Fast Firewood

Page 4 of 7  
Yes, it hardly ever is a good idea to grow your own firewood.
However it is not true that all tree species are equal. Some species will give more useful firewood than others (books do exist). Mostly everybody who was seriously engaged with such things used a coppicing system (rotation times much shorter than thirty years). But it is hard work. There are easier ways of getting firewood. PvR
* * *

hickories, and sugar maples. The wood of fast-growing trees is inherently less dense, and hence does not make as good firewood, as the wood of slow-growing trees. Poplar specifically is not good firewood; it burns rapidly, and has little fuel value.

firewood "in a short amount of time" from *any* tree that you plant. That just doesn't happen. Not by _human_ standards, anyway. Thirty years *is* "a short amount of time" _to_a_tree_.

long as you're willing to work for it. If your city or state government removes a tree, you may be able to get the wood just by asking for it (as long as you're able to haul it away). If you have a chainsaw, you could offer to cut up fallen trees (or limbs) for your neighbors after a storm, in exchange for the wood. In some states, you can get firewood *very* cheaply in state-owned forests. Here in Indiana, for example, the state sells logging rights to commercial timber harvesters. The commercial guys are usually interested only in the first 30-40' of trunk, and they leave the rest on the ground. After they're done, Joe Citizen can come in and take whatever he wants for three bucks a pickup truck load.

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P van Rijckevorsel wrote:

Depends on what you mean. Buy 10 acres of forest that hasn't been logged in 20-30 years and you will have firewood forever.

Yeah there are easier ways, see above.

Sure dense woods are the best, they just aren't native in abundance everywhere. But Poplar is commonly burned in some areas.

Not necessarily, some trees only live about 30 years. Of course you have already dismissed Lombardy poplar, but their average life span is only 25-35 years. We had a neighbor down the street plant a row on one side of their lot and cut everyone of them in about 20 years when they had bases of 18" to 24" and were well over 100' tall. Birch grows fast. I cut my clump birch (actually paper birch) after 20 years and after fighting a fungus disease for several years. It had three major trunks and yielded a lot of wood with many blocks in the 10-8" diameter.

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P van Rijckevorsel wrote:

hasn't been logged in 20-30 years and you will have firewood forever.
*** In that case you are not growing your own firewood but harvesting wood that has grown over the past 20-30 years. Also, "forever" will depend on your rate of consumption.
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schreef

that
Baloney. You're splitting hairs. I'm sure you know what he's saying. After a few years you will be thinning and burning what was only seed when you purchased the land. Hardwood responds best to that kind of care and, since land is relatively cheap here, coppicing is not normally practiced.
Of course you will have to pay tax at three times or more the rate the state pays for wooded acres as the price of your stewardship, but, as liberals would say, that's what you get for being greedy and trying to keep something for yourself.
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that has grown over the past 20-30 years. Also, "forever" will depend on your rate of consumption.

*** I know what I am saying and I know what he and you are saying. You are saying that living off capital (harvesting the existing wood) is the same as earning your own living (harvesting the wood that you yourself grow) PvR
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P van Rijckevorsel wrote:

You want to get ridiculously detailed so here is a very conservative view. Buy 10 acres of coniferous forest that hasn't been managed for 20 years. Trees will be aged from 40 or 50 years old down to new growth. There will be branches and downed trees, even old stuff left when the loggers moved out 20 years ago. Remove as much of the dead downed and standing stuff and put in your wood pile. There will probably be enough for the next winter maybe even the next 2 winters. Go through and pick out the crappy trees and the ones where thinning is needed. Cut enough of those for 1 winters supply (you won't burn this until the 2nd or 3rd winter. Every year, harvest enough wood for one year and stay at least 2nd years ahead. When you are 70 or so and no longer want to use wood to heat, look at your 10 acres and be proud of the way you managed it and that there is now more good wood than when you bought it. Sell it to someone who is just starting out. That's called long term management and conservation of resources and is not living off the capital.
10 acres will annually grow more wood than a normal house would use for heat. That isn't living off the capital, it is living off the annual yield (or in your terms the interest). Of course that depends on where you live. It obviously won't work in an arid region, but it would in a region with more than 25" of precipitation a year and reasonable altitude. OTOH, 10 acres would probably have sufficient yield to support 3 or 4 houses in wetter areas. This, of course, also assumes that your house is reasonably well insulated and of reasonable size so that you don't need more than 3-4 cords per year. Heck, if your trees are conifers and you start at 20 years old, by the time you are 50 you would not need to cut more than 10 or 12 trees each year.
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Yes, if you assume all that then it is likely to work.
Biggest assumption (besides having OP move out west and learning a thing or two about forests) of course is that OP wants firewood to warm his house and not for some other purpose, such as to bake pottery, generate his own electricity, etc.
Not all that many people will want to move out west just to warm their house ;-)
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P van Rijckevorsel wrote:

thing or

house and

their house

But as Mr Cawthorn points out in a wetter climate less land would be needed so OP can stay out East, assuming he is out East to begin with. If he's starting with open land instead of wooded land he can grow black locust and have fencepost diameter trees in about ten years. Black locust grows very fast, burns hot, reseeds itself like crazy and bees feeding on locust blossoms make great honey.
There are also exotics like blue catalpa that grow extremely fast in places like Georgia (where AC is more of an issue than heat). Though they are very low density, as some have pointed out, that just means burning more of it for the same amount of energy.
--

FF


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needed so OP can stay out East, assuming he is out East to begin with. If he's starting with open land instead of wooded land he can grow black locust and have fencepost diameter trees in about ten years. Black locust grows very fast, burns hot, reseeds itself like crazy and bees feeding on locust blossoms make great honey.
*** Yes, but not many people would be willing to do that for just firewood and fenceposts. You'd really want a tree species that would eventually yield timber, which is not all that likely with black locust: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/plants/tree/robpse/management_considerati ons.html * * *

in places like Georgia (where AC is more of an issue than heat). Though they are very low density, as some have pointed out, that just means burning more of it for the same amount of energy.
*** If the stories about prices for Paulownia wood are anything like true then that would be worth thinking about. However it is also regarded as a pest, to be combatted. http://www.invasive.org/eastern/srs/P_RP.html http://www.se-eppc.org/manual/princess.html
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P van Rijckevorsel wrote:

be
with.
firewood and

yield
http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/plants/tree/robpse/management_considerati
Black locust currently grows far and wide outside of its original range precisely becuase of it's utility for fence posts. So it was worth doing for a fair number of people. If its being grown for firewood and fenceposts you won't let it get big enough for lumber anyhow.
If you want lumber, then you'd grow a species good for lumber. While there may be a tree of two suitable for all three purposes you'd grow 'em differently so why not grow different trees for different purposes anyhow?

then
pest,
Odd, I remember reading that it germinates poorly but regrows well from stump sprouts. Not according to those sources though. Other catalpas grow like weeds too.
--

FF


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firewood and fenceposts. You'd really want a tree species that would eventually yield timber, which is not all that likely with black locust:
http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/plants/tree/robpse/management_considerati ons.html
------

range precisely becuase of it's utility for fence posts. So it was worth doing for a fair number of people. If its being grown for firewood and fenceposts you won't let it get big enough for lumber anyhow.

While there may be a tree of two suitable for all three purposes you'd grow 'em differently so why not grow different trees for different purposes anyhow?
*** Now I am curious. What is the difference between growing a tree for a fence post from growing it for lumber? Except for the time of cutting? I'd imagine lots of trees grown for lumber are thinned with the yield going to fence posts. * * *

from stump sprouts. Not according to those sources though. Other catalpas grow like weeds too.
*** Likely the 'danger' comes from the enormous amounts of seeds produced by each tree. Imagine all those seeds germinating! You would not be able to walk for the small Paulownia trees growing everywhere! PvR
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P van Rijckevorsel wrote:

fence
imagine
fence
I'd think that very few trees grown for lumber are thinned to make fence post material becuas most lumber is not durable and would make poor fencepost material unless pressure treated and that is a commercial endeavor, not something one would do one a homestead.
If you want fence posts you cut it when the trunk is about the right diameter for fence posts. If you let it grow larger, it will shade out the smaller trees so you run out of fencepost material.
Of course you can let the grove expand or only cut your fence post material from the edge of the grove while letting the trees in the middle grow big for lumber but instead of doing that, why not just grow different trees for lumber and have good lumber and good fence posts instead of one or both being a compromise?
--

FF


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fence post material because most lumber is not durable and would make poor fencepost material unless pressure treated and that is a commercial endeavor, not something one would do one a homestead.
*** Well, for both lumber and fenceposts you want straight trunks and no side branches low down. This is achieved by planting the trees pretty close. And "pretty close" is relative to the size of the trees, what is close for trees six foot tall is ridiculous for trees twenty feet tall. So any lumber stand is being thinned a number of times, leaving only the best trees. The stuff of the first / second thinning is not good for anything except fence posts, so why not use them? * * *

diameter for fence posts. If you let it grow larger, it will shade out the smaller trees so you run out of fencepost material.

material from the edge of the grove while letting the trees in the middle grow big for lumber but instead of doing that, why not just grow different trees for lumber and have good lumber and good fence posts instead of one or both being a compromise?
*** Well, life is full of choices PvR
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P van Rijckevorsel wrote:

side
close. And

for trees

stand
stuff
posts,
Because they'll rot. Unless they are black locust, sassafrass, osage orange or a handful of other woods that generally are not used for lumber they won't make good fenceposts.
--

FF


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*** The list of rot-resistant wood is a little longer than that. Secondly not all fences are there forever. Some fences are built for a limited time only. PvR
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schreef

the
grow)
Bet you wish you'd thought that analogy through to maturity. Because, as you no doubt know, while he uses the mature, the rest is sprouting, growing and maturing. Selective harvest is the very best way to manage hardwoods.
I am at about the northern limit of hardwood forestation, and decent ground here produces over a cord a year increase - interest, in your example - while preserving the principle. Point with wood, of course, is you don't want the stuff until it's a certain size, so you take the crowded, the overmature, the diseased and damaged to free up the rest to make best increase. Keeps things even or a bit better on firewood, with maybe a sawlog or three per acre for woodworking, since I heat the house for six to seven cords per year.
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you no doubt know, while he uses the mature, the rest is sprouting, growing and maturing. Selective harvest is the very best way to manage hardwoods.

ground here produces over a cord a year increase - interest, in your example - while preserving the principle. Point with wood, of course, is you don't want the stuff until it's a certain size, so you take the crowded, the overmature, the diseased and damaged to free up the rest to make best increase. Keeps things even or a bit better on firewood, with maybe a sawlog or three per acre for woodworking, since I heat the house for six to seven cords per year.
*** Obviously, I did think it through.
I hardly need point out that there is a few thousand years of experience with this. In practice this approach means a quick disappearance of forests, whenever firewood is important enough (expensive enough). It is customary to have stories expounding why forests will last forever, even while they disappear.
As already pointed out, firewood is not expensive now, at least in the US.
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P van Rijckevorsel wrote:

experience
forests,
customary to

they
In defense of humanity over the last hundred years or so considerable interest has arisen in both silviculture, that is harvesting wood in a sustainable fashion and also to a much lesser and more controversial extent in conservation, that is preserving some wilderness forestland in its wilderness form, unmanaged by humanity.
Given the time it takes for a tree to grow to the point where it is economical to convert it to lumber (around 70-80 years for an eastern hardwood) humanity is in it's infancy in terms of learning the ropes. But that is a big improvement over the thousands of years of 'managing' the forest of Italy, Lebanon, Lybia, England, Easter Island, etc.
I am hopeful that people like our Mr Cawthorn wil make it psosible to enjoy wood and wood products and to keep and restore large tracts of true forest to its natural, unmanaged state.
--

FF


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considerable interest has arisen in both silviculture, that is harvesting wood in a sustainable fashion and also to a much lesser and more controversial extent in conservation, that is preserving some wilderness forestland in its wilderness form, unmanaged by humanity.

is economical to convert it to lumber (around 70-80 years for an eastern hardwood) humanity is in it's infancy in terms of learning the ropes. But that is a big improvement over the thousands of years of 'managing' the forest of Italy, Lebanon, Lybia, England, Easter Island, etc.

to enjoy wood and wood products and to keep and restore large tracts of true forest to its natural, unmanaged state.

*** Oh yes, it is not inevitable that forest management will go wrong. Actually there are plenty of examples of it going right. But making it work does require planning, thought and skills; and a tradition of transfering those skills to next generations.
An approach of "you start with a bit of forest and do what you will and it will turn out all right, automatically" is not going to be helpful.
BTW, a "true forest [in] its natural, unmanaged state" is not the only thing worth striving for. A well-managed forest can come fairly close to a natural state, close enough to be quite worthwhile and enjoyable. PvR
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The birch that grows around here (white birch?) gets punky *really* fast. Faster than beech. In fact most of it does not come off the stump all that great.
--

-Mike-
snipped-for-privacy@alltel.net
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