Flamethrowers have multiple uses, including killing weeds, as shown in the Vineyard Management class at Kirkwood Community College last summer. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

Flamethrowers have multiple uses, including killing weeds, as shown in the Vineyard Management class at Kirkwood Community College last summer. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

“Farmer Dave” Miller describes the “proper” use of a flamethrower in various seasons…

My wife, Mickey, has indicated that she often cringes when I include her in my farmers’ market email misadventures and tales of woe. 

Feeling that I place her in a less-than-perfect light, she is concerned that she may be perceived negatively as a farm wife instead of the goddess that she is.

And yet, she has no problem using a social networking site to compare me to a criminal.  This week, she posted an article about a North Dakota man who was arrested for using a flamethrower to clear snow.  With the post, she included the statement: “This seems like something David Miller might actually do.”

It turns out the article was satire, and not at all real.  But that’s beside the point.  The point is that any man who uses a flamethrower to clear snow is a hero in my book and should not be disparaged.  Additionally, my wife forgets that I actually have a small flamethrower-type torch and one of its intended uses is for melting snow and ice.  I use it for burning off the dried ferns in my one-eighth of an acre asparagus patch every spring.  It is a long handled beast with a three-inch cone that breathes a screaming jet of blue fire.  With the opening of a valve, six inches of hot dragon’s breath can stretch out several feet and instantly ignite a dead tree.

It is a beautiful thing.

Anyway, now that I’m reminded that one of the marketing points of the flamethrower was melting snow, I may need to exchange my empty propane tank for a full one at the hardware store.

Now I know what you’re thinking:  “Farmer Dave, where can I, or my child who recently came into a lot of Christmas money, purchase one of these flamethrowers?”

Whoa.  Slow down there, cowboys and cowgirls.  Before I tell you that these things require no licensing or registration and could be purchased by an eight-year-old, we should talk a little about safety.

You’re going to need some kind of wrench to disconnect the propane tank from your backyard gas grill and if your garage is like mine, there could be stuff you could trip over on your way to the tool chest.  So be careful.  Okay, my safety talk is over.

One thing you need to watch out for—and I learned this the hard way—is that when you’re burning off vast amounts of prairie, you can get distracted by the beautiful flames and not notice a slow, small back-burn around your feet.  Fortunately, if you’re wearing quality work boots, you’ll smell melting rubber before the soles actually catch fire.  Also, the flamethrower comes with a long hose, which means it often rests on the ground.

Why they don’t coat that rubber hose with something flame retardant is a question I found myself asking as small jets of fire exited the holes that were burned by the grass.  When this happens your instinct is to run away.  However, that means leaving a propane tank behind in front of advancing fire—essentially creating a bomb.  So you have to run toward the fire, grab the tank with the burning hose (while your shoes are melting) and run away while simultaneously shutting off the fuel valve.

It’s a mistake anyone could make.

But if you find yourself in this situation, I recommend not telling your spouse.  Just keep it to yourself.  And I’ve never told Mickey about this, so let’s just keep this between you and me.  Otherwise she may not let me use the flamethrower to clear snow which, let’s face it, is a brilliant idea.

See you at the market.

Farmer Dave

Remember, Dave Miller and other growers can be found every Saturday morning at the indoor Mount Vernon Farmers Market. Other markets this weekend include Iowa City, Ely and Urbana. Find times, locations and more details on the Homegrown list.