Thursday, March 7, 2013

Valhalla's forests on fire!

VALHALLA'S FORESTS BURNED TODAY! Well, about 23 acres out of ~160 -- at times it was extremely dramatic and very hot, all done on purpose. Ranger Bill Harris from Arkansas Forestry Commission carried the project out with Cody and Doug, each having 12 to 17 years experience in releasing the nutrients locked into the thick forest carpet back into the soil via fire. Weather conditions were perfect so they called us this morning with the message: brace yourselves, we're heading over and there's going to be a little smoke involved. Sure enough, there certainly was!

He's not singing opera: Ranger Bill Harris conducting the
pre-burn briefing, which included a weather report with
emphasis on wind conditions.
Ranger Bill Harris first gave a safety briefing while laying out the grand plan for the prescribed burn as Gordon (left), Cody (middle), and some of Valhalla's turkeys listen very carefully (it should probably be mentioned that we never pose people with the turkeys here, it's just impossible to get away from them since they want to inspect every detail of anything that might be going on).

Ranger Bill - the tiny figure at the bottom right - walking down
the drive as the controlled fire died behind him in puffs of smoke
Ranger Bill then started lighting fires while Cody and Doug followed behind with bulldozers. Only a few trees -- all of them hollow and sickly -- were lost in the entire process today, while thousands of healthy trees breathed a collective sigh of relief over having many parasites and disease removed. Meanwhile, the soil simply cheered over having a big dose of nutrients from decades of leaves released all at once, like going to a big surprise banquet, with the promise of sunshine finally hitting the ground instead of being blocked out by brambles and weeds. 

This tree had looked perfectly healthy, yet it turned out to be
almost completely hollow. Although the Forestry Commission
knocked down some of the other burning hollow trees today,
they let this one burn standing up until there was only a large
mound of ashes left. Those ashes are full of nutrients that will
now be blown around by the wind and spread across the
forest floor, helping to fertilize the soil and bring new
life to the Valhalla property.
The most instructive lesson learned from Valhalla's first prescribed burn came from hollow trees, like this one that very clearly burned from the inside at the base this afternoon. Hollow trees often sometimes look healthy and perfectly normal... yet insects or disease have actually hollowed them out, and those same insects or diseases can then spread to healthy trees. Healthy trees don't catch fire like this in a prescribed burn, so the carefully controlled fire today identified the sick trees for us while eliminating tree-killing parasites and diseases at the same time.

Cody speeding over to a hotspot. Doug is behind
it somewhere with a bulldozer making sure the
flames won't spread to the wrong places.
There were some pretty dramatic moments but overall things went exactly as planned. Ironically, the Forest Service has started a really huge prescribed burn project in the Buffalo River National Park - they're burning a mind-boggling 15,000 acres there this month right down the road. Some of locals around here thought smoke from that enormous project was coming from Valhalla - we made some smoke here today, but nothing compared to what's coming out the National Park right down the road!

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The Valhalla Project needs your help and support
Just getting a project like Valhalla up and running has required a significant investment in time, money, and labor. With roughly $500,000 already invested over the last two years into the Valhalla Project for property acquisition, feeding and housing Soldier participants, infrastructure and facility improvements, animal purchases and feed, tools and building supplies, forest and pasture management expenses, and much much more, resources are running thin. We need YOUR help to keep Valhalla functioning efficiently - while at the same time expanding vitally important programs to assist post-9/11 combat Soldiers and war zone civilian workers to transition back into the civilian world. 

The Valhalla Project is a 501(c)3 nonprofit charity recognized by the IRS.
Nobody, including cadre or board members, draws a paycheck here, nor will they ever: we simply give everything we have to make Valhalla possible. 100% of your donation via Paypal will go directly to program expenses, period. If you'd prefer to instead directly donate four new tractor tire, a truckload of straw bales, a pallet of dimension lumber, or even a few dozen 10' sheets of forest green tin roofing, that would be absolutely wonderful - yet perhaps polking the "Donate" button above to contribute $10, $20, 
$50 or even more might be a little easier and more practical!

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