Grass Burning: How Not to Burn Your Pastures

By Oz Girl
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Last 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!