I have been thinking about adding a couple tools to my collection.  I have picked up a few more (and larger) prescribed burning jobs for this spring, so I wanted to get a couple “fire swatters” to help with this effort.  If you are not familliar with a fire swatter, it is a rectangular piece of rubber attached to a long handle.  It is used to smother smaller grass fires, and is useful for cleanup operations in controlled burning.  Various catalogs have these tools available for $55-$60.00.  Being a thrifty kind of guy, I decided to take a shot at making my own.

Materials: I stopped by my local Farm & Fleet and purchased a small mudflap (12″x15″) a heavy-duty floor squeege and a handle.  These items set me back around $24.00 with tax.

Construction:The floor squeege is going to be wider than what you need (I have seen 18 and 24″ wide models available).  Totally dissassemble the squeege, measure and mark the cut(s) and get out your hacksaw.  After this, put small pilot holes in the mud flap and re-assemble the metal frame.  Start to finish this took me around 10 minutes, with a coffee break somewhere in there as well.

I am not sure that this is the tool for a professional smokejumper, but I think that for a landowner or contractor who does small amounts of burning it will do the job.  I will give an update after a few burns, and we will see how our shop-built fire swatter does in the real world.


Winter and White Oak

Quercus alba

Is it spring yet?

Days like today make me think of spring…which makes me nervous about all the winter work I have left to do…and all the spring work I still have to get set up.  Spring work makes me think of prescribed burns.  Then I think about dusting off my drip torch and that popping sound a hot fire makes as it moves though dry indian grass…and now I have to admit that now I am just excited about the prospect of spring.

Good Oak

Some wisdom from Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac:

“There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm.  One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace.”

I have been thinking about the disconnect between things we use and where they come from, specifically when those things are produced from trees.  Trees that are cut down specifically to produce wood and paper for people like you and me to use.  Trees that might even have been planted with the hope in mind, that maybe someday this little seedling might beat the odds and grow enough to be worth money to someone.

People who are not at all used to the idea of cutting down trees become outraged when there is a harvest in an area close to them.  I have seen it.  I have read their lament over the loss of trees, giving the impression that the land is now ruined.  Forever.  I suppose that as long as the raw materials for the things we use come from somewhere else it is ok.  As long as we don’t have to see it, we can imagine that the copy paper at the office came from the supply closet, the new dining room table came from a furniture factory (in China) and your breakfast came from the grocery.

“If one has cut, split, hauled and piled his own good oak, and let his mind work the while, he will remember much about where the heat comes from, and with a wealth of detail denied to those who spend the week end in town astride a radiator.”

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