I’m back from a long weekend in Iowa where we celebrated my nephew’s first birthday, celebrated my brother’s thirty-third birthday, and burned dozens of acres of prairie on our farm. My parents bought our farm twenty-plus years ago, which at the time was an actual farm with fields of corn and soybeans but was quickly replanted and restored to its native habitat of trees and prairie grass. Every third spring the prairie gets burned in order to kill off invasive weeds and encourage new growth, and it’s always an impressive sight, with some years being wilder than others. Thankfully (for someone who always has a fear in the back of her mind of the house burning down) this was one of the more tame burns. In years past extended family and friends have come to watch or do some of the lighting, fire trucks have paraded down the lane because barge captains on the Mississippi were alarmed by the huge plumes of smoke, and swift leaf-raking has occurred to prevent a forest fire. This year the only guests were my sister-in-law’s parents, the ground was wet enough to keep the flames on the smaller side, and the only tense moment came when we decided to evacuate the house for about an hour because it was completely engulfed in a cloud of smoke due to the direction of the wind and the proximity of the house to one of the fields. That’s really the best that one could hope for when acres upon acres of fire are being contained by nothing more than a ten-foot border of green grass.
In addition to burning and birthday cake-eating, we cooked nice dinners every night, ate plenty of good cheese from the bottomless cheese drawer, sipped our fair share of wine and whiskey, and listened to Elmo sing the alphabet over and over and over again. I took about a thousand pictures over the course of the weekend, and it took a while to sort through them all, but they’re finally ready to share. Enjoy!