Cutting edges . . .

brash-1A CYCLE is developing. At the heart of this new life a structure takes shape like crystals forming in solution. December is the olive harvesting and pressing month, January the pruning and burning month. Work must be finished before the blossom comes. The seasons are in control. It’s not hard to see why ancient peoples were dependent on the calendar and stars . . .

Most of our olive prunings are carted away to feed a neighbour’s goats. Two schoolboys, Diego and Rafa, do the carting on their bikes, hauling a trailer made from a supermarket trolley and bicycle wheels. Very ingenious. They tell me they have two-hundred-and-fifty-nine goats. Boys are always precise. They make nine or ten trips the kilometre or so to their farm with their bikes and trailer loaded with huge bundles of cuttings. The last load goes in their brother’s pickup.

These January mornings the air smells of woodsmoke as people burn the detritus from their fruit trees. An occasional wagon rumbles along the track, laden with oranges. Once a day, the milk tanker visits the goat farms. This is industry and commerce without core values and hot-desking issues. The only cutting edge around here is the blade of my serucha – my pruning saw.

The thicker branches will be cut into logs and dried for next year's fiirewood
The thicker branches will be cut into logs and dried for next year’s firewood

brash-4My work continues. Thick branches are set aside for next year’s firewood. Only the waste from the fruit trees – the brash, as we northerners call it – goes on the bonfire. Brash is a great word in this context. So exact and descriptive.

In this new life I learn things fast. Olive and Lavender are excellent for kindling a bonfire. Olive leaves and branches flare up with a frightening ferocity. Orange and lemon brash burns well once the fire is established. Nispero (a fruit from the Far East, very popular in Andalucia), has broad green leaves which feed the flames, though the wood burns slowly. Pear shoots go on the bonfire once the embers are glowing. Pomegranate needs plenty of heat beneath it. Fig is to be avoided because it emits toxic fumes. I suspect all smoke is toxic, but fig wood has a reputation around here and no one burns it indoors or out.

What will February bring? Shall I consult a business forecasting website to estimate trends and externalities? Or shall I look at the stars?



22 thoughts on “Cutting edges . . .

  1. A relaxing read, Alen. Except that trolly has an ‘e’ in it. You have obviously lived away from civilisation for too long and are turning into an old hippy (or should that be hippie). Best wishes, Jill


  2. A lovely piece…always feel I am there not just reading from my chair. Freezing and gloomy here with a wind to cut. My joy not diminished as a day not at work is in order.


    1. You leave it in a corner to rot down. I’ve heard that you can burn it after seven years, but it is so soft (almost like balsa) that it rots away to nothing before then. Also, the sap burns your skin, so you should never saw fig wood during the growing season.
      Cheers, Alen


  3. I wonder who the first person was to discover fig smoke was toxic. It’s not like he could tell anyone, was it! I remember fires when I was volunteering at Samlesbury Hall. There’s something satisfying about an outdoor fire.


    1. Hi Chris. What I miss is bonfires at night because they have to be out by 2pm to minimise the possibility of wildfires spreading. But I’ve discovered that lighting them early on a frosty morning is almost as satisfying.
      Wouldn’t it be great if the man who discovered fig smoke was toxic and the man who discovered polonium both died after sharing a table in a London restaurant. There’s a book in that.
      Cheers, Alen

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Fascinating post Alen especially that information about fig burning. I have been guilty, whilst in France, of burning fig wood cuttings – thankfully from what you say on an open bonfire .
    I remember seeing fires in your areas at this time of year.
    I’ve been busy in my garden today cutting down a dead spruce, from a virus disease, and have a large pile of brash, as us Northerners call it, to burn aromatically tomorrow. The rest of the tree when logged up will provide environmentally damaging fuel for my wood-stove.


    1. Hi John. Shame about the spruce, but that’s the way things go. I guess all trees have their enemies and diseases, just like people, but at least you’re putting it to a good use.
      All our wood is destined for the stove, but I take the view that the carbon dioxide generated is only what the tree took out of the atmosphere in the first place, so it’s a far more environmentally-friendly way of staying warm than burning fossil fuels. It smells nicer too.
      Cheers, Alen


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