Yesterday was Prairie Burn Day for my neighbors and I. We waited till very late to burn the prairie this year compared with previous years, all the better to suppress invasive sumacs and other brush plants which are now fully leafed out and more susceptible to fire. In fact, the burn went slowly because of a lack of wind and all the green grass underneath last winter's detritus. There were no casualties this year, not even to any of our electrical boxes or minor outbuildings. Most of my prairie is presently characterized by blackened earth punctuated by smoldering piles of donkey poo.
Burn Day's are communal and family events. My wife and daughter both participated, tolerating my constant direction about water stream and fire spreading technique as they complained incessantly about spider webs and the possibility of giant female-eating ticks. Burning Day also allows me to burn my garden debris piles in relative safety (surreptitiously photographed by my wife in the upper right picture) and they are a chance to burn out pack rat nests which accumulate in the woods around the pond.
This year, I took advantage of the occasion to check on the health of my son's Scotch Pine, shown here next to my daughter. It was a gift from some well-meaning foresters at his elementary school some 17 or 18 years ago, a tiny seeding that I planted near the pond in hopes that it would be isolated and escape the rampant Scotch Pine disease in the area. Its stands now almost 20 feet tall and healthy as an evergreen ox.
During every burn, I learn more about the prairie and my little portion of it. This year my daughter found and rescued this little turtle crawling in the grass about 50 feet from the pond and wanted to keep it. She was less excited when I told her it wasn't a box turtle but a snapping turtle searching for water. We left it down by the pond, safe from the prairie fire sweeping in its direction. I can't count all the rabbit and pack rat sightings of the week.
I rest now, content to let the passage of a few days clothe these burnt hills in emerald green. In the picture below, you can see the blackened prairie to the north of my house, and the green hills of K-States Beef Unit, burned three weeks ago, beyond. Soon the entire horizon will look like those hills, a sea of green grass ready once again for the summer passage of ghostly prairie schooners.