To Start a Fire

We had a beautiful, restorative fire on the Bena Prairie Friday. It started, like many fires, with a simple strike of a match. To start a prairie fire, I like to make a small ball of dry material, similar to a mouse nest, and place it at the base of standing prairie grasses, such as big bluestem.

From the match strike, the grasses of the tallgrass prairie, the topography of the land, and the wind should combine to create a prairie fire. We coax it along with our rakes and suppress it with our water tanks, but the fire itself is a living force on the land, bringing dynamic change. In the long term, it will be a positive change on the landscape. Locally, it will look stark until spring. When spring comes, the burned areas will green up sooner than unburned areas. There will be more flowers, and the vegetation will be taller than in areas that didn’t burn. Many of the young seedling trees trying to become established will die in the fire, enabling the prairie to remain a prairie for years to come.

Stimple Prairie Detail, April 2018

Prescribed Fire. April 7, 2018

The Baltic Labyrinth, created in 2017. April 14, 2018. One season of mowing the path altered the vegetation enough to enable the labyrinth to remain intact through the fire.

Late spring snow. April 15, 2018

Fresh shoots among the acorns. April 21, 2018

Killdeer nest in the middle of the labyrinth path. The labyrinth will remain closed to humans until the babies hatch. April 29, 2018.

Mayapples emerging in the prairie. The prairie merges with the savanna not too far away. April 29, 2018

To Have a Pizza Party

Dig down to the frost line, so everything doesn’t shift in the winter. Enlist friends to help with the digging.

Snuffies helps dig
Snuffies helps dig

Nanotig helps dig
Nanotig helps dig

 

Build a foundation, then level up the fire bricks
Build a foundation, then level up the fire bricks

Joe Zito doing the mud stomp, a mixture of clay and sand to form cob
Joe doing the mud stomp, a mixture of clay and sand to form cob

The first layer of cob, applied over a dome of sand.
The first layer of cob, applied over a dome of sand.

Take a break from stomping mud to appreciate the beautiful autumn

Andrea Blaha, doing the mud stomp with straw, clay and sand to form the second thermal layer of cob.
Andrea, doing the mud stomp with straw, clay and sand to form the second thermal layer of cob.

Mick and Jerry Snodgress, applying the second layer of cob.
Mick and Jerry, applying the second layer of cob.

Maria and Chauncey Snodgress at the end of forming the oven.
Maria and Chauncey at the end of forming the oven.

After things have had a few days to dry, we cut out the doorway.
After things have had a few days to dry, we cut out the doorway.

Elaine Ball is digging out the sand form.
Elaine is digging out the sand form.

A complete cob oven.
A complete cob oven.

Behind the wooden door
Behind the wooden door.

IMG_pie is done!
The first pizza party coincided with the first snowfall of winter.