April 2nd, 2005


Unintended cremation

I ought to have backdated this to April 1st, but then this is a real event though it seems otherwise. I have been in the Santa Cruz mountains since Thursday to finish the irrigation project along the east side of my house; I added sprinkler heads along the periphery of a small but lush tea garden and meditation lawn. This time I was in a bit of a hurry since I was hosting an architecture tour of the place the next day. Not wanting any of my guests to slip into the trenches and possibly twist or break an ankle (and the worrisome liability issues despite all the orange tape warnings), I spent the day and early evening beforehand filling in said trenches. So, the night before last when I defrosted the sheppard's pie and warmed up the oven to bake it, I was not paying much attention. About 30 minutes later I remembered the oven should have been up to temperature and when I went to the kitchen the first thing I noticed was the odor of something burning. At first I thought maybe someone forgot to clean the oven when last used and I assumed some old spill must be charring itself. As I opened the oven door I saw a small fire inside, nothing big but the extra oxygen did make it flare. I quickly closed the door, canceled the bake program, grabbed a box of baking soda, opened the oven door and dumped some soda through the holes in the burner pan, then closed it swiftly. Baking soda does work to suppress small fires, and the smoke was not too bad; at least the fire alarms did not go off.

An hour later the oven cooled off enough to take a closer look. The problem burn took place underneath the bottom plate, and after prying that out of the way, there among the propane burners I found a lovely little nest made up of some of the oven insulation. The nest was fine being made up of inflammable materials. However, I also found the completely charred remains of a field mouse that chose the entirely wrong place to make its home.

It took another hour to clean up everything; the smoke condensed onto the oven walls and I had to scrape the more recalcitrant remains from the floor of the oven with a razor blade.


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