Thursday, June 3, 2010

Sustainability On Small Acreage-Wood Heat

In our last discussion, I gave some pointers on wood heat.  In the interest of continuing that discussion, I would like to offer a few thoughts.

Wood heat is incredible economical.  Even if you wish to purchase your year's supply of firewood, it is often, if not always, cheaper than conventional methods (i.e. gas, electric, propane etc).  A rick of wood, in our area, can be had for around $45.  A rick consists of a stack of wood measured 4' high, 8' long and 14" wide.  Four of these together make a cord.  So, if you bought a cord of wood at $45 per rick, that is $180.  Depending on how much you might need, you can see the difference you might spend in conventional heat.

"But we are wasting trees!  Don't cut down the trees!  We need them!"  True, we need them.  They help make oxygen, among other things.  However, trees are very sustainable, in that, they can be re-planted and they will grow back.  I am willing to guarantee that more trees are damaged or felled or broken by God's hand (storms, lightning, etc) than you will need in a life time.  In 12 years, I can count on one hand how many healthy, living trees I have cut down.  I am able to supply our yearly needs in the form of dead falls and broken limbs.  On that note, you will need to consider how much of your land is wooded.  I have read, somewhere, that you can sustain a healthy 10 acre wooded parcel and all your firewood needs for a lifetime.

Removing dead trees that are still standing and clearing the fallen ones helps maintain a healthy forest by clearing the clutter and allowing new trees and under brush to thrive.  You can also learn what to look for in stressed trees or unhealthy trees and remove them.  This will promote the growth and vitality of the healthy trees in the area.  This is called selective harvest.  I have an advantage in this, in that, I go to church with a U.S. forestry man who is very knowledgeable, read this for more on that.

Recent research is also suggesting that the lack of rain in many areas in our country is due to the lack of wood burning.  It is through the burning of wood that small particles of ash get spilled into the air.  This gives something for the droplets of moisture to cling to, forming clouds and, eventually, rain.  In the last one hundred years, or so, we have gone away from traditional wood heat and cooking to the use of fossil fuels.  I won't get into that debate, right now, but I would argue that wood heat is more sustainable than the use of fossil fuels.  I don't, personally, believe that we will run out of fossil fuels.  I think that they are very renewable.  I do, however, think that wood is better for the over all picture, the cycle of things.

So, look around.  What do you have in the way of forest to supply your firewood?

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