Burn and Bust Industry

This weekend Team Echinacea had nothing short of an adventure. Expecting good burn conditions on Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday, and maybe even Wednesday, we packed our bags and headed northwest from CBG. After the quintessential falafel stop in the Twin Cities, we arrived at Hjelm around 9pm. Before we could hit the hay, however, we had one important issue to resolve: the farmhouse didn’t have any running water. We’d picked up some jugs of drinking water along the way, but we decided that it might be nice if everyone also got a turn to flush the toilet. So without further ado, we went and collected water from the roadside in 5 gallon buckets to have around for filling the toilet tank. This operation looked totally normal and chill.

After eating breakfast and topping off the septic tank with pond water the next morning, we prepped for a burn at the hulze site. This involved filling water packs/buckets/tank, raking and mowing burn breaks, prepping radios, etc..

Once we finished our prep work, we returned to Hjelm and had a hearty chickpea meal. Yum! A classic! I like to add salt and pepper and paprika and olive oil and spinach and hot sauce to mine. This is also when our reinforcements arrived. This was a bigger burn relative to most of our sites, a whole 15 acres, so help was appreciated. Thank you Amy and Brad and Amy and Colleen! Jared briefed us on the mission, and we got to hear the frustrating tale about how we’ve been skunked at this unit two years in a row. Every time we’ve tried to burn it, it’s been called off last minute for one reason or another. Last year there was allegedly too much smoke from Canadian wildfires and we were told no go. Will this year be different? Third time’s the charm, right?

Wrong. Once again, after all of our prep work was complete and we were ready to light a test fire, Stuart called in the permit and was told to hold off. The county was concerned about gusts over 25 miles per hour, though that’s not what we were measuring at the site. We waited hopefully for over an hour for a call back giving us the go-ahead, and eventually gave in to the fact that there would be none. So we packed up and headed back to Hjelm. There’s still hope for burning this unit later in the spring, but needless to say we were slightly grumpy.

To raise our spirits, we took a walk around the Wagenius property to scout out areas to burn the next day and check up on places we had burned in the fall.

Abby, Blue, Jared, Stuart, and Gretel walk through the southeast corner that we burned in November. Hope you like galium! They were plentiful here (as was brome).

For dinner, Abby, Ian and I made Abby’s chili recipe (the secret ingredient is farro (and paprika) (and dark chocolate) (and love)) and Stuart and Gretel made their cornbread. Yum again! I mixed my cornbread and chili together with butter and hot sauce and honey and, upon Abby’s recommendation, apple cider vinegar, which is now an essential chili condiment in my book.

I do something cooking related while Ian stirs the pot.

Having full tummies and hearts, we went to bed with the knowledge that Jared and Stuart were excited about burn conditions tomorrow, and thus, so were we. But you know who wasn’t? The state of Minnesota. That’s right, we woke up bright and early to find that the DNR had placed burning restrictions on much of the western part of the state, including the counties we conduct our burns in. That means another day with no burns. And we thought Sunday would be perfect! ARG. This forced us to take a step back and consider our options. We didn’t have a ton of other stuff to do in the field, and the forecast for the next few days was getting more dicey. So, with great reluctance, we made the call to head home early. We put away burn equipment, packed our vehicles, and were on our way.

Stuart helpfully supervises as Abby caries a 40 pound water pack down a flight of rather unforgiving stairs to store until next time.

Not wanting to end our trip on a sour note, we stopped by Staffanson Prairie Preserve on our way out to see who was flowering.

We stopped in the Twin Cities for lunch, donuts, and to drop off Stuart’s truck at his parents’ place for them to have handy. For those of you keeping track at home, that means we have a 7ish hour journey to make in one vehicle that will be carrying 7 souls (one of whom is a dog). This made for a tight squeeze, but we made it work.

I tried to take a selfie to capture the coziness of the moment, but failed. Ian and I are prominent in the front, and you can spot Blue and Stuart in the back. Behind me are also Gretel and Abby, and Jared is in the passenger seat next to me

By midnight, we’d all made it back to our homes safe and sound. While we didn’t accomplish what we set out to do on this trip, perhaps, as Ian suggested, the real burns were the friends we made along the way.


Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>