Sunday, March 1, 2020

Reviewing our stock portfolio

One of my nephew's woodpile

Mrs ERJ and I reviewed our stock portfolio. Not financial instruments. Our stock of firewood.

Some of it is standing deadwood. Some is cut. Some is green.

Firewood is one of those commodities where the transportation cost is a significant percentage of the cost of production. A stick in the forest is not as valuable as that same stick in the kindling box.

The biggest factor in the effort required to collect firewood is the softness of the ground. The best time to get firewood out of the woods is when the ground is solidly frozen. No mosquitoes.

The other good time is in late summer when the ground is dry.

We made the decision to leave the standing deadwood, for now. I don't go out in the woods when it is windy and the standing deadwood attracts woodpeckers. I believe the wood rots less standing than it does stacked on the damp, forest floor.

A little less than half of our ten acres is in trees. Not enough to heat our house, long-term, if push-came-to-shove but plenty of wood to buy us time while we figured out what to do next.

As John Wilder pointed out, the standards of how warm you keep your house and how much of it you heat are likely to get adjusted downward when every BTU has to be lugged out of the woods and through the front door.


  1. Have you looked into coppicing or pollarding? It won't turn 5 acres of trees into 15, but it should increase the usefulness of the woodlot. Also, lots of smaller diameter "poles" are easier to turn into firewood than splitting larger-diameter logs.

    1. Yes. I have played around with short-rotation coppice. I even have a few hybrid poplars that take well from cuttings a some willow clones.

      What I see with coppice of those two genus is that they MUST be harvested on a short rotation to control disease.

      I also dinked around with black locust and pollard. At first, I was trying to get a saw-log below the cut but gave that up. It is very clear to me that the most ergonomically friendly system is to pollard with the trunk cut at about 6 feet (1.8m)

      Everything can be done while standing with both feet firmly planted on the ground. This might be a good system for black locust, oaks, chestnuts, mulberry and (gag, hack, spit) box elder. Let me repeat, the trunks of most poplar and willow clones are too vulnerable to canker to be reliable pollard candidates.

      Let me get a few pictures of the ERJ pollard and coppice experiments.

  2. While I have a propane furnace, I rarely run it - I have heated almost exclusively with a wood stove for several years now. At first I bought some wood but now everything comes from my property (I have 75 acres of woods; my use doesn't even keep up with deadfall).
    I don't like the work, but with a good saw and a splitter it isn't bad, and I like the lower costs!


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