Friday, March 31, 2017 – Rain, Transplant Delphinium, Shade Net, Prairie grass fire
The rain finally stopped last night. We received 1.75 inches over the last 36 hours. The flowerbeds all over Old Nauvoo really needed the rain. The flower beds at our home needed the rain too but not so much. Our poor tulips and Hyacinths were under 2 inches of standing water at the height of the rain. Fortunately, the soil of central Illinois drains very well so all of the flowers are fine.
Today Scott Higley and his crew put shade netting over the outside of greenhouse #4 (the Hoop House) in preparation for the sunnier, warmer days of spring and summer. They also put up the shade cloth over the outdoor benches. Richard stores a lot of plants on the outdoor benches under the shade cloth because there isn’t enough room in the greenhouses. However we can’t put anything out on the benches for another month when there is no danger of frost.
The other three greenhouses don’t get shade netting on the outside. Their shade netting stays inside year round. When the sun and the heat are too much for the plants, Richard and his crew (Sis. Johnson & I) will simply pull it into place like a gigantic curtain.
In the heart of historic Old Nauvoo there is a full city block used as a demonstration site of Prairie Grass. In the 1840’s on the American Great Plains, including Central Illinois, prairie grass blanketed the countryside. It is said that the prairie grass sometimes got so tall that a man sitting on his horse could easily become lost and disoriented because he couldn’t see over it to get his bearings.
The Nauvoo demonstration plot of prairie grass was tall last summer but today it has been beaten down by time, wind, hail and snow. To rejuvenate the grass and prepare it for a new growing season it must be burned down every year before the new shoots start to push through the old dead grass.
The “Burning of the Prairie Grass” is a much anticipated annual event in Nauvoo. Picnic tables are set up, FM gets out the portable double BBQ grill and the whole community comes out to eat hot dogs and watch the grass burn. The Nauvoo volunteer fire department brings both of their pumper trucks to make sure the fire stays under control. What a great community tradition.
The burning of the prairie grass was originally scheduled for last Monday. Unfortunately, last week we had a lot of rain and no one thought the grass would burn. So, the burning of the prairie grass was postponed until today to let the grass dry out. Who knew that we would have almost 2” more inches of rain in the last 36 hours so the grass won’t burn today just like it wouldn’t burn last Monday. However, Richard pointed out that it must be burned today before the new tender shoots start to emerge. He doesn’t want next year’s demonstration plot weakened or damaged by burning off the old grass too late in the spring.
So, the “Burning of the Prairie Grass” went on today as scheduled. Before the Fire Marshall gave the signal to start the fire I asked him if it would really burn? He said that last year the grass was very dry and the whole city block only took five minutes to be completely burned off. Today, he said, it should take twenty minutes. I noted the time on my watch and he was exactly right. Start to finish the fire was done in 20 minutes. So much for the prediction that the grass would be too wet to burn. It takes more than of a couple of inches of rain to dampen a good prairie wild fire.