Monday, February 10, 2014
Mixing Your Firewood
I have to laugh at the wife every once in a while because for some reason feeding the wood furnace becomes some symbolic task of gender politics, and no matter what she is going to prove to herself, me and the rest of the world that she can do it as well as I can.
By golly she don't need no man :)
Until her whole plan falls apart that is.
What I find funny about the entire thing is that her failure has nothing to do with any gender differences whatsoever but comes down to the fact that she (and many other people out there Men and Women) do not understand how different wood types, dryness and densities can effect the overall fire. I've tried explaining it to her but after about the second sentence her eye's glaze over and she runs for her computer to watch a sitcom or some other fluff.
Ah well I certainly don't keep her around for her fire tending abilities.
The Mrs. likes to declare on these really cold mornings after she wakes up that she will keep the fire going while I sleep. It works out well since she likes to wake up long before the sun even thinks about coming around for morning but more often than not she will rouse me up earlier than expected because the fire has died.
This is another downside to running a wood furnace over an inside stove. It isn't nearly as easy, nor comfortable to open up the thing and see what's going on. You have to put on your boots and then stand outside in the cold with the door open and stay there. It's pretty unforgiving if you put the wrong mix in and you can't just let it burn open for a bit allowing the air to do it's work unless you are going to stand out in the cold air, snow, mud and/or rain.
What I usually find when I get out there to correct the problem is that my darling wife has stuffed the fire too full of dense heartwood logs that have been split out of much larger trunk pieces. Almost always White Oak or Locust. Even dried and cured for years these log sections will usually burn so slowly that the coals will go out and leave the split logs only partially consumed and nothing short of a full open fire will allow them to burn fast enough.
Another common problem is I will find she has reached into my small pile of live wood. I try to keep that section a bit apart and tell her to stay away from it but she never listens. I use the live wood to keep coals going for those periods when I am away or when the temps are high enough I can attempt an all night burn. The flue is short enough on the furnace that build up isn't much of an issue and a little bit of green wood can keep a fire going for hours longer than burning all cured and dried stuff.
My normal goal around here is to shoot for Locust as my primary heat producer mixed with Elm for flame. The two together in proper amounts seem to produce just the exact burn time and temperature combination for maximum efficiency but there are of course many substitutes and combinations to achieve the same effect. Also there is timing. Many times I will go out just to throw another piece or two of Elm in to keep the Oak or Locust burning.
Walnut works well to sub in for Elm. Oak can always sub in for Locust or even burn by itself in smaller sections without a lot of heartwood or if the outter fleshwood is beginning to dry rot. Hickory is another hardwood that can be used in place of Locust or Oak. Wild Cherry is an excellent mid-ranged wood, especially when it's a large specimen while Maples and Box Elders can sometimes be burned almost green depending on age and produce some nice results when mixed with other woods. Often however even a few months of drying can reduce Maples and Box Elders to nothing more than quick burning starter fuels.
I suppose I could by pass a lot of this and just go out and begin harvesting trees in anticipation of using them a year, two years or more down the road. I have done this occasionally when a tree needs to be removed but I prefer to manage my woodlots in a more naturally sustainable way. This may not be possible depending on where you live but around here I find I am able to keep myself supplied just by cutting those trees that have already died.
Many landowners around me will actually ask me to come in and harvest some trees they do not want. It is not uncommon to find someone who refuses to burn anything but Oak and will just let Elms, Locust and other trees rot.
What a waste, but their preference is my gain so to speak.
I prefer to use any and all wood I can get leaving the healthy trees to grow to their full potential. That means each season starts off with a lot of scouting and selecting just which trees to harvest in what order and also knowing how long each tree has been dead and drying. It also means harvesting a number of dead limbs and such as well. It also does require some cutting of live trees to thin them out and prevent over crowding.
Another side effect of allowing the trees to dry while standing is that the topmost sections will usually become dry enough to harvest long before the main trunk sections do. Often I will top out a tree to mix in the smaller stuff while allowing the trunk to lay then come back at the end of the season to harvest the trunk for next year. Sometimes I will even just let em lay a year or more.
Missouri is wonderful in that we have such a variety of trees to manage and use. With a bit of luck and future sense planning one can continuously harvest from a woodlot and maintain the proper level of tall mast and understory trees. Even those varieties with a lower BTU output have a use in the furnace or stove but I know it does become confusing at times.
Keep Prepping Everyone!!!