I watched the fire run up to our production plots and thought “this epitomizes my farm career: I can’t keep up.” Plums keep sprouting in new locations before the old thickets are brought under control. A controlled burn (really) last spring stimulated the brome rather than suppressing it. And now burning a small pile of brush turned into a six acre grassland fire as it raced through the lush brome and up into the plots, torching some cedar trees between them. I wanted to burn the plots but not exactly in this unplanned, ragged way. When the fire chief pulled up to me his first words were, “this is not what I expected when I gave you the permit.” It was a harbinger of things to come in our dry, windy, snow-free state. Grass fires have made the news every week including some that closed state roadways. (http://www.kptm.com/story/24552588/firefighters-battle-large-grassfire-west-of-yutan )
Here are some things I know we learned (and discussed) after the fire got away from us:
- Listen to your spouse when he/she warns you that you are rushing through preparations and you really don’t have to burn the pile today. To-do lists may be modified.
- Never burn anything without water and the means to apply it.
- Every fall mow out the area around the buildings and between the plots and the buildings.
- Mow around the brush piles or move them to an area that can be mowed/disked.
- Keep fire breaks maintained and expand the width of them.
- Cut down all of the cedars between the plots
- Wait for snow before burning brush piles – we may never get another permit.
And here is a list of what I wish to learn from the fire:
- How will it affect the cheat grass growing in the plots?
- How will it affect the seed I broadcast in the fall?
- Blue and hairy grama on the south side of the big field
- Little bluestem and big bluestem over seeded in the big field, and
- Switchgrass in the small field that was completely over run by the fire.
- How will the primrose rosettes that looked great last fall respond to fire?
- The brome?!
The benefits of our uncontrolled burn include removal of thatch that was building up in the big bluestem plots and now we have a burned patch for grazing this spring. I’ll also be able to over-seed the south field with upland sedges. We’ve opened up the ground for quite a bit of seeding. Before then I’ll focus on harvesting rose hips and treating more plum thickets, no more brush fires, unless it snows.
Burned about 6 acres. Even the aerial looks dry!