Saturday, December 5, 2015

Glade Restoration Update

Back in 2007, the  plan to restore a 12 acre glade above the road leading to our house seemed easy enough.  We had cleared a 3 acre glade when we were young and innocent (well at least innocent), using a chainsaw and an ATV with a winch, completing a prescribed fire in 2002.  Much older and a little wiser we got help this time.

We hired Cody Secrest freshly graduated from college to clear the cedars off the hillside.  When he was done it was head high in cedar slash and the salable logs were off to the mill.

Cedar slash after the logs were harvested
Two years later we began the process of trying to burn the glade but Mother Nature said "HA!"  Too wet, then too windy, then too dry with fire warnings as the years went by.  Once we had the whole burn crew out all morning when clouds moved in, the relative humidity rose and the fires wouldn't carry.  Another time the MDC crew had to cancel to fight another fire.

By 2014 trees had grown up too high to burn and we contracted with Jess Register through MDC.  He attacked the new growth with a mulching head on a tracked skid steer, grinding the new growth down to a 6" deep carpet of wood chips as seen in this video.  I was concerned that this compacted carpet wouldn't burn - boy was I wrong!

With the help of MDC, we contracted with Jess to do the burn as well.  When the big day came on October 18th, we had a crew including Master Naturalist volunteers* and Willie and Trevor, our always willing neighbors.  Jess walked the fire line edge with a "weed eater" the size of a small ATV followed by Trevor with a blower.  With a light breeze from the north northeast, we then began the fire on the top of the northeast hillside.

Watching the fire line
Once the fire had burned a blackened strip across the top of the glade and down the north side to the road, David Reynolds MN ran the drip torch down the road, starting the fire up the glade.  The fire progressed slowly and occasional patches didn't burn.  While a roaring blaze like we had in 2002 sweeping up the slope is more exciting, we were happy to have a leisurely spread up to the upper blacken fire line.
 This chipmunk was found on the edge of the burn line, trying to decide if it was safer to head back in the flames or face the giant human watching the fire line for escaping embers.  With a gentle nudge of her yard broom, Christine Chiu encouraged it into safety.
Christine and Allan as the fire dies out.
We had a great result as seen in this set of photographs and this video.  During the winter we will burn the small patches that didn't carry the fire.  The blackened hillside may not look like much now, but just wait until spring when all the glade plants held captive under cedar trees for the last 50+ years break free, crying "Sun at last!"

A previous blog gives details of the site and the reasons why we bother restoring glades.
We are grateful for all the help from MDC over the years of this project, and for the Master Naturalists and friends who watched the fire lines with rakes in hand. 

Missouri Gothic..... or end of a perfect day

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