Sunday, May 8, 2011

Back pasture burn

Well, we did it, we burned the back pasture!  OK, so we hired someone to burn the back pasture ;).  If you read my post about prescribed burns then you know we'd been planning to burn the back 25 acre pasture...for a while.  We finally got the courage up to get it done and wisely called a professional to do it.

I'd found a name on the MDC's website of a person locally that you could contract for controlled burns.  So I called him, he (John) came out and evaluated the area to be burned and gave us a quote.  Since we'd never done anything like this before, we had to hope that it was a fair bid and that he would do a good job.  John certainly sounded like he knew what he was talking about and all the things he said he would do are things we'd learned in the workshop so we were feeling pretty confident that he would do a good job and the price seemed reasonable.

First thing John did was hire someone (a local farmer) to mow a firebreak all the way around the perimeter as well as one down the middle in case the fire needed to be slowed down.  Then he emails me at work saying that he wanted to get it done that day because the weather looked good.  I was a bit alarmed because 1) I was at work and 2) when I looked at the forecast, there were actually high wind warnings for that afternoon.  Does this guy know what he's doing??  I said I wasn't comfortable with burning tht day for the reasons stated and he later agreed that the high wind advisory wasn't listed on the website he went to. NOAA I said, THAT is were you you should get your weather info (we learned that at the workshop :).  He did say that the following day, which thankfully was a Saturday, looked ideal.  After looking at the forecast again, I had to agree.  Winds were supposed to be light and out of the east, clear and fairly low humidity.  So this was it, we would be burning on Saturday!

Probably our biggest concern was the horses, we had no idea how they would react to the heavy smoke.  I was pretty sure the sheep would pay little or no attention and the dogs would be more concerned with the strangers in their back pasture rather than the fire and smoke.  As it turned out, the horses did just fine, we put them in the east sheep pasture and put those sheep in the barn in case the horses got stirred up.  When the horses get rowdy, the sheep usually suffer in some form or another so we thought it best to just separate them.  Sheep did fine and the dogs barked at the strangers as expected. But I'm jumping ahead of myself.

So John arrived around 10am, said he planned on starting to burn around noon.  First he wanted to check the firebreaks for any fallen limbs (after the high winds) and he had recruited a couple of teens to rake any debris that had fallen or been blown into the firebreaks.  He had also called the fire chief with the Lathrop volunteer fire department and asked him to come as backup so we were waiting for his arrival before starting.

Noon came and went and there was no sign of the fire chief.  1 o'clock came and went, still no fire chief.  We could see smoke rising from surrounding properties, it was apparently the day to burn...and yet we were not.  I was getting anxious (I hate waiting) and was afraid we weren't going to get it done. Our friends Donna and Bob Putnam had come out to see lambs and watch the burn so we were all still hoping to still see fire before the day was done.

Finally around 2 o'clock, the fire chief rolled in. I was surprised because he was in an SUV, no water, how was this going to help? Then a water truck rolled in a few minutes later. OK, we're good then, we can start the burn!  Then a few minutes later ANOTHER water truck rolled in soon followed by 2 or 3 more trucks all with volunteer fire fighters aboard!  I think total there had to be around 10 people not including John and his 2 teenagers.  Good training opportunity apparently. My anxiety level completely disappeared and now I was looking forward to sitting back and enjoying this burn!

The volunteers were happily bantering back and forth between each other, most of them quite young.  They were all geared up and ready to roll.  It was pretty obvious that John wasn't going to have much to do as the fire chief pretty much took over the burn. 

They started the fire on the ENE side of the pasture and worked their way south.  We saw the smoke and heard the fire before we saw flames.

Then we started seeing the flames!
The firetrucks were driving around all over the pasture, checking for out of control spots (and having fun I think).  At one point they started beeping their sirens and talking to each other over the loud speaker.  It was no wonder that 2 neighbors stopped in to make sure this was a "controlled" burn.  I'm sure the whispers will continue about those 2 crazy sheep women up the road.  Oh well, gotta keep things interesting around here!

 Then we were left with a blackened pasture and smokin' cedar trees.

All in all it was a fun afternoon but I have to say, it was not as scary or impressive as that demo at the workshop lol.  The winds were more intense that day and it was all dry grass, no new growth yet.  We had patches that didn't burn well because of the new growth that had started so that slowed it just a bit.  It was interesting to see the cedars go up though.  They produced a very black poof of smoke and the smell was wonderful, just like cedar incense!  Here are some after pics:

Its been about a month since the burn and we're seeing some nice regrowth.  I hope to get out there this weekend and get some electronet up so I can start putting the sheep back there.  I'm really excited about that!  Still a lot of work to be done before its 100% useable but we're moving in the right direction. We do have a lot of little dead cedars to cut down...anyone for little cedar posts?!  I plan to use some of them for the garden fence but there is plenty more to go around!  Come on out and bring your chainsaw!

(Some pictures courtesy of Robert Putnam)

No comments:

Post a Comment