Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Outside Social Distancing


My father needed help doing regular burns on his CRP lands and although we were supposed to be social distancing, I figured we could still get it done while maintaining the appropriate distances. So we headed down to the farm one recent Saturday and said our hellos from a distance before we all got into a different vehicle and headed out to various plots around the farm.

Burning CRP lands are to replicate prairie fires of our past which kill the weeds and allow the native prairie grasses to thrive. To control the fire, we always start on the downwind side of the field and light a fire using a drip torch a few feet from an area that we disc up to act as a dirt fire break. The fire will quickly consume all the fuel between it and the fire break and die out. The fire will also continue to creep slowly upwind consuming more fuel and will leave a large blackened strip of ground that acts as a better fire break.


Above it the backfire consuming the fuel between the tilled dirt fire break. When we get the downwind side burned and make sure nothing has jumped the line, we work up the sides towards the headwind side of the field. Once there, and everything is going well, we walk along and light the edge of the field with the same drip torches creating the head fire seen below.

With the wind pushing the headfire, it will take off and get quite hot which is what kills the weeds and allows the prairie grass seeds room to germinate and thrive. Eventually when the head fire gets across the field near the backfire, the headfire uses such a large amount of air to fuel itself that it will actually reverse the wind direction near the backfire and pull it towards itself sometimes resulting in many mini tornadoes of fire that are quite spectacular to see.


It was a pretty solitary way to spend the day social distancing and great exercise.

7 comments:

Kelly said...

I have a healthy respect for fire and would be nervous doing a controlled burn with some of the windy days we've had lately! I'm sure we've got a drip torch around here somewhere...

Ed said...

Kelly - We definitely pick days to do it below certain wind speeds and within certain ambient humidity requirements. If one doesn't push these envelopes, it is quite safe to do and best of all, very beneficial for the land.

Kelly said...

Oh, you're preaching to the choir here. We can't ever watch news reports about wildfires out west, particularly in CA ,without my husband talking about the lack of prescribed burning out there. He had a professor in forestry school who hammered the necessity for them into their brains.

Jeff said...

It's good you're able to help your dad. I've done that kind of burning a few times and it's kind of neat to watch the dead grass burn and then to see what pops out from the charred ground.

Ed said...

Kelly - My brother works for the forest service down south and they do prescribed burns every year but do catch a significant amount of negative press and feedback from locals. However, the government supports them. I suspect that in California, it isn't the same and why they don't do prescribed burns.

Jeff - For me, it always reminds me of Easter with the subjects of death and rebirth.

Debby said...

There is an art form to this, isn't there? I enjoyed the post. I have a friend from Australia. Those big fires there? They are not allowed to clear trees from their property. The station owners, in many cases, hold the government responsible for enacting laws which, in effect, provided the fuel that made these massive fires possible.

Ed said...

Debby - I've been wondering about that. I haven't heard much about the cause of the fires other than extreme drought. My brother was actually on a list to go over there and help them fight them but never got called.