Thursday, January 17, 2008

I'm Burning, I'm Burning, I'm Burning For You

In the winter, after the first frosts have slapped the grass silly so it forgets to grow and turns brown ... that's when I like to burn.

I start out near the garden where hoses for fire suppression are handy. I burn small chunks at a time so that I don't start something I can't finish. After those areas near the hoses are burned, I'll stretch hoses out to the hinterlands and burn farther from the "civilized" center of PFHQ. Some unforested areas never get burned due to their location beyond hoses, but that's okay too. I want a good mix of habitats and conditions, so not burning some areas fits just fine.

The grass looks misleadingly green in that first photo. I'm burning a little early in the season, so some green is mixed in with frost browned dry grass.

I manage these fires with a hose and a shovel. The oak forest bordering the open areas helps control the fire also. The area beneath the oak trees is more frost protected which keeps the grass green and moist, so the fire usually stops on it's own at the forest boundary.

A day with just the slightest of breezes is fine, but windy days are a no go.

The picture above shows the immediate purpose of the fires, which is to knock back the invasion of woody shrubs and young oaks. The different grasses respond pretty quick after a fire, but the woodies take longer to recover and some are killed outright.

The long term purpose is to keep open areas for my gopher tortoises and all the other critters and plants that need more sun than a forest allows.

The rule of spin in action.

This particular burn day was windless, but a fire creates it's own wind currents, so you still need to monitor it closely. A "smoke devil" whirlwind developed in the fire above.

See it?

That was pretty cool.

This is a poor man's drip torch. In the National Park Service, when we needed to burn an area, we used drip torches to set a fire line. You walk along dripping flaming fuel like a leaky dragon.

My budget is EVEN smaller than the Park Service's, so I just grab an old palm frond. All you have to do is stick the end in the flames and then drag and bounce the flaming palm frond wherever you want the fire to go.

Works like a charm.
Total cost = $0 ... which precisely matches my budget for this sort of fun.


threecollie said...

Hmmm, nice work on the local ecology. My grandpa liked to play with fire and burned his lawn every year. He lived right in the city (admittedly on the edge) but everybody burned grass back in the day so no one complained. We kids loved it!

Doug Taron said...

Nice Blue Oyster Cult reference. On my very first prairie burn, one of the crew kept singing that.

I can't express how happy this post made me to read. I wish more property owners had your land ethic. May your gophers thrive.

Deb said...

What Doug said. We need more people who care about the ecosystem in their own backyard.

Just curious, do you have to get a burning permit there? Around here, April is a burning frenzy and the forestry folks monitor things pretty closely.

rcwbiologist said...

Great post, great explanation, and great pictures. Go gophers!!

Leslie said...

I never even considered burning. Am I a bad person? Don't answer that.

Sharon said...

My Dad used to burn his lawn too, we loved it. :) I don't know about now, but back then, he was told as long as he was holding a bag of marshmallows when the fire chief walked up, he was good!

The Troll said...

I'm guessing a fire-damage prevention post will be appearing come March or so? Methinks we're going to have a pretty intense fire season down here.

Dry summer, Dry (as always) Fall, Dry Winter, so far.

robin andrea said...

Excellent stewardship of the land, fc. Good job and great photos.

Rurality said...

We've got an area I'd LOVE to do this to, but I'm too chicken. It's far from any hoses. Plus at this stage in the drought I'd be indanger of setting the whole state on fire.

Floridacracker said...

I had never seen people burning their lawns until I lived in Savannah. The neighbor hood next to mine was a colony of lawn burners.

Thanks. My gophers seem to be thriving which makes me pretty happy.

We're rural enough that burning small areas or tree trimmings is okay without permits, but large scale burns are a different thing.

I was hoping you'd drop in ... thought this would be right up your alley.

No, burning is not the litmus test for goodness ... trust me.

Clever Dad!

I think you are right on in that prediction. This burning helps to prevent worse fires in the spring also ... at least prevent creeping grass fires.

Thanks. I love this place ... love tweaking it too.

I hear ya ... I'm chicken to do it at my pine forest where the ground is covered by six inches of pine needles.

misti said...

Do you have to get a permit to burn?

Floridacracker said...

No, we are so rural that small backyard burning events do not have to be permitted. Large scale agricultural burns are.