Thursday, March 31, 2011

Burn baby Burn

   Ah, another sunny and beautiful spring day! Yesterday was pretty nice too. But really dry. And with dry weather in March, it is perfect for a prairie fire.
   Our prairie is about four acres in size and is a re-created one. There is less than 1/10th of 1% of original prairie left in our "prairie" state of Illinois. Augh! We planted over 100 species of prairie flowers back in 2001 and maybe in another 200 years it will look a little like it did 200 years ago. At least that tiny four acres will anyway.
   The last four years have been pretty wet for us and we haven't had a good burn to get rid of the weeds and help the flowers along. The prairie plants thrive with fire, so the weeds were really taking over.
   With the help of Darrel Coates from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, we were able to get a really hot burn this year. Darrel brought a drip torch and helped us get the fire going hot.
   We first burn a small area on the south side so the fire wouldn't get too hot and melt our hoophouses. That would be a really BAAAD thing! And, with the wind from the north and east, the fire would've really wooshed into the woods...right toward that wonderful new wood shed we are working on.
   So, after burning a strip along the south side, Marty and Darrel laid a strip of fire on the west side along the woods. This is called "backing". The fire blows to the west due to the easterly wind, but the fuel for it is on the east side so it slowly backs into the wind. That laid a "black line" which is a burnt area that helps keep the fire from crossing. No fire. Remember those science lessons? Then the guys went all the way to the north side laying fire and that's when it really lit up.
   A truly good burn is one where no one gets hurt, and you don't have to work too hard for the fire to do what it is supposed to. This was great! Will and I pretty much stood around and watched little smoke tornados skip around. They always remind me of the Tazmanian Devil cartoon. Rabbits were running out of the fire area - nine were counted. And we counted a couple of Woodcocks also that flew into the woods...sorry guys.
   Thanks Darrel for helping us get a really nice hot burn. Most of the weeds are gone and it is pretty clean. Now the prairie plants can come on stronger. We are planting some prairie grasses today by sowing seed. The grasses will hopefully help the fire be hotter in the future.

This is Marty with the Prairie Central 5th grade students last fall.
They are collecting prairie seed and discuss the eco-system of the prairie as part of their program.

Beautiful prairie flowers.
Thanks to Lisa Predko (c)2008 for this picture!

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