Sunday, February 5, 2023

I am still here

Today has been a very low energy day. The lymph nodes beneath my jaw are enlarged so I may be fighting something off.

The snow is melting fast. The weather-guessers are predicting that six of the next seven days will have highs above freezing. This might be a good time to frost seed the pasture. I have some creeping-alfalfa seed I want to spread.


We have a relatively small fireplace insert in our living-room. Unlike the massive, outdoor boilers that many of my neighbors have, it is fussy about the size of the wood it likes.

I have the starting procedure nailed. A couple of split pieces of ash, a wax impregnated fire-starter between the split-ash and then a double-handful of "small-wood" laid across the split-ash where the flames of the wax fire starter will lick them.

---A moment of silence while my fellow 'tards chuckle about ERJ's "small wood". Its OK. I am secure in my masculinity. I would be chortling if our positions were reversed---

Where was I?

Oh, the small wood.

Pieces between 3/4" and 1-1/2" diameter work best. Sumac rocks but any wood will do as long as it is dry. Since the rack that holds the ash-splits is not very deep, the small-wood only needs to be 4"-to-8" long to span from one to the other.

---Let me hold your beer while you laugh. Laughter is good for the soul and the digestion---

The thing is that I need a lot of pieces although that is not much weight.

Fortunately, I have scads of Box Elder that volunteered all around the property and it very happily puts out stems of that diameter with great abandon. In Europe it would be considered a copse. I take my loppers and behead the stem where it splits into many stems and then work my way down the stick cutting it to the desired length.

The current plan is to dump the sticks into a large dog "crate" in one of the barns. The crate will be up on a pallet and the welded-wire sides should allow the air to flow through it with ease. Between the short stick-length, the diagonally cut ends and the awesome airflow, I should have an abundance of dried small-wood for next year.


  1. Box elder is just a confused maple. You can tap it and make syrup but the sugar content is about two thirds of a good maple.

  2. The eastern europeans appear to use wood as you describe, there are many diy build choppers, chunkers, and screw chipper styles to entertain on youtube, all the best for your return to health, and thank you for your personal views you provide on the USA zeitgeist for us foreign viewers, cheers, Norm.

    1. Central and Eastern Europeans are aghast that we allow wood to grow large enough to where we use chainsaws.

      You have a point. Why let it grow so large that you need to use petrol powered equipment and then have the additional labor of splitting it?

      Short rotation coppice has a place in the over-all scheme of things. One nice thing about willow and hazel is that it cuts easily with loppers.

      Out of curiosity, what country are you writing from?

    2. Joe, I hail from below 45 south in Otago en zed, both coastal and central high country, have been mucking about with trees for most of my life and enjoy your tree commentary, the two most well known exotic trees in this country came from the Monterey peninsula in California with gold miners back in the day, cupressus macrocarpa and pinus radiata. Didn't intend to cast aspersions on using large timber or fuel for firewood, I have never known anybody in this country to cut firewood by hand in my life, forestry slash here is so low value it is left in furrows amongst replanting. I enjoy the differences I see from management of trees all around the world, local conditions dictate realities on the ground, cheers, Norm. P.s I have personally milled macrocarpa logs in excess of two metre diameter on local farms here, quite a different tree from its original habitat.

  3. I would add some red clover to the alfalfa. It seems to get growing quicker and mature faster and provides backup for the harder to establish alfalfa.. It does here anyway. Also it is used as a medicinal. I've never tried it but others tell me it is beneficial in many ways which is something I think we should consider in this time. Hope you get feeling better quickly. ---ken

  4. ERJ - I will need to measure the wood for the Wood Stove the next time I am out - I have never even thought of it, other than it is "the right size".

  5. Swollen lymph nodes is something to keep a watch on. The lymph system as you know is the second circulatory system that handles infections and such. Low energy might be from fighting an infection as the swollen lymph points out.

    More details here

    The small wood (jokes aside) is mostly what Europe has used for generations for firewood. Coppicing is the process of cutting trees leaving a stool to encourage rapid small growth for further harvesting.

    More details here

    Low tech magazine site is often quite useful. Amazing what we did before diesel power.

  6. Don’t fool around with the swollen nodes if they persist. Mine turned out to be cancer, caught early it can be cured.
    Good luck, Grumpy

  7. I do sorta the same. About 20 1inch sticks upright in a coffee can, a cup of lighter fluid, put the snap lid on. pull one out, light your fire. Woody

  8. Every stove design requires it's own method to start easily.
    Here on the edge of the Great Basin we don't have a lot of choice for wood. I pay to have California Oak brought over from the central valley to burn. I use about 3 cords a year and it provides 95% of my winter heating. I also have pine from the Sierra that I used to burn for heat but since moving over to hardwood just use as fire starter. It works pretty well once properly dried and split into pieces less than half inch in diameter. Don't need any other firestarters with the pine other than a tiny amount of old newsprint.

  9. Spruce does not form a coppice but we get lots of beetle kill around here and yes we use a chain saw and split the bigger stuff. I pile 4” to 6” logs separately and they make good “night logs” especially when it is -40F! We burn limited amounts of cotton wood and aspen usually for spring and fall warming fires to tale the chill off and let it go. Locally willow in the night log size range is the best long burning wood but scarce because the moose tend to keep coppice wood trimmed back. Some areas of Alaska have birch but not around here. I started the year with about 9, 4’ by 4’ by 8’ cords in the shed and will probably have some leftover.

  10. Hope you feel better soon. Don't ignore your health when signs of things amiss are affecting you. Easier to beat down early then having to deal with when entrenched.

  11. Those loppers are a good way to gain the fuel of your needed dimensions. Much faster than a saw.

    I remember an internet personality describing how he used garden pruners to speed up tinder gathering. I thought it silly, until I tried it and he was right - way faster to get it done faster and with less wasted motion. Pruning shears are now part of my kit.

    Anon 10:03 above - yet another good way to use the finished coffee can. Those red plastic Folgers coffee cans are darn handy. We zip tied around the mouth, then another zip tie to form a belt loop.


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