From the Fire Comes New Life

I started today with a bunch of chores and then a few minutes to spin a fiery orange fiber.

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I’m attempting to spin three batts from Spun Right Round together. I’ve never spun batts before so this is kind of a learn-as-you-go experiment here, but I’m very, very excited to see how it all turns out. From my fiery orange fiber, the kids and I had to get math lessons out of the way because we had a very special appointment to keep. To explain how we got there, though, I need to take you back a couple days…

After a rather chilly but very pretty hike on Wednesday and then a post hike picnic in the car, my family & I popped in at the Friends of Horicon Marsh Education & Visitor Center where our good friend works. The center has been in the process of building out a new permanent museum-type interpretive exhibit and we were able to sneak a peak and let me just tell you… It. Is. Incredible. The thought, time, and effort invested in this wonderful place is amazing. It is generally pretty evident that a huge part of conservation and maintaining public lands such as Horicon Marsh relies on education — passing along & teaching the public why these places are important and the lessons (sometimes through trial and error) in land management that we cannot forget. This new exhibit does a fantastic job of sharing the history of The Marsh, how it is managed, why it’s important, and also — of course — the plethora of animals that call it home. Paired with the passionate staff of educators who work tirelessly to teach the public about this place, well, I’m just so impressed and so proud that it is in my little corner of the world.

Aside from the general awesomeness of the people who work so closely with the land here (and seriously, our buddy is like Superwoman), one benefit is that sometimes we are given tips as to where to see certain wildlife or when special events are going to take place. On Wednesday, we learned that there would be a big controlled burn on The Marsh. Controlled or prescribed burns do what wildfires used to do, reducing dead vegetation as well as allowing a larger variety of plants types to germinate in the spring which benefits the land as well as the wildlife. We are used to seeing these burns, especially in late spring, but usually it’s by chance. This year due to good ice and little snow cover, they have been able to burn early. A coordinated effort between Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, this burn was scheduled to be an all day orchestrated affair as the state and federal teams worked together to cover a large area.

Armed with the knowledge of the best vantage points and the timing, the kids and I headed out around 10 this morning to see what we could see. We arrived at our first spot just ahead of a DNR employee who was there to help observe the fires from a distance. She happily hopped out of her truck, and explained what was happening & very graciously showed me her map and shared how it was all going to run.IMG_8327I’ve seen a lot of these burns in the past, but this was different somehow for me. A large part of it is probably that it was much bigger than the burns I’ve seen in the past. I was really just left in awe.

IMG_8330I blew this photo up just a bit and played with a filter so you could see the line of orange flames where lands meets the smoke. It’s pretty incredible to be that far away from a fire and still be able to see these very brilliant orange flames set against this navy-slate backdrop of thick smoke.

And as we moved on toward the natural food store where I promised we’d stop for a snack we came up over a hill I had to stop to see this…

IMG_8339 …the smoke just billowed and roiled.

I kept trying to find a place where I could capture the enormity of the event in a single frame and it was impossible. The winds were gusting pretty steadily in the 10-20mph range which meant that from this spot…IMG_8320It would have taken four frames on my camera to capture the whole event. Realizing the quest was futile, we went and got those snacks. The Natural Way somewhat recently moved across the street and added an eatery, so it was fun to see the new space. Munching yogurt pretzels & chocolate coconut bars we started toward home, but made one last stop…

IMG_8344And watched for just a little while longer.

I know that seeing these photos is probably a little underwhelming, but as I said before I was really awestruck by this event so I wanted to share it with you. To try to accept these flames as under control when they look so wild, was just so strange. I trust, of course, the folks with the torches — like our friend — and I know they are very careful and are professionals when it comes to this type of thing. I know that they love and care for this place to a degree that far too many of us take for granted. And I am just thankful, from the bottom of my heart, that there are people willing and able to go out there in the wind and cold and do this job because days like this are long, physically demanding, and exhausting. But because they do it, come spring The Marsh will be healthy and teeming with life. And we’ll be able to tramp around the trails and waterways to see all the amazing things there are to see for from the fire, comes new life.

8 responses to “From the Fire Comes New Life

  1. Love Horicon Marsh! I was there last fall to catch the migrating birds. Have you gone over to Parnell Tower in the Kettle Moraine? If I am remembering correctly, it is not that far from the marsh.

  2. cool photos! When I was a kid the small marsh behind our house burned a couple of times (occasionally unintentionally, I am afraid), and it always came up so green and beautiful in the spring after the fire. Glad you and the kids got to see it done right and safely. Amazing!

    Here we know it is spring when they burn the wild blueberry barrens – also impressive – come around a curve and a whole field appears to be wildly out of control, but usually it isn’t. 🙂

    • Isn’t that just it though? Looks wild and out of control, but it isn’t. Exactly. Around here, I just learned that they put out signs and publish a notice in the paper so people aren’t calling it in to the authorities when they burn.

  3. Amazing! Having just moved to the Plains from AZ, it was mind-boggling to me that in this part of the country, controlled burns happen every year.

    • I can believe that being a serious jolt to the system — such a radical change in perspective. Interesting though, to see how different landscapes are managed and kept healthy.

  4. It is embarrassing to admit, but I’ve never been to Horicon Marsh, even though it’s less than an hour from Madison. But you have my interest piqued. Maybe this will be the year!

    • That hour — one way — is a hefty time investment. The new visitor center exhibit opening in August would be a great time to visit — also the birding festival in May is a good time, too. Even if you aren’t into birds, there is a lot of guidance and it’s usually a really nice time to be in the Marsh. Hope you’ll make the trip sometime!

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