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roadrunner 57151 1 Burning the Homeplace either
Burning the Homeplace
Photographer: My Grandmother
Place: Silverton, Oregon / USA
Crop Type: Pennlawn Fescue
Machines: 4020 John Deere Tractor
Date: August 9, 1995
Description:
Upon completion of the grass seed harvest, the fields are
covered with straw. For certain varieties of grass, this
straw is baled up and removed. For other varieties of grass
(as with the fine fescues), the fields are burned. The
burning process serves a multitude of purposes, including
removal of crop residue, removal of pests, prevention of
disease, and as a 'shock' to stimulate growth for the next
year.

This was certainly one of my favorite parts of working on
the farm. While it could be perceived as a little
dangerous, so long as we were careful, things usually went
smoothly and without accident.

Anymore, the farmers must obtain permission to burn from the
Oregon department of agriculture. Once permission is
granted on a particular day for a particular field (all
registered before-hand), the farmer heads to the field with
a torch and various fire fighting equipment. We always used
a few tractors with water tanks. A neighbor would also use
his spray buggy. Having water available to deal with fire
in the wrong place at the wrong time is critical. My part
of the equation was usually lighting the fires. We used a
drip torch for this task, and our fuel consisted 1/2 of
gasoline and 1/2 of diesel.

After assessing what we referred to as "service winds," we
would start the field on fire on the downwind side of the
field. A strip of fire would be lit along the entire edge
of the downwind side of the field. We would continue
running strip after strip of fire along this edge, working
our way further and further into the field. This process
was referred to as "back-burning." Ironically, this usually
seemed to be one of the most dangerous times of the burning
process. Depending on how strong the service winds were, we
often saw dust-devils come through and pick up the flaming
straw, sometimes carrying it several hundred feet into
places where we didn’t want things to burn. It also
required some healthy lungs on the part of the tractor
drivers, who spent quite a bit of time behind the fire line
and in the smoke, watching to ensure that the fire was
staying exactly where it was supposed to.

Once we had a sufficiently wide back-burning strip, which
varied depending on wind conditions and the shape of the
field, we would “ring it,” or run a strip of fire around the
entire edge of the field. Once the field was circled with
fire, the winds took over, and the entire field was burnt
within a few moments. I guess that’s what always impressed
me about the fire—it seems to have its own ability to
generate its own weather patterns. During this process, the
service winds essentially disappear in the immediate area,
and the atmosphere over the field essentially becomes a
gigantic vacuum. No matter where you are standing around
the field, the wind rushes inward into the flames. The
vacuum process shoots the flames toward the center of the
field from all directions and expels the resulting smoke
heavenward.

The following is a series of pictures of this process in a
field behind my grandparents’ home.
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Re: Burning the Homeplace
Photographer: My Grandmother
Place: Silverton, Oregon / USA
Crop Type: Pennlawn Fescue
Machines: 4020 John Deere Tractor
Date: August 9, 1995
Description:
This is another picture of us starting to burn the field
behind the farm homeplace. The blackened earth in the
foreground of this picture is a field we had burned a few
days prior.
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Re: Burning the Homeplace
Photographer: My Grandmother
Place: Silverton, Oregon / USA
Crop Type: Pennlawn Fescue
Machines: Spray Buggy
Date: August 9, 1995
Description:
This is a picture of a neighboring farmer that was assisting
us in burning this particular field as he observes the
backfire. He actually has it pretty nice in his rig, since
he can shut out all the smoke in his cab. And too, he looks
big enough to run right over the fence on the other side of
the backfire if need be.
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Re: Burning the Homeplace
Photographer: My Grandmother
Place: Silverton, Oregon / USA
Crop Type: Pennlawn Fescue
Machines: None
Date: August 9, 1995
Description:
This is another picture along a steep section of the same
field. If I’m not mistaken, on the other side of the fire
line in this particular picture is a neighboring farmer’s
field of standing wheat—an almighty temptation as a place
for the fire to go to!
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Re: Burning the Homeplace
Photographer: My Grandmother
Place: Silverton, Oregon / USA
Crop Type: Pennlawn Fescue
Machines: None
Date: August 9, 1995
Description:
A little further west in the same field, another back-burn
along some trees is progressing. It’s really nasty to fight
the fire if it ever gets out into the trees!
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Re: Burning the Homeplace
Photographer: My Grandmother
Place: Silverton, Oregon / USA
Crop Type: Pennlawn Fescue
Machines: None
Date: August 9, 1995
Description:
Satisfied that the field has been back-burned enough, an
uncle of mine starts to “ring” the field with fire, heading
due west.
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Re: Burning the Homeplace
Photographer: My Grandmother
Place: Silverton, Oregon / USA
Crop Type: Pennlawn Fescue
Machines: None
Date: August 9, 1995
Description:
This is a picture on the other side of the picture above,
near another uncle's home. My uncle has by now “ringed” the
field with fire, and the inferno takes over. Hotdogs and
marshmallows anyone?
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Re: Burning the Homeplace
Photographer: My Grandmother
Place: Silverton, Oregon / USA
Crop Type: Pennlawn Fescue
Machines: None
Date: August 9, 1995
Description:
This is a picture taken west of the field about a mile and a
half away, showing the fruits of our labors. It sort of
illustrates the vacuum principle and how the burn shoots the
smoke in the air. How many thousands of feet it goes in the
air is beyond me, but it was always a thing of beauty when
it was done properly. All that will remain after the smoke
clears is a starkly black landscape. One would think that
nothing would ever grow there again, but you’d be surprised
how quickly life returns. In just a month or two the field
will green up into the fall, fully stimulated for another
year’s production.
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Re: Burning the Homeplace
Hi,
Your burning straw series are amazing for me. Since early
90’s we (brazilians) have decreased straw burning with
strong increase zero till cropping. In 80’s, I have burned
many areas in my parents farm. Today, this practice is
forbiden by law. Is permitted only on sugar cane crop, but
soon will be forbiden too.
In Brazil, this practice to decreased organic matter at too
low levels with many decades straw burning. My country have
hot temperatures in all seasons, despite winter low
temperatures at southern regions. Because this, the straw
have a natural short live and burning to reduce the soil
fertility in our conditions.
Sorry, but my english is not so good.

Greetings from Brazil,
Flavio Gassen
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