Life of a family forester: Burning slash in the rain
12.12.2012

The rewards – and the work – of being a family forest landowner continue.

Previously, I described the four wet, cold, back-breaking days we spent planting seedlings last February, after we’d had six acres of our 89-acre woodland logged in December 2011.

This summer and fall, we had more work to do.

During the logging, most of the limbs and treetops were gathered into “slash piles.” So in August, my husband, Rex, and I headed out to the forestland, which is in the Coast Range about an hour northwest of Portland, to prepare the slash for fall burning. I hadn’t been back since winter, and I was curious to see how the saplings were doing. When we arrived, I was excited to find that most of them were healthy and growing.

We spent the day putting 10-by-10-feet plastic sheets on the 32 slash piles. We couldn’t burn until after the fire season was over and rain returned to Oregon. So the plastic would keep part of the pile dry enough to light on fire in the fall.

Later, Rex filed our paperwork, including a smoke-management plan, with the Oregon Department of Forestry so we could get the OK to burn in the fall. Then we waited.

A couple of weeks after the fire season abruptly ended with the fall rain, we were granted permission to burn.

Up before dawn, Rex, my dad and I headed out.

We used propane torches to light each pile. My first pile burned well, but I soon found that wasn’t the case with all of them. Heavy rain during the previous weeks made some piles difficult to light. But persistence paid off, and at the end of the day, all piles were burning. As they burned out, the afternoon rain helped extinguish the flames.

We headed for home – tired, cold, soaking wet and smelling like smoke. And, of course, more work waits. We’ll go back in February to plant several hundred more seedlings in the areas where the slash was piled.

- Kathy Storm

 

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