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Can rakes save forests? Yes, as long as you have a drip torch in the other hand

A drip torch and a McCleod, two tools that can be used together to reduce the fuels on the forest floor. (Photo: Lenya Quinn-Davidson)

The humble rake has been in the spotlight in recent weeks, and its role as a forest management tool ridiculed and scorned. However, most fire professionals believe rakes are a necessary part of saving California's forests.

Those who are familiar with fire are undoubtedly familiar with the McLeod, which is a standard firefighting tool and … it is essentially a rake (one side is a rake with coarse tines and the other side has a flat sharpened hoe). The McLeod was created in 1905 by a U.S. Forest Service ranger who wanted a single tool that could rake fire lines (with the teeth) and cut branches and roots (with the sharpened hoe edge). The McCleod is used to scrape fuels off of a fire line, preventing fire spread. The use of hand tools like the McLeod continues to be one of the standard ways that wildfires are stopped (although often aided by the rake's bigger and more powerful cousin: the bulldozer).

While the McLeod is a fire-fighting tool, it is also an essential fire-managing tool. When conducting controlled burns (i.e., purposeful fire), the fire is contained within desired areas by diligent raking with McLeods and other hand tools. These tools are necessary for conducting controlled burns.

While it isn't feasible to reduce fire risk by raking the forest with hand tools, if you hold a drip torch in the other hand, you could get the work done.

A drip torch consists of a canister for holding fuel that comes out of a spout (with a loop to prevent fire from entering the fuel canister) and a wick from which flaming fuel is dropped to the ground when the wick is ignited. The drip torch is the most common tool for lighting prescribed burns, which can be used to remove excess fuel buildup in the forest.

In a forest setting, these two tools — the rake and the torch — must be used together. Without a rake, the fire is not easily contained. And without a drip torch, the fuel that was raked cannot burn. Of course, prescribed burns rely on a number of other pre-specified factors (the prescription), including wind, temperature and humidity.

Using fire in a controlled manner drastically reduces the impacts of wildfire in a forest. Typically flames are kept low and most or all of the trees survive the fire, while much of the dead material on the forest floor (the “fuel”) is consumed. This reduces the risk of the forest burning at high severity in the future, thereby protecting nearby homes and towns. It also reintroduces fire as an important ecosystem process, which improves the health and biodiversity of forests and maintains the ecosystem services they provide, including wildlife habitat, water filtration and carbon sequestration.

Participants at a University of California Cooperative Extension with their hand tools (including shovels, Pulaskis, and McCleods) are getting ready to cut fire line so that a prescribed fire will not escape containment. (Photo: Ames Gilbert)

Use of a rake and a drip torch together could make a great difference for reducing the impacts of wildfire in California and the West. The National Interagency Fire Center reported that during 2017, only half a million acres were treated with prescribed fire in the West, while 7.4 million acres (almost 15 times more) burned in wildfires. In the Southeastern U.S., where there is a long-standing tradition of prescribed burning, only 2 million acres burned in wildfires while over 5.5 million were burned using prescribed fire.

This was not always the case. Use of prescribed fire, or ‘light burning,' was once common in California until it was outlawed by federal and state policy in 1924. Although the merits of expanding its use are widely known and appreciated, it has been very difficult to do because of concerns about air quality, liability and lack of skilled burners. One of the biggest constraints is that we have very few people who have experience with ‘good fire' and very few qualified people who know how to safely burn.

Landowners at a UCCE prescribed fire training are 'holding' the fire on the left side of the fire line that was cut using rakes and other hand tools. The landowner on the far left is firing the burn unit with a drip torch. (Photo: Ames Gilbert)

As foresters and educators for the University of California Cooperative Extension, we are working to expand the use of prescribed fire on private forest and grasslands in California. Central to our efforts are educational events that give people an opportunity to experience prescribed fire first-hand. In the last two years, we have hosted workshops throughout northern California, and many of our workshops have included a live-fire component where landowners and other community members can try their hand at prescribed burning, under the direction and guidance of more experienced burners.

Our efforts in California are inspired by approaches in other parts of the country, including “Learn and Burn” events in the Southeast, prescribed burn associations in the Great Plains, and prescribed fire training exchanges (TREXs), an innovative training model developed by The Nature Conservancy's Fire Learning Network. All of these efforts have a focus on reconnecting people with fire, and they give participants the skills and experience needed to put fire back in the management toolbox.

A prescribed fire burns up to the fire line (installed with rakes and other tools) and stops. The fire is consuming fuel on the forest floor and leaving behind a a healthier and more fire safe forest. (Photo: Lenya Quinn-Davidson)

We hope that by empowering people to pick up the drip torch (and the rake) on their own properties, we can help them reduce the risk of wildfire and improve the health of their forest and range lands. There is no time to waste.

Posted on Tuesday, December 11, 2018 at 9:31 AM
Focus Area Tags: Natural Resources

The Birds and The Bees--and The Butterflies

Near the presence of a metal bird sculpture, two monarchs meet Sept. 29 in Vacaville, Calif. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

...Birds do it, bees do it Even educated fleas do it Let's do it, let's fall in love --Cole Porter When Cole Porter wrote “Let's Do It, Let's Fall in Love” in 1928, he wasn't thinking about butterflies. He was thinking of birds, bees and...well, educated fleas. As opposed to...

Near the presence of a metal bird sculpture, two monarchs meet Sept. 29 in Vacaville, Calif. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Near the presence of a metal bird sculpture, two monarchs meet Sept. 29 in Vacaville, Calif. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Near the presence of a metal bird sculpture, two monarchs meet Sept. 29 in Vacaville, Calif. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Hi, Ms. Monarch. Here I am. Look at me! (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Hi, Ms. Monarch. Here I am. Look at me! (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Hi, Ms. Monarch. Here I am. Look at me! (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Can I get your attention? Please? (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Can I get your attention? Please? (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Can I get your attention? Please? (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Hello, again. Here I am, over here. Over here! (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Hello, again. Here I am, over here. Over here! (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Hello, again. Here I am, over here. Over here!(Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

For family fun and treats - a winter farm visit

California farmers all over the state invite you to visit, shake off the city, learn a little and enjoy your holiday shopping the old-fashioned way; direct from the growers of winter fruits and creators of small-batch treats to fill your gift baskets. Here is a sample of some day-trips the whole family can enjoy:

Mountain Mandarin Orchard Days - Placer County - December 15 & 16, 2018

Follow the mandarin trail and join the Mountain Mandarin Growers' Association (MMGA) members at their groves on the third weekend in December for Orchard Days. They have loads of family fun in store.

Visit the Mandarin Growers Map page to find the groves closest to you and for a list of Orchard Days activities at each ranch. The fun includes artists, crafters, and mandarin product sampling including oils, sauces, honey, juice, cakes, fudge and spreads. You can also visit with Santa, visit farm animals, get your face painted and pick your own mandarins. Learn more

Holiday Santa Tour and Sanrio Village - Tanaka Farms, Orange County - December 15 & 16, 2018

Take a wagon ride around the 30 acre farm and sample the delicious winter vegetables growing along the way. (Yes, Tanaka is a real working farm!) Your friendly tour guide will tell you all about the farm and history as you enjoy the scenery. Make a special stop on the tour in Tanaka Land on the top of the hill where you might get caught up in a snow flurry!

You will also have the opportunity to take photos with Santa and other farm-themed holiday sets while enjoying the gorgeous view. The wagon will then transport you back down to the festival grounds where you can continue the winer fun and photo opportunities. After the tour, take a "Walk through the Seasons" in a meandering corn maze filled with Hello Kitty & Friends decor celebrating each of our harvest seasons, all leading to the Sanrio Holiday Village, specially decorated for the holidays. Learn more

Holidays Along the Farm Trails - Sonoma County - various activities until January 1, 2019

'Tis the season to celebrate with the community. Join Sonoma County farmers and producers as they open their gates and barn doors to offer a behind-the-scenes peek at life on the farm. Shop their unique farm stand for your holiday meals, cut your own Christmas tree, make a gift at DIY workshops, greet farm animals, and so much more.

Along the trail, you can tour a creamery, taste wine and cider, and watch a jam-making demo. Visitors must register (for free) to receive the list of participating destinations and offerings in the interactive online map. CLICK HERE TO REGISTER.

Music at the Mill - Seka Hills Olive Mill & Tasting Room - Capay Valley, Yolo County - December 15, 2018

Join us for an afternoon of live music featuring local artist, Tom Norris! Saturday, December 15 from 1 to 3 p.m. Guests will also enjoy a special offer of 35 percent off the mixed case sale.

The Séka Hills Olive Mill & Tasting Room showcases the agricultural bounty of the region and is a destination for artisan goods and delicious locally sourced fare. Visitors are treated to scenic views of the surrounding orchard and rolling blue hills that inspired the name Séka Hills.

The Tasting Room is located inside the 14,000 square foot olive mill facility, offering an insider's view of how the Tribe's olives are grown, milled and finished into world-class, award-winning Séka Hills extra virgin olive oils. Guided tours and tastings offer visitors a chance to experience the growing line of fine agricultural products from the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation that now includes olive oils, wines, honey, beef jerky and seasoned nuts. Learn more.

Suisun Valley Anniversary Celebration 2018 - Solano County - December 26, 2018

Did you know that, in order to designate a wine as "Suisun Valley", 85 percent of the grapes used to make the wine must have been grown within the Suisun Valley AVA? When you tour Suisun Valley during this Aniversary Celebration you are helping to support the vintners and growers that are behind a very special area. The Anniversary Celebration "Tasting Pass" is a one day pass to taste the wines and other offerings around the Suisun Valley AVA at participating locations. By buyint a ticket to the Anniversary Celebration, attendees will be able to waive the normal tasting fees at the eleven participating locations and enjoy a fun day with friends and family.

Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door.
Click Here to Purchase

Explore the Cheese Trail of California

California Cheese Trail - which includes CheeseTrail.org, the California Cheese Trail map and the California Cheese Trail app - promotes artisan cheesemakers and family farmers. It's the only project/website that connects people to the cheesemakers, their tours, cheesemaking classes and cheese events throughout California.

Check the map to design your own tour or pick one of various regions, find a tasting, class or cheese event near you, find cheesemaking supplies, private classes, online cheese sales, and the latest blog!

Find the Cheesemakers here.

Find many more opportunities to visit California farms, ranches and vineyards on the UC Agritourism Directory and Calendar of Events: www.calagtour.org.

Happy Holidays!

 

Posted on Monday, December 10, 2018 at 12:53 PM
Tags: agritourism (49), cheesemaking (2), holiday shopping (1), wine (34)
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture Family Food

JOB ANNOUNCEMENT :: Plant Ecologist (IPM Program Manager)

Resource Professionals: An exciting opportunity is now open today thru December 27, 2018 in USAJOBS for the Pacific West Region Plant Ecologist/IPM Program Manager GS-0408-12 FT-Permanent position.  Incumbent will help shape PWR Vegetation Management with the primary goal of serving and...

Posted on Monday, December 10, 2018 at 11:39 AM
Tags: announcement (220)

Keep food safe with advice from UC CalFresh

Always be mindful of the time when food is outside a refrigerator or freezer. Typically, it should be no longer than two hours, and just one hour in the summertime, according to UC Cooperative Extension UC CalFresh nutrition program coordinator Elizabeth Lopez in an appearance on the Valley Pubic Television program Valley's Gold. (The food safety segment begins at the 18:30 mark.)

Lopez recommends using an insulated grocery bag with a frozen ice pack for the trip home from the store, and refrigerating leftovers in sealed containers soon after finishing a meal to maintain food safety.

The UC Cooperative Extension nutrition educator also provided cooking tips with program host Ryan Jacobson, the director of the Fresno County Farm Bureau. Lopez noted:

  • Before beginning, wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds.
  • Make sure the food preparation area is clean.
  • Designate certain cutting boards for fruit and vegetables, and others for meat and poultry.
  • Wash fruit and vegetables under cool running water. No detergent is needed. Read the labels on pre-bagged produce. Some are ready to use, some need to be washed.
  • Use a meat thermometer. Cook beef, pork and lamb to an internal temperature of 145 degrees F. Ground meats should be cooked to 160 degrees F. Poultry, whole or ground, should be cooked to 165 degrees F.

For more information, Lopez suggested consumers consult the USDA's Food Safety.gov website or Food Keeper app, available free in the app store.

UC Cooperative Extension UC CalFresh nutrition program coordinator Elizabeth Lopez spoke about food safety on the Valley PBS program 'Valley's Gold.'
Posted on Monday, December 10, 2018 at 9:28 AM
Focus Area Tags: Food

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