In the first Rites of Spring post, I showed Bill torching the iris bed to control iris leaf spot, a fungal disease that over-winters on the dead leaves. Here is a picture of dead leaves with iris leaf spot.
Little Plastic Garden House Update
The plastic was removed a couple of weeks ago.
We got one cutting of salad greens and spinach before the late freeze. Unfortunately, the plants were damaged but they’ll come back.
Yum!—the first asparagus stalk. Yes, it is purple! The variety is called “Purple Passion.” How appropriate—we are passionate about purple and asparagus!
Preparing the Rest of the Garden for Planting
Early in the spring, Bill brought several loads of dirt mixed with cow manure—inexpensive fertilizer and abundant here!—from the pasture to spread on the garden. Then, he leveled the ground. This is a multi-tractor task!
A couple of weeks ago he planted broccoli and cauliflower. Then he covered the tender, young plants with straw to keep them from freezing.
Spring Flower Bouquet
Hyacinth, daffodils and tulips are in bloom! Anyone remember these old “Squirt” bottles? They make cute retro vases!
No, it wasn’t a frightening experience; it was a cow pie-busting experience! A harrow is a farm implement with spikes, teeth or discs used to level ground by breaking up clods of dirt or uprooting weeds. In this case, Bill was using a harrow to bust up dried cow pies and distribute the natural fertilizer over that pasture area. He only harrowed ground around feeders and other areas where the cattle congregated for lengths of time, creating a build-up of cow pies.
1 gas grill propane bottle (full) with hose and torch head attached
1 plastic water tank (also full) with hose and nozzle attached, and battery to power the tank pump
1 Suzuki mini-truck
1 very amateur photojournalist—Only photo available of this person is a pedi-selfie of her muddy feet. More on that later.
Blessing from the county emergency dispatcher that wind conditions are calm and there is minimal risk of the fire rampaging out of control and torching the whole neighborhood. Unfortunately, early spring strong winds in northeast Kansas have caused flare-ups a day later that almost did just that!
Pasture Pyrotechnics 101
In my book chapter, “Pasture Pyrotechnics,” I stated the reason for burning pastures in spring: “Burning off a pasture in early spring is an effective means of grassland management for several reasons. Burning gets rid of dead grass and weeds left from the previous grazing season, releases nutrients into the ground that revitalize the pasture, helps break the crowns on native grass so they will spread out and kills ticks and parasitic worms. The result in a few weeks is a lush green pasture of nutritious, tender grass the cattle can’t wait to sink their teeth into.”
Setting the Back Burn
Bill waited three weeks for perfect conditions to burn our native grass pasture: wind out of the southeast at about 10 to 15 mph and green grass in our pastures on the north and west of the burn area to keep the fire from spreading. Finally, on Friday it happened. He received the required blessing and assembled his equipment. I assembled my equipment: digital camera. Off we went to start and document the back burn along the north perimeter of the pasture.
Setting a back burn creates a burned out strip that stops the advancing fire for lack of fuel when it reaches this area. Otherwise, the fire could spread into our timber, which is very dry right now.
Even though the wind was mostly out of the southeast, at times it swirled from the north, widening the back burn area. This was an unexpected and welcome assist.
All Fired Up!
Once the back burn was set, Bill ignited the main event along the east and south fence lines. I positioned myself on the dam of a dried up pond—or so I thought. I saw the fire advancing from east to west and wanted to get a shot of the frontline flames. The quickest way to get in position was to cut across the pondbed. The surface appeared to be dried, cracked dirt, so I trotted down the dam, out onto the “cracked dirt” and sunk in up to my ankles! I struggled to lift one foot, then the other to get back to the bank and really dry ground.
Meanwhile, Bill drove along the south fence line, continuing the burn. The southeast breeze propelled the flames across the pasture.
During the burn, Bill patrolled the pasture perimeter, dousing remaining flames to contain the burn. Our pastures to the north and west have green grass, but with dry conditions and low humidity even that will burn. The north pasture also has a stand of very dry timber mentioned earlier. To the east and south are more areas of timber owned by neighbors. Bill was particularly vigilant in making sure our fire didn't spread beyond those fence lines.
Get back, girls! We’re not having barbecued beef for supper! They really weren’t in any danger, just curious and always ready for any photo op.
Almost finished! Bill checks for hot spots.
Smoldering cow pie—Back in the early days when settlers crossed and settled the Great Plains, “buffalo chips” were used as fuel for cooking and heating. Wood was not plentiful on the open prairie.
There are some areas of dried grass left, but considering new grass had already started to grow, Bill is pleased with the burn. Depending on the weather and precipitation, we should be able to put cattle on this pasture in about three or four weeks.
The smoky (and muddy) clothes spent the night outside. The mud was hosed off the next morning—too tired to do it the night before—then everything was thrown into the washer in one load and hung on the clothesline to dry. Yes, the pink t-shirt got washed with the muddy shoes! We don’t get too picky about laundering farm clothes.
Just in time for the return of our feathered friends, we are offering an exceptional array of affordable, quality homes to fit the nesting needs of this season’s starter families.
This week's tongue-in-beak listings: Wrens
Excellent starter home! This cute little white cottage in the country is secured to a tree branch with trusty baling wire. Front and back perches give Mama Wren perfect platforms for scolding squirrels, dogs, cats, and humans who dare to loiter near her realm.
Cozy little retreat with all natural siding located in area of mature trees. Front perch serves as a deck to kick back and relax or as a flight-training platform for the children.
Wren-size eco-friendly dried gourd home has natural exterior finish to blend with surroundings. Furnished organic interior is move-in ready. Neighborhood is friendly and welcoming.
This year’s Designer Showhouse is a spacious executive home surrounded by wonderful shade trees. Enjoy evenings on the entryway perch or lower level porch as this home swings gently in the summer breeze. Interior is not yet complete, waiting for input from future occupants.