Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Burn, Baby, Burn!

Along with (apparently) 107 other folks in Sedgwick County, we took advantage of light winds last Wednesday to burn our grassland.

Not all of it, of course, just the front tallgrass. To continue decreasing sweetclover and prairie three-awn grass, we had wanted to burn the back 5 acres again this spring, but the draw has held water all winter long and we can't get the tractor across it to mow the firebreaks. So we settled for burning off the remnants of 2 years' growth in the big bluestem-Indiangrass-brome mix that constitutes the front prairie on our place, between the house and the street.

The burn went very well overall. There were only a few "Oh, no!" moments when the wind suddenly seemed to switch or, most excitingly, when a big dust devil formed. The dust devil was especially interesting. It formed right behind the fire line, danced across the blackened, smoking area that had just finished burning, shimmied across the firebreak, and melted into a big cedar by the creek. Since it had stirred up a hot spot and picked up a few live embers just before it crossed the firebreak and entered the cedar, we could have had a real big problem on our hands, but luck was with us. Greg immediately went over (with the hose) to check it out, dousing the area in general, but nothing seemed to have ignited.

As we got past the pine trees and cedar trees that formed a potential "ladder" to the house, I felt confident enough to snap a couple pictures of the burn, but with only 3 of us (Prairiewolf, his Dad, and me) tending the fire, I didn't want to take my attention away from my side of the fire in the early stages of the burn.

It was a good, complete burn...and, less than a week later, I'm already seeing new green sprouts coming up through the black ashes. It will be fun to see if we've released any leftover wildflowers that had been overshadowed by the tallgrasses around them. It's amazing how much the prairie can change from year to year, when you know what to look for.

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