The white Department of Forestry trucks lined Kauffmans Mill Road as personnel prepared for the third controlled burn at the farm. Fuel was added to flame throwers, the parameters of the burn area assessed and the bulldozer unloaded, as the fire management team, by second nature, monitored the slight breeze for direction and speed.
The area to be burned totalled seven acres and was dominated by last year’s brown and dried sweet annie, mullein, japanese hops and an assortment of grasses. In dry conditions, the mixture would have blazed up quickly, but the recent rains provided an element of safety by slowing down the rate of burn.
The torches made a whooshing sound as the operators dripped flame along the ground. The dry material caught up, causing those watching to step back from the heat. Soon, the entire southern edge of the burn area was in flame, moving toward another line of fire being laid down by a yellow clad worker.
Fire is commonly used to regenerate fields by clearing out the old undergrowth and encouraging the resurgence of native warm season grasses. This, in turn, creates a better habitat for wildlife, particularly ground nesting birds such as quail.
The White House Farm Foundation is participating in a program with the Smithsonian Institute to replant the burned area with a mixture of two native grasses and three forbs (a plant that is not a grass or grasslike). This will be done at the end of April.
We will then compare the germination rate with the two burns we accomplished last January and March with the Department of Forestry at the northwest end of the riparian buffer.