Harvesting Heat

harvesting wood 2014HERD ABOUT IT? by ana grarian

Yesterday was a beautiful day to work outside. My son-in-law and I, each in our own way, harvested heat from downed trees in my woods. It was windy, but since these trees were already on the ground, that was not an issue. It was chilly, but we both ended up hanging up our sweat shirts as we got going. 

I am collecting small trees that have been dead for a while and are either so dead I can push them over, or they are already down. Yesterday I went after some larger downed trees that needed to be cut into lengths so that I could carry or drag them, or in the case of a few larger ones, so that my lawn tractor could drag them.

First I gathered up all of our good extension cords so that I could get as far back into the woods as possible. We only have a small electric chainsaw. I have been thinking about getting a gas saw, but they can be the dickens to start, and heavy for me to handle. Our saw is plenty big for the trees I am cutting. Now that I have dragged them into the back yard my grandson and I can cut them into stove lengths and stack them.

Once I was finished cutting my son-in-law tackled two large trees that had fallen over years ago. They turned out to be easier to cut up than he had expected and he made good work of it. There are several others out there to be done now that I have repaired another extension cord so we can reach them. I’m headed to the hardware today to see what kinds of splitting wedges are available.

For now my woods are providing the heat we need. Off and on I have started cutting up fallen trees that are not dry enough to burn this year. There are quite a few huge trees to come down which should provide heat for another year -maybe more. One giant came down by itself in a storm this summer. That suits me. At least these trees are isolated enough they won’t hurt anything if/when they fall.

The woods area here is generally very wet. That and the proliferation of very big grapevines is what I think is killing the trees. These trees have grown quite densely and are extremely tall without much canopy. Perhaps over the winter I’ll study up on forest progression to see if I can figure out how it grew and where it’s going. I wonder how grapevines burn? Many of these are as big around as my arm.

My yard is overwhelmingly Black Locust trees, though along the road in front it is about half Maple. The woods have a lot of Beech, some Ash and a corner with a stand of Southern Pine. The few Spruce I have are falling prey to a Pine Borer.

We are all enjoying the heat a great deal. The cat – who loves to go to the woods with us – has claimed the love seat nearest the stove where he stretches out to soak in as much heat as possible. My grandson and I are enjoying the ability to have our bedroom windows open for fresh air a luxury that would not occur if I was using the furnace. My wallet is enjoying the lack of a fuel bill. We all appreciate that our sleep is not interrupted by the clank and rumble of the furnace ducts.

Today I spent the few free hours I had cleaning up the last of the garden. Tomorrow is my day off and the weatherman promises another beautiful day to go to the woods.