Thursday, January 10, 2013

Building Unity Farm - Managing Wood

Farm properties commonly include meadows, pastures, woodland, wetland, and rocky rolling hills.   Unity Farm has all of these ecosystems.  We've recently re-surveyed all our wetlands to ensure we comply with appropriate environmental regulations that guide where we can plant, farm, and raise animals.  

Our plans over the next year include adding year round growing capacity via a high tunnel/hoop house, adding an acre of high bush blue berries, creating a mushroom growing shed, expanding our orchard, and refining our kitchen garden.

All of these activities are ideal for the spring and summer.   Wintertime is perfect for managing wood.

Unity Farm has 12 acres of white oak, red oak, hard maple, cedar, and poplar.     Oak and maple make excellent firewood.  Cedar contains aromatic oils and burns hot/fast making it a great firestarter.   Poplar does not generate much heat, so it's not an ideal firewood.  However, it is excellent for cultivating oyster mushrooms (hence the mushroom growing shed)

How do you manage 12 acres of forest with multiple different woods harvested at different times?

I approached the problem just as I would approach data storage architecture.   First define requirements and input/output streams, then design the appropriate information lifecycle management infrastructure.  Here's how I thought about it

Cache - the wood you'll use today and later this week
Nearline - the wood you'll use this month and this season
Archive -  the wood you'll use next year and next season
Swap space - the wood you cut or moved today that needs to be stored before putting it in cache, near line, or archive storage.

With this model in mind, I organized the woodcutting area of the farm in .5 cord of cache, 1.5 cords of near line, 1.5 cords of archive, and .5 cords of swap space.    This ensures I have 2 cords for current use and 2 cords for long term use.

Each Saturday I take my farm wagon (holds 700 pounds of wood) onto the trails I've built into our upper forest (5 acres) and lower forest (7 acres).    Using a Stihl M290 chainsaw I cut a few hundred pounds of oak, maple and cedar from fallen trees, de-limbing using my Scandinavian Forest Axe and bucking them into 18" segments.   I secure the logs onto the wagon using ratchet tie downs.

I pull the wagon over our trails back to our wood processing area shown above.   I use a 24"x12" hard maple round as the base for log splitting with my splitting maul   For very thick logs, I use two splitting wedges and the hammer portion of the splitting maul.   I keep everything sharp with a file  and axe stone 

Once the logs are split, I stack them appropriately into the 4 areas listed above.    I have dedicated near line and archive storage for each type of wood - oak, maple, and cedar.

 My rule of thumb is that wood should age at least a year between cutting and burning.   The only exception is old fallen cedar which seems to burn well immediately, although I use it sparingly because the burning oils pop and spark in the fireplace.

 To avoid repetitive motion injury I limit my wood cutting to 1/2 cord per day and my splitting to 1/4 cord per day.    At present all my storage areas are full and we have a roaring fire at the farm every winter night.


Anonymous said...

Dr. Halamka, you may have seen this already, but as a frequent reader, when I heard about this 12 hour Norwegian TV program (and associated book) dedicated to chopping, stacking, and burning firewood, I immediately thought of this post.

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