Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Burning Day

Last Saturday was "burning day" for myself and my neighbors, as we took advantage of cool temperatures and the recent rains to "safely" burn the prairie surrounding our homes.

Prairie burns, as I've discussed before, are an important factor in prairie maintenance.  Burns act to keep the prairie clear of invasive trees and non-native "weeds", and they increase the quality and protein levels of grassland intended for livestock pasture or hay.   As a consequence, of course, our intrusive government tries to regulate and prevent this useful and quite natural act, particularly during April when the burns are carefully monitored to limit their contribution to ozone pollution in overcrowded cities to the east. For untold millennia, prairie burns occurred as a result of lightning or the actions of Native Americans, but widespread burns today are unusual and it falls to the homeowners to nourish the prairie and to protect humans and human property. 

This year, we burned starting early in the morning.  Night burns can be spectacular, but our quiet morning burn was still beautiful and fretful and frightening, all at once.  Our primary goals are to keep the burns from escaping into town, and to burn our pastures thoroughly without burning our homes and outbuildings and my garden.  Hence, we usually "backburn" the perimeters of our landscaping into the wind, and then set fires to run with the wind to hotly and quickly finish the job.  In that final phase, sometimes it seems like the whole world is on fire.

Based on long experience together, none of my neighbors trust each other with a match in hand, and so burning is coordinated in person and by cell phone and burn tactics are chosen by consensus.  I view my neighbors as crazy arsonists hell bent on roasting my garden, but in their defense, the largest uncontrolled fire in this area occurred as a result of me trying to clear a bed for tulips a decade or so back.  Every year, somebody's pine trees get singed or a burn eats into someone's landscape mulch, but this year it was a perfect burn and there were almost no casualties, except for the accidental burning of four large hay bales owned by a neighbor (his own fault).  

I say almost no casualties, but at approximately 6:50 pm, several hours after the burns died down, our electricity died as well.  Pack rats often infiltrate the ground-hugging transformer boxes and nest there, and the nests will catch fire occasionally and smolder for hours in the boxes before finally taking our electricity with them.  Sure enough, on a neighbor's land, a blackened box was smoldering away and there was a large hole dug underneath one side.  Even in death, pack rats will get their revenge.   

I'll leave you teased with the view above, the blackened hills leading into town after the burn.  You can clearly see both the brush that gets burned and the rocks that litter what I call soil in this area. In about 2-3 weeks, I'll post this view and before's and after's of others, to show you the emerald paradise that burning creates on this Godforsaken land.


  1. In your last photo, is that the Western Hills water tower?
    What a great view. The burn is certainly necessary and I'm glad it's still "allowed". I fear some day it will be outlawed and we'll lose our prairie!

    1. Yes, I think that's what it's called, just to the left corner of the picture; it's the "low" water tower above Candlewood Addition.

    2. If you google "prescribed burns" or "controlled burns" you will find that each state is different in regulations in allowing private landowners to burn - but it is a very popular method used by all levels of the government (county, state, federal) in the sciences of Forestry, Agriculture and Land management - I dont think it will be outlawed anytime soon - its proven science that it is beneficial.

    3. okay last post of mine - can you tell i work in forestry and like proper management of lands ? LOL

      Heres a link for you ~

      looks like you already have a very wise active group that works with the local government and landowners to make sure your prairie burns arent outlawed :)

    4. In our area, we have to get an annual burn permit, but no real training is required. They do regulate what days we burn, especially in April when the statewide burning can affect ozone levels in Kansas City. I don't think it will be outlawed either, but, Gowestferalwoman,I won't put anything past a federal agency who proposed regulating farm dust.

  2. I don't see this practice much anymore. But, some people down the road from us used to burn their pasture every year. I was always amazed how green and beautiful it became. I think they must have left, though, because I haven't seen anyone burning in that area in some time. A lost art.

  3. Prescribed burns have their place; and the "instrusive government entities" lol DO manage prescribed burns quite often in many states - I have been on many personally. It happens yearly in many places, but because it goes well you never hear about it LOL In fact that is where my husband and i have received our qualified training...The State Depts of Natural Resources, BLM, US Forest Service, and even Corporate Pine plantation owners esp. down south etc. all know that fire is a great tool for regenerating natural grasses/wildlife habitat, cleaning out debris for seedlings,popping seed sources, and keeping down invasive weeds and its done yearly but in a controlled manner - many units are called in to make sure everything goes as planned.

    But all it takes is one person who doesnt know what they are doing to make a fatal mistake and thats why they are concerned when private landowners dont follow rules when doing a prairie burn. Sounds like yours is organized; as long as the right depts (police and fire) are called before you start to let them know (they will get phone calls from well meaning frighten drive bys lol), permits are filed if required, weather and wind are taken into consideration, and everyone is coordinated with radio transmitters to keep in communication, youve got enough help with water packs and tank trucks on hand to spray the perimeters, theres a plan with maps where everyone is suppose to be and theres prep beforehand, then it sounds like it works well for your neighborhood :)

    Preparation is important - that is the reason why we both survived and our home too a crown fire started by lightening last year - we were prepared beforehand in fire season.

  4. Corrected to Instrusive to INTRUSIVE LOL and lightening to LIGHTNING...goodness, I think all this snow we are getting up here is affecting my fingers...and brain LOL


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