and removing the fifty-pound harness when Patty made her way towards me to help. Steele is 17 hands, I can't see over him when I stand next to him. Patty is nearly six feet tall and could easily remove the harness. I carried it over to the hooks on the wall. She took off the collar and felt collar pad and I put them away in their proper places too. She then lead Steele out of the commotion where he wouldn't be scared of the sirens and lights about to arrive.

The trucks arrived ten minutes later, a man named Seabass in a yellow Uniform with a huge pressure hose was on it in seconds. His one small truck was able to contain the brush fire in moments. It was quit the thing to see. It didn't take long for the response teams to tame the possible danger. By this time Mark was home from duck hunting, feeling a little sheepish about the ashes, but glad to see the house safe. He and Patty chatted with the fire squad, explaining and listening to assessments and soon Patty went inside to cut everyone out there a slice of homemade apple pie with a gingerbread cookie crust. No one turned it down. Seeing a pack of men in uniform with eagles on their helmets eating slices of apple pie was so thick with Americana I expected Harley to run around with sparkers in his teeth.

Since it wasn't lethal, everyone was in good spirits. Which was comforting and beautiful to see. Lessons were learned and neighbors called to ask about the ruckus but within an hour of a speeding wagon ride we were all around the farmhouse kitchen table enjoying adult beverages and laughing. It could have been a disaster, but instead it was a story. A story that included ice cream, horses, farm, and booze so I was grateful as a fat tabby on milk truck day.

It's a different life up here. But no matter where you live, apple pie and doused fires make for a good night's sleep.


Blogger feathers217 said...

So glad everything turned out fine ! With the sad news at Bedlam Farm I don't know if I could take more sad news this morning. I can picture you hanging on to your britches on your wild wagon ride. Must have had a gazillion emotions going thru you ! Happy it all turned out well.

November 10, 2012 at 9:57 AM  
Blogger barbsbirds13 said...

This story had my heart pounding. Had just read of Jon and Maria's seeing Rocky to his next dimension and simultaneously emoting through responses from my search for a new doggie love (suddenly multiple good choices) when I deviated to your blog and read your exciting report. This day is beginning on an emotional ride. So happy your adventure has a happy and sumptuous end.

November 10, 2012 at 10:19 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

You know it amazes me when I think of all the people, all over the world, checking in on our two farms just a mile and a half apart!

Sad about Rocky, but I think it was the right choice.

November 10, 2012 at 10:25 AM  
Blogger barbsbirds13 said...

Your farm, Jenna, and Jon and Maria's have created a beautiful little world of expanding hearts and lives. Both creating and generating energy and love and excitement. Both yield hope and optimism and higher roads in life. These are good things!

November 10, 2012 at 10:59 AM  
Blogger E said...

Always stir the ashes with your hand before dumping. If you're worried the ashes are too warm to stir - don't dump them!

Glad it all worked out

November 10, 2012 at 11:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know of several people who have lost houses to poorly disposed of ashes. Ive also discovered what I already knew - ashes contain live coals for at least 2 days after your woodstove fire has gone out.
ALWAYS use a metal can with lid that can sit atop the stove or beside your hearth until two days and preferably three days after they are removed from the stove. Only then is it safe to dispose of them at a safe distance from your buildings. Never put them in a paper or plastic bag or a cardboard or wood receptacle. Stirring with your bare hand is a great idea!

November 10, 2012 at 12:12 PM  
Blogger seagrrlz said...

OMG! What a fright you guys must have had. So scary. Glad everything was ok.

November 10, 2012 at 1:05 PM  
Blogger high st farm said...

Party is very fortunate her fire was nothing but a scare and story. I have been displaced from my farm since late September due to a house fire. Be so very careful.

November 10, 2012 at 2:15 PM  
Blogger PansWife said...

Well, I guess it's not quite as dumb as my neighbor's tenant who tried to clean out warm fireplace ashes with a vacuum and ended up setting the bag on fire. He was lucky he was able to throw it out the front door and then hit it with a garden hose, but that was a heck of a brunt up vacuum. At least our pioneer ancestors didn't have to worry about that happening.

November 10, 2012 at 3:37 PM  
Blogger Bonnie said...

Good story ... HAPPY Ending

November 10, 2012 at 4:32 PM  
Blogger Bonnie said...

Good Story .... HAPPY Ending.

November 10, 2012 at 4:36 PM  
Blogger Bonnie said...

Good Story ... HAPPY Ending.

November 10, 2012 at 4:37 PM  
Blogger JoAnne Schnyder said...

Wow! Glad there was no harm done, and lesson learned. The Days of Grace are over for Flagstaff, Arizona. The snow is coming down!

November 10, 2012 at 7:34 PM  
Blogger JoAnne Schnyder said...

Glad there was no harm done, and lesson learned. The Days of Grace have passed, at least for the moment, in Flagstaff, Arizona. The snow is flying! My mother-in-law lived in Shushan before she passed. My husband and I stayed with her several times and I truly love the area. I am so thankful to have your blog and Jon's and Maria's to keep me connected to it.

November 10, 2012 at 7:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thoroughly enjoyed this story and your way of telling it. You had me with you on that barreling wagon towards the flames! Glad all turned out well. And isn't it handy to have apple pie around. Note to self: keep pie on hand. You never know when you might need it.

November 10, 2012 at 8:48 PM  
Blogger bree said...

Wow. What a time you had. So glad everything turned out so well!

November 10, 2012 at 10:37 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

Thankful that all was well. Funny how those close calls bring the community together. We're all closer to disaster than we might like to think. That's why apple pie is so important.

November 11, 2012 at 6:59 AM  
Blogger RamblinHome said...

Scary! Thankfully it wasn't more seriously and you two came home in time!

November 11, 2012 at 8:29 AM  
Blogger Kevin and Beth said...

Jenna, I wish I was an artist and could paint the picture that was in my head as I reading about the flight in the wagon. Its maybe the best written couple of paragraphs that I've read in a long time. Exciting, scary, and with an unexpected happy ending. The firemen and the apple pie! Loved it!

November 11, 2012 at 4:47 PM  
Blogger Kevin and Beth said...

Jenna, I wish I was an artist and could paint the picture that was in my head as I reading about the flight in the wagon. Its maybe the best written couple of paragraphs that I've read in a long time. Exciting, scary, and with an unexpected happy ending. The firemen and the apple pie! Loved it!

November 11, 2012 at 4:48 PM  
Blogger phaedra96 said...

Just goes to show that the most experienced people can mess up and it gives me hope cause I feel like a total idiot sometimes. Sigh.

November 12, 2012 at 8:41 AM  

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