Welcome to Antler Valley Farm

A week of Burning

Disclaimer:  Just a heads up that this is a really long post.  Sorry!  If you need a good laugh and you’re short on time, feel free to skip to the end and read about the bird that got in the car and the rat that ate it.  Yeah, I think it’s a guaranteed laugh!  You can always come back and read the rest later, or just look at the pictures…

In the middle of May, Jim’s work slowed down for about a week.  We jumped on it and spent almost every day at the farm trying to get in as much work as we could.  Our house looked like a disaster at the end of the week, but…well, that might just be our new normal.  I am going to claim that our house is well lived in and leave it at that!

The first pile we burned that week.  That’s about the time by sanity went up in smoke for the day as well.  Just saying…

The first afternoon we decided to burn one of the biggest brush piles and see how it went.  It went all right!  So did my heart rate!  Sky-high!  Those Virginia Pines might not be worth much to anyone but, Boy, Oh Boy, do they burn fast and scary!!!!

Jim lit the pile in one spot…

And then it turned into this inferno!

This picture is so typically Jim!  I think he secretly wants to be a stunt double in a movie with fire blazing behind him!  Oh, Lord, my nerves are shot just looking at this photo- even several months later!!!

 I think I’ve mentioned that fire scares me.  I have no words to describe the way this fire made me feel. I’m sure that the ghostly pale face, shaking limbs, and raspy breath explain much more than words ever could!  

So, the first pile we burned took off and shot flames 30 feet into the air.  I was praying so fast, Maylin asked if is was speaking Spanish.  Normally, that would have made me laugh until I cried, but since oxygen wasn’t something I could spare at the moment, I couldn’t laugh!!

As a kid, being a firefighter was never a job I considered.  Nope.  Fire = Big Ole Scared Me.  I know some people love the adrenaline rush of fire or fighting fires but for me, the fear and anxiety of a fire is just exhausting and not at all appealing.  I can handle small fires just fine.  Small manageable fires with cute little flames.  Cute little campfires.  Yep, that’s much more my style.  Roaring fires- and I do mean fires that actually ROAR- are So Scary!!  Roaring fires and flames that are taller than my house are not at all my speed.  Hats off to all the firemen out there.  You guys are rock stars and have my utmost respect.  And rest assured that you will NEVER have job competition from me!  Your job is VERY safe from me.  Not that they were ever worried about me though, right!?!  Ha, that’s good for a laugh or two!!

Anyway, all these brush piles had sat for months or more.  Some had sat for over a year because of the drought.  We hadn’t been able to burn them and now they were so dry and dead that they lit up like wildfires-literally.

This was the same brush pile about 10 minutes after we started the fire.  Yeah, it burned that fast!  

After the first 10 minutes, the fire had ripped through the brush pile, devastated all the small branches and dead pine needles and was quietly burning the logs that were left.  I was exhausted and Jim was already moving onto the next pile.  It was a smaller pile but the fire ran gangbusters through it the same way and then proceeded to burn in a much calmer manner.  After the 3rd brush pile, my nerves were shot.  I was done!  I couldn’t handle burning anymore that day so we took turns watching the kids play at the creek, or in the pool and watching the fires burn themselves out.

The sooner we are done with all these brush piles, the better!  I’m not sure that a mental institute is a place I would like to visit, but I might be headed there soon with all this burning!

Sweet Maleah looking for sticks to pick up while we watched the fires burn out.


It was astounding how much burned in those brush piles! 

The next day was the same story.  And so was the next.  Huge flames and my panicked nerves.  Yep, same story every day.  By the end of the week, we had burned 8 huge brush piles and I looked like I had went about 10 rounds with wild tigers.  At times, I was barely coherent to talk to and the kids were starting to worry about me.  Can you imagine the memories they are going to have of the year their parents burned brush piles and their Momma lost her mind completely!  Yeah, that’s a great memory there!!

We got a lot of work done that week, but there is Always a crazy story to go with it, isn’t there???  Well, I think we might’ve collected a few crazy stories for our collection that week.  

Every day the wind had picked up a little more and we couldn’t safely burn some of the piles we wanted to by Thursday.  However, by Friday, the wind had died down and we had planned to burn 3 more brush piles and call it a week.  A really good week of work!  Jim and the kids left to head out a few minutes before me.  The plan was for me to follow once I got all the animals fed.  You guessed it!  The plan changed.  The silly truck wouldn’t start.  Jim’s truck was already in the shop and he had his keys for his pump truck with him so I had no way to jump start the truck.

So Jim and the kids came back and we jump started the truck and tried to figure out what drained the battery.  Who knows?  The truck started and we headed out in 2 different vehicles.  Halfway there Jim called me and said the truck’s ABS light was on.  Not good.  I had flashbacks of last summer when the ABS light came on, the truck shut off and the kids and I walked home in 98 degree heat.

That is not my fondest memory so when Jim called me and said the ABS light was on, I immediately thought we had another bad alternator.  While we were talking, the lights and gauges shut off on him.  He just made it to our property before the truck shut off on him.  So we spent the day taking off the alternator, getting it exchanged for a new one and replacing it.  Not quite the plan we had for our day.  Bummer.  But we got it done and thought we were in good shape to drive home.  Almost…  The ABS light came on again on the way home.  So we went by the mechanics shop and had him take a look.  He found a loose connection to the battery.  Maybe we didn’t tighten it back quite right?  Who knows? He felt like that was the problem and told us to bring it back if it happened again.

The next day we went out and the truck started right up.  No problems.  We headed out to the property in the rain to burn some brush piles that were piled up against the trees at the creek.  The logging guy had left them like that for some reason and we knew we would only be able to burn them after a good rain and while it was still raining.


Since these piles were pushed up against trees, we had to burn them in the rain so we didn’t catch the whole forest on fire.  

Perfect timing since it had rained during the night and was supposed to rain again at lunchtime.  Things went the way they usually do for us.  Not quite according to plan, but we adapted.  The fires started slow and then took off.  Jim went to leave to get something for lunch from the store.  The silly truck was dead again!  Thank goodness we had driven 2 vehicles that day.

About 5 oclock I really needed to get the kids home and feed the animals and feed the kids too!  So we jump started the truck and dropped it off at the mechanic shop.  Did I already mention that Jim’s work truck was already there being worked on?  Yeah, his truck was having a compressor in the transmission replaced for the second time because the first one only lasted a week.  Thank goodness for warranties, huh!  So now both of our trucks were sitting at the mechanics shop.  That’s a bit of a problem since Jim needs a truck to pull his equipment!  I can only fight one battle at a time though so I left that one in the Lord’s hands and we proceeded home.  Jim dropped us off and headed back to tend the fire for a little longer in our only vehicle.  Well, technically we still had the septic pumping truck but I can’t fit all 3 kids in there so I don’t count that.

Maylin, Cam and I had already had showers/baths and were fixing our supper when the power went off.  In the middle of May!  Are you kidding me?  Am I being punked?  I ran to tell poor Maleah that her shower was being cut short since the power was out.   Then I had to tell her she didn’t have any way to reheat her leftovers for dinner either.  She was getting a good old PB & J for supper.  It’s better than nothing, right?

The next day we decided to take a break and reward the kids with a movie.  They were thrilled!  We were still down to only 1 vehicle so we decided we needed to protect it!  While we gathered our stuff Maleah went to start the car.  Maylin ran into my bedroom about a minute later to tell me that a bird had gotten into the car and that a rat had ate it.  All that was left were the feathers.  Ummm….how do you respond to that?  What?????  How is that even possible???  I actually shook my head because I wasn’t sure I had heard her right.

I asked her again to explain to me what was going on and she repeated the same story.  Ok, time to find Jim.  It turns out Maleah had tried to start the car, heard a thud and gray dust and feathers flew up from under the hood.  Both the girls had gotten a little excited and the story had changed a little by the time I heard it apparently.  Believe me when I tell you that girls can be very dramatic!

Jim and I went out and loaded up the kids thinking it was nothing.  On a whim I suggested we check under the hood just to be sure.  Jim agreed and when he popped the hood he saw what he thought was an opossum.  (He didn’t have his glasses on so I decided to take a look too.  No, it looked white but it was actually a mouse.  A very large mouse.  A very large mouse that was stuck in the fan belt.  Rather, he was wrapped around and in between the fan belt.  I started laughing hysterically!  I couldn’t help it.  This was just our week to have vehicle trouble.

I mentioned to Jim that our mechanic was going to have to fix one of our 3 vehicles fast.  Or else I was taking all the kids up there and sitting at his shop all day.  Oh yeah, I think that having my 3 ring circus around all day would help speed up his repair process.  I think all our vehicles would be fixed in record time actually!  However that might be cruel and unusual punishment for an unsuspecting person.

Back to the rat in the fan belt dilemma.  Jim went to grab some gloves to pull the mouse out and I grabbed an old mop that the kids had been washing the deck with.  (Do you know how long my kids will mop my deck if I provide buckets of water and tell them to make the biggest mess possible?  HOURS!  Yes, this is a VERY popular form of entertainment for me in the afternoons.  They mop the deck and I sit in a chair and tell them the mess isn’t big enough yet!  It’s awesome!)

Anyway, I grabbed the old mop and used the handle to pry the mouse out of the belt.  I probably should have waited and let Jim do it though….I didn’t really think it through all the way apparently.  When the mouse came loose he fell…but he fell and ended up under the engine on some kind of plate.  We couldn’t get to him anymore to pull him out!  Jim was not exactly happy with my help.  So sorry honey!!

After both of us tried to reach the mouse from every possible angle, I finally had an idea.  I ran into the house to get The Grabber.  (I don’t actually know what it’s called but that’s what we call it.)  It’s a long handled stick with retractable claws on the end.  I finally managed to wedge it between parts under the hood and grabbed the mouse’s tail.  His tail broke off!!!  I am not kidding!  Maylin screamed hysterically and Maleah started crying.  Poor Cam was still strapped in his car seat and wasn’t sure whether he should laugh or cry!

I threw the tail into the field and tried to grab for what was left of the tail again.  I finally got it and started pulling the mouse all the way out.  He was so fat he got stuck a few times and we had to maneuver different angles to pull and push him out without dropping him.  It took us over 15 minutes to get that fat field mouse out of the engine!  In that time, Maleah had a melt down because she thought she was responsible for killing the mouse since she had started the car.  Maylin had a meltdown and vowed to never ride in a vehicle again because rats could be anywhere.  She also vowed to never go into the fields again where such LARGE rats live.  Oh My Goodness!!!  Did I already mention that girls can be a little dramatic??  Cam ignored it all and fell asleep.  There is something to be said for little boys!

On the way to the movies Jim and I both decided it was probably better if he went back to work on Monday.  We both needed a break from the Carter Crazy drama that follows us!  Does this weird stuff happen to other families or are we just hogging all the fun?!?!?!?

Just another Carter Crazy story for our file I suppose…

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