Grit Blogs > City Gal Moves to Oz Land

Grass Burning: How Not to Burn Your Pastures

A photo of Oz GirlLast spring while I was in Arizona visiting my mother, hubby decided to do some pasture burn-off. In one respect, I wished I had been here to take photos … but in another respect, it was probably a good thing I was absent as this particular burn got a little bit out of control! You could say I need to work on remaining calm in high-adrenaline situations … but I’m sure my panic button would have went off had I seen fire THIS close to the house.

Pasture buring too close to house.

It was a beautiful, sunny and calm Saturday. After hubby fed the horses, he decided it was the perfect day for a pasture burn. A very light wind was blowing in just the right direction, the ground was slightly damp from recent rains, and he was home for the next two days to control and ensure there were no lingering embers.

Wind is the biggest variable when one decides to burn off pasture land. Ask any farmer/rancher and he’ll tell ya … that nasty ole wind can kick up at any given moment and all of a sudden, you’ve got an out-of-control burn! Well, that’s exactly what happened to hubby on that fateful Saturday. The wind kicked up and all of a sudden, his burn was moving along faster than he could control it. He did his best all by himself, and actually, he did a pretty good job, but as the fire raged into a neighbor’s nearby pasture, he decided he better play it safe and called the local volunteer fire guys. You can just barely see the fence that divides the two pastures in the following photo.

Neighbor field

There were also 15 round hay bales in another neighboring field that had the misfortune of being right on the fence line … and getting torched! At $45/round bale, that could have cost us $675!! Luckily, we have nice neighbors.

Round bales after burn

In the days that followed after my return from Arizona, I discovered the birds loved the freshly burned pastures and unbeknownst to me, we had prickly pear cactus in our fields too. I had never witnessed the prickly pear around these parts and was surprised to see that it called our pasture “home.” Note to self: always remember to wear BOOTS in the pasture.

Birds like the burned pasture 

Prickly pear in the pasture

Our chicken coop was a partial burn victim and luckily we didn’t have any chickens at that time. However, our barn cats called the coop home from time to time (aka the cat house), and as luck would have it, our sweet Barack was in the coop at the time of the fire. He suffered some burnt hair and was minus his whiskers and eyelashes after the fire … poor thing! The chicken coop repair was started a few weeks ago, and I’m still hopeful that we can get our first chicks sometime this spring.

Chicken coop collage

Based on this story, can you see why I rather wish I had been here, running around with my trusty Nikon getting some fantabulous fire photos?! And yet, I wonder, I might have been too panic-stricken to snap any photos … chalk that kind of panic up to the fact that I’ve lived in the city most of my life. I’m learning to understand many country ways; pasture and wheatfield burn-offs still fascinate me.

Since last year’s burn, hubby has taken additional steps to ensure this year’s burn will be easier to control. All summer long, every time he mowed the yard, he also mowed both sides of every fence line on the property. Now, in addition to the roads and pond, we have even more fire breaks, so an out-of-control fire can only go so far before it snuffs itself out.

I will be here for this year’s burn … perhaps a stiff drink before the burn commences will guarantee my calm and some great photos for my blog!

oz girl
4/17/2010 5:02:35 PM

Mountain Woman and Nebraska Dave, thanks for stopping by!! Pasture burning, or wheatfield burning, has been quite the experience for me. Right before I came back to Ohio earlier this week, a nearby neighbor was burning off the ditches around his wheatfield. It was really cool to watch him zipping along the edge on his four-wheeler, torching the ditch as he went! I tried to snap a few quick photos, but alas, none of them turned out very well. :-( Dave, I'm sorry we weren't able to connect when you came through Kansas... I'm in Ohio for the 3rd time since January due to my grandmother, who is 93 and all of a sudden becoming quite frail as dementia sets in... we've been cleaning out her house this past week and had an estate sale the past 2 days. It's quite emotional and sad for me, as we are losing the last member of an entire generation. And speaking of wind chill, we're having an exceptionally chilly day here in Ohio, with real live snowflakes earlier today! Ouch! (And it was 80 degrees two days ago!) Thanks for the compliments re: my personal blog. :-) I'm sure glad you've enjoyed it.


nebraska dave
4/12/2010 9:26:27 PM

Susan, those pictures almost look like pictures from the thirties during the dust bowl years. I know that it’s a good thing to do from time to time but Dad never did any thing like that during my youth farm years. I have been to Kansas just last week and I know how the wind can howl across the prairie in Kansas. I have no idea what the wind chill was on that fateful day when J.D. and I were trying to install an outside disconnect for an air conditioner in Sublette, Kansas. Of course the whistling wind ran its course across the giant feed lot before swirling around the building of our installation. We had not one, not two, but three installations to do. What a day that was. I got a real first hand experience with the winds of the Kansas flat lands. Pasture burning is not something that’s really done in Nebraska. On occasion there will be a roadside burn going on but usually not a full pasture burn. I hope that all your burns are only on calm days that remain calm. Oh and by the way you have an awesome personal blog.


mountain woman
4/10/2010 9:36:28 AM

I LOVE your black and white photos!!! Anyway, I had never know about pasture burning because we don't do it here but then we discovered everyone in the Ozarks does it. This year, the volunteer fire department has been very busy with burns that got out of control because of the winds. I'm so glad nothing happened except to your main house and I'm happy you didn't owe the neighbors money for hay. As always, your articles about your life are so interesting and the photos are always terrific.