We use prescribed fire at Pearl Creek Farm to manage both the forest and the reconstructed prairie. Here is an eerie photo of a controlled burn from last weekend that is burning itself out. It’s difficult to tell, but this photograph represents two lines of fire burning through dried oak leaves. The lines approached each other and burned themselves out when they met.
Fire returns nutrients to the soil, kills several non-native species, burns brush and other small woody plants back to ground level, keeping the forest clear, and tends to promote healthy growth in the spring. There is a body of historical and anecdotal evidence that suggests Native Americans burned both prairies and forest for various reasons during most of their 10,000+ year history in North America. We’re just restoring the tradition after a century hiatus.
Pearl Creek Farm is 10 acres in size and carved out of an original 87 acres, with the remainder owned by our neighbors. The original owner, and probably the owners before him, had fences crisscrossing the place like stripes on Christmas candy. Few of the fences could turn a cow or horse, but they seemed to give us fits and always seemed to be in the way.
When you have only 10 acres to roam, you don’t want your way impeded by anything unnatural. Originally, you would have crossed three fences walking from one end of the place to the other, no matter whether you started at the north or west boundary! This wouldn’t do, of course. We set out to remove the fences pretty much everywhere to open the place up.
Inexpensive digital camera technology has revolutionized our ability to see all kinds of hidden things. Before, we might catch a fleeting glimpse of a wild animal here or there, but their lives remained a secret. Some we wouldn’t see at all. Here at Pearl Creek, we try to put out cameras every winter to see what is out and about.
Mostly, we photograph squirrels, groundhogs, raccoons, and possums. Occasionally, we’ll get feral dogs or cats. Sometimes we get deer and turkey or even a bobcat or coyote. Interestingly, we’ve never photographed (or seen) a fox at Pearl Creek Farm.
Read on to see some of our photographs from this winter!
My first guess is song sparrow, but white-throated sparrows are very common here and I wonder if it is a juvenile or female. Anyone?
Also, I saw a kinglet-sized bird yesterday that appeared to have very bold black and white stripes on its head. I could find nothing that looked like it. It’s possible it was a sparrow, too, but it was very small. Any ideas?
We went to great lengths to protect the water lines underneath the bathroom. I never dreamed the water lines for the kitchen, protected by a sub-basement, would cause any problems. Boy, was I wrong. The photograph below doesn’t look too bad, but imagine it filled with books and important papers. Luckily, this area was mostly filled with things we were probably going to discard anyway (or might have kept, but probably didn’t really need) and old version of books that I’ve since updated.
Still, there were definitely a few heartbreakers in here. This is a partial pile of them. There will be more to succumb, I’m sure, but I’m holding out hope.
The first thing I saw when I went downstairs was my old TRS-80, still in its original box. It was completely soaked. I have contemplated many times getting it out and taking it for a spin, but I’ve never gotten around to it. I thought this would make the decision for me, but the electronics inside seem untouched.
There was a bright spot, though, for at least one person in the family. While we were cleaning up, Julian discovered Alex’s abandoned toy room in the basement. Even if that area had gotten wet, it wouldn’t have caused any long-term damage except to the carpet remnants.
Anyway, Julian scavenged a couple of new Batman toys and brought them upstairs to play. I have a feeling he’s going to want to visit again soon.
The prognosis? Michelle called a plumber who also happens to be our neighbor. He’s on-site in Branson right now and hasn’t slept for two days. Apparently, pipes have been bursting all over the Ozarks. The earliest he can stop by will be Saturday and that’s not a definite. Fortunately, we have a shutoff valve for the water lines going to the kitchen so we’re not completely without water for the house.
Although Sunday night was supposed to be as low as it was going to get, it actually got quite a bit colder on Monday night. Fortunately, the temperature didn’t get much colder than this during the overnight hours. In fact, it warmed up and we woke up to a balmy 2oF above zero!
I’m hoping this “polar vortex” scoots on out of here for the rest of the winter. I think we’ve all had enough of it.
But, the biggest news is the bitter cold we’ll endure all day. It won’t get to 10oF today, probably. This is the first temperature below zero that I remember here, although I didn’t start keeping detailed temperature records until 2011. Stay warm!