Way in 2009, we got started planning Bluestem Pond Farm. If you read my early post about planting the field in prairie grasses and wildflowers, you know that we took our best guess at where the pond and house would one day be so that we would not have to disrupt too much of it later. Well, now we know. The pond, the geothermal system, and the house did rip up about an acre of our beloved plantings but there is still plenty there to love.
After about three years of growth, there is maintenance required for a prairie to thrive. You have to burn it! We have been discussing this with the local expert and today he allowed us to tag along while his crew burned his field of switchgrass. It was really cool to watch and I feel a lot more secure now that I know what safety measures are required.
The crew were very careful in their strategy. The wind was coming from the northeast this morning, so they started in the southwest corner. They had mowed an area around the perimeter and now watered down a swatch about a foot wide for about 50 yards. Behind the tractor with the water tank walked a man carrying a tank of kerosene and gas which he used to ignite and spray a continuous line of fire inside the watered area.
This served to created a “back burn” area of charred grass that would stop the movement of the flames once the wind took over and swept the fire across the whole field. The crew very carefully doused any stray flames that threatened to smoulder beyond the wet boundary line. Once this southern firewall was prepared, they continued around the east and west sides and finally ignited the north.
The wind took control of things at that point and whoosh the whole field went up like some sort of fireworks display. The cool thing was that it all came together neatly in the middle where the conflagration was contained by the charred outline and it burned itself out very quickly and efficiently. Even so, you have to have respect for the power of the flames. The hot wind and the roar that they generated seemed way beyond anyone’s control.
Our little Bluestem Pond fields are broken into manageable areas by our trails that could be tackled in small batches, but I think we will use the professionals to do our first burn. If it got out of control due to our own inexperience, I’d never forgive myself. We may do it as early as next week, so stay tuned.