When the house was framed, we climbed a ladder to the second floor to take in that view. Gazing in all directions through the window openings, we were astonished. We discovered that we were above the treetops, and could see miles of trees all around – and not a single rooftop or sign of civilization.
We were thrilled. We had all the privacy we had yearned for. We could almost pretend we were alone in the wilderness. The trees sheltered us, enclosed us, even embraced us. We painted our house green, and finished it with cedar posts and limestone rocks, all so we would nestle in as part of this environment. We gladly settled into our Hill Country haven.
But over Labor Day weekend, when multiple fires ignited all over Central Texas, suddenly our woods did not look so welcoming. As I scanned for fire with my binoculars from those upstairs windows, the thrashing trees seem to be pulsing with a different sort of energy – a malevolent sort.
Remember Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, when Snow White stumbles through the woods at night, terrified as tree branches reach for her, waving about threateningly? Her lovely natural world (singing birds, dancing bunnies, lovely flowers) had turned against her.
I was Snow White for those few days, as the wind gusted, smoke filled the air, and images of our Central Texas neighbors’ incinerated homes filled the newscasts.
|This is the view from my back doorstep. Brush line is about 30 feet away.|
Since the fires, I have spent some time watching forest service videos and reading news releases. I want our house to be one that survives a wildfire. We have a good start, with a tin roof and cement siding. But more can be done.
I have decided to take action on something we have known for awhile: the brushy woods are too close to our home. For the last week, I have been venturing forth, wielding my loppers to thin the underbrush and raise the canopy on the perimeter of our cleared yard. Sunday I even revved up my very own chainsaw. (If you could see my skinny arms, you would fully grasp the alarming nature of this statement.)
|The big Ashe juniper on the right is at the edge of our cleared yard. |
These wispy tree-lings will be gone soon!
This work will improve our “defensible space,” as the firefighters term the area around a home. I feel a bit like a homesteader, improving my land. It is a good way to reconnect with the land and trees.
As it did for Snow White, my natural world has returned to its friendly, nurturing state. I’m still waiting for the dancing bunnies to appear, however.
Texas lantana! Give it a bit of rain, some cooler nights, and off it goes! This is Lantana urticoides, a.k.a. L. horrida. According to the Wildflower Research Center website, another common name for it is "calico bush," though I've not heard that name used.
When it was the only thing blooming in my garden during our last dry summer (2009), I added another. I really think it should be plunked down all over my place.