Earlier this month, we burned the brush piles we had accumulated from last fall's clearing of the chaparral area on the slope below the house.
The brush piles had become homes for critters, and I felt bad to evict them, but unfortunately it had to be done. This pile was huge to start with, but when I got it down to about this size:
I could see there was clearly a woodrat in residence, based on the nest and the munched up passion fruits I found.
I also surprised an alligator lizard! I have never seen one of these before!
Looks like he had regrown his tail! I ended up leaving a smallish pile hoping they would stay in their home, but I fear I disturbed them too much. Look at this guy's eyes!
It's endlessly fascinating to burn stuff. I remember as a child, how the pleasure was compounded by the knowledge that it was naughty to light matches or candles or put to a piece of paper in the fireplace to watch it bloom into flame. I also remember the house being full of smoke and the fire brigade arriving and a firefighter gently asking me if I'd been playing with fire in the attic.
So I enjoyed being in charge of the burn pile, and keeping the flames going but not so high they would scorch the nearby shrubs. Rat is less patient. He is not allowed to be in charge.
I also uncovered a beautiful millipede (difference between millipede and centipede: centipedes have one leg per body segment and millipedes have 2 or 4). I think he's a common millipede.
He quickly curled up when I disturbed him.
Well I hope they are all alive and well today, somewhere down there.
I was thinking about the local native Californians as I burned. I've been reading about how they systematically burned the land to promote growth of more food plants. Some academics believe that the burning was so extensive and was sustained for so long - people lived here for 10,000 years at least - that some of the California habitats we think of as natural are in fact man made! But more of that in another post.