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Archive for the ‘fire’ Category

IMG_0067This time of year – January  and February is the time of year when Paul and I start to burn down our Sussex Prairie garden and people are shocked and stunned and always ask us why . So it is time to tell the story.

IMG_5740Why do we Burn our Prairie ?

Big spaces require big solutions and our garden is no exception to this . We have probably now over eight acres of garden requiring to be razed to the ground at some point over the winter months. More traditional methods in your average garden would include cutting down with secateurs, scythe or strimmer. But we have a different solution because of the size of the task.

Burning is a quick , clean and dramatic way of clearing away all the dead last years growth and solves the problem of what to do with the mountain of material created in such a clearance.

IMG_1260Because it is Fun and a little bit dangerous !

Burning the garden on a big scale is a whole load of fun too and is one of the tasks our volunteers love to lend us a hand with . Everyone loves a good blaze after all .

IMG_5854How do you do it ?

In ideal weather and ground conditions we prefer to be able to leave the garden standing all winter and allow the winter frosts and winds dry the stems,stalks and leaves to a crisp.This would mean that on a windy and dry day we could burn the garden in situ without further ado. A dramatic and scary solution !

This year has been a bit of an exception with major wet  and warm weather leaving many plants green in many parts and this means that they  will not burn fully whilst standing in place. So we have created the bonfire burn this year . This involves building mini bonfires throughout the bed on the pathways and  we have had to cut and burn as we go.

However the big clumps of grasses have been burnt in their place and what a roar of flame and crackle of fire ensued!

IMG_5847But what about the plants ?

people ask do the plants get damaged ..?. well they don’t because we do this at a time of year when the plants themselves are dormant . Their roots  and buds are safely underground and are not damaged by the fire which moves quickly overhead (thats why we need a windy day to carry the fire quickly and ferociously over the top of the plants) A good Wind and Dry weather is the key !

 

 

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Our week of Fringe events (31st may until 8th June 2014), unusually papery happenings and fantasy would not be complete without the very best artists,sculptors and generally wonderful people helping us, so we shall look in detail at the stars of our own particular show ! so first up is –

Sabine Dahn sabinedahnceramichicken

who will be joining us this year to offer a series of two very different workshops. The first workshop occurs during our Fringe week (1st and 8th June )- Prairie Hens in Paper Kilns is a two day workshop straddling two weekends. First make your ceramic hen and then fire it in a paper kiln a week later !Read more about what that course involves on our website and see what type of chicken  would light your fire !

sabinedahnpaperkiln

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The second workshop ,later on in the year (2nd August 2014) , is also about light and fire and will teach you how to make a porcelain light inspired by the garden. Please contact Sabine to book your place on these courses.

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More about Sabine

The starting points for the functional side of Sabine’s work are oil lamps and the ritual use of fire and light. Light is symbolically used as a guide on the path of life as well as representing the omnipresence of the Divine.

Form and content of her work is inspired by a variety of different sources within the fields of mythology, ancient cultures and spiritual philosophies. The aim is to create an atmosphere of light that invites a peaceful reflective mind.

Teaching

Sabine has expressed her love for ceramics by exploring its manifold techniques and characteristics with children, young people and adult learners for many years. Her aim is to generate in her students a sense of curiosity, exploration and joy and to support each individual in finding their own creative expression in clay.

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Inspiration and Learning

Inspiration and learning  in working with people always happens in both directions and a group project a while ago led to the development of the fun ‘character hens’. These can be bought as they are, or can be commissioned for a special person with their own ‘peculiarities’ in mind! Or come and make your own at the ‘Prairie Hens in Paper Kilns’ event!Beginners  and more experienced potters are equally welcome

For more Information on the pottery events here at Sussex Prairies you can contact Sabine directly on sabine.dahn@talktalk.net   .

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the main culprit

There is a place called Du Du. I saw it advertised on a rare traffic sign. But the sort of du du I want to talk about is the kind manufactured in copious quantities by the entire cow population of India as they wander to and fro through people’s lives,houses,rubbish tips and market places. The cow does many things and is a sacred beast granted. But it makes a prodigious amount of poo.Now I have discovered an ancient and  crazy art  which I believe is as yet unexplored and un tapped. Namely ,the fashionable and scary art of making solid poo  igloos . Chris Ofili the artist famed for working with elephant dung could learn a few tricks here. On the outskirts of every village /small holding/collection of huts/houses/plastic bag tents/grass wigwams there is the same thing : and it is beautiful.Imagine a solid block of poo crafted into a huge monolithic and dense sculpture . Entirely made of cattle dung (maybe goat and sheep too ?) it is dense,not smelly really (but everything is relative) and carved with simple and delicate patterns. Sitting like a dried out block of parmesan I wonder how you deal with it on a daily basis. Do you slice off cake like slices  for fire lighting ? do you hack off a chunk like a block of ice ? or is it just some crazy currency and the sort of hedge fund of rural life ? certainly its worth for gardening is high and a golden ingot like that would be much sought after by us gardeners for growing our bananas !

Gold dust

the cow pat scenario is much easier to get to grips with (unless it is wet,sticky and stuck to the bottom of your sandal) you can see these frisbee like things drying in the most unlikely of places but then why not ? these are the perfect firelighter of choice. Dry and crisply dehydrated you will see them stacked at crazy angles and in bonfire type heaps ready for action.Collection of said pats might be tricky one would think in the wet state, but with a blazing indian sun i guess you only have to wait a while until you can scoop it up and carry the dinner plate sized thing back to your treasury.

Firelighting cow pats ready for action

walking in any area of India is fraught with danger as you hopscotch between the poo.On my last trip i inadvertently got out of the car in a village and stood straight in an open sewer. Not an experience I would wish to repeat. The evil residue stubbornly refused to be washed or scraped off my shoes.This time it was the car itself that fell into a sewer. Driving quietly into the quaint little town of Bundi we were checking out the likely accommodation venues and suddenly the car lurched to one side and there was a hellish bang. Scrambling out of a car leaning perilously to one side it was obvious that the open sewer previously covered by an (insubstantial paving stone , had caved in and we were stuck in a rut ! the car tilted drunkenly into the filthy maw. Unspecified horrors floated by. Paul managed to commandeer  some wiry but slim indian onlookers  to help him manhandle the thing out. on dry land the car did not seem to have sustained any damage . Apart from a charming fragrance of course.

if i just stand here.....

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burns day !

when everything comes together perfectly in a crescendo of good drying weather and a wicked wind we get a ‘burnin ‘! yesterday with our trusty squad of Friends of Sussex Prairies we made a huge impact on the big border with burning squads , cutters,snappers and fire feeders. Exhileration and wild abandon as flames licked and roared and caressed the garden all at once. Gradually we worked through the groups of tinder dry stalks and seedheads… The grasses are the best to catch alight but still have green in them which is unheard of normally at this time of year when all should be sepia tones and black and white through repeated frosts and winter squalls. You soon get to know which plants are the best kindling pieces, which plants are a soggy mess and which plants are Ray Mears dream. Bush tracker skills live in action as swathes of the garden burn in fury and fearsome fervour !

the fire captain Paul

Now , it is not so good on your face , this burning lark . The hidden costs of extreme guerilla gardening. I am sure Laboratoires Garnier would have quite a bit to say about ravaged skin , ruddy cheeks and windlashed epidernis. In fact it is the horticultural  equivalent  of a facial peel without the subtlety of soothing ungents.Have also discovered a potentially  winning  fragrance : Eau de Bonfire. Subtle woody notes tempered with a beguiling hint of ash and crispy cinder. Coming from the anarchist wing of the La Prairie stable .. this one is sure to be a runner !

prairie going up in smoke

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