Firewood Warmth

February 3rd, 2007

The cold is staying with us this week, and may even be colder still over the next few days.  I think the forecast says 1-2 degrees farenheit /-19 celsius! The electric furnace runs constantly when it’s this cold, except when we keep the woodstove nice and hot.   I loaded up the wheelbarrow a few times for the woodpile next to the house , and since we would burn it this weekend anyway, I left the last wheelbarrow load by the door.  Some nice person I live with (!) put the wood on the hearth next to the stove.  It looks like a lot, but it’s usually gone in less than 2 days if we keep the fire burning.  The nice part about the woodstove is the heat… not like furnace or other heat… it gets really toasty up close and just radiates warmth through the room. 

For us it only supplements the electric and propane furnaces. But for many others in our area, they heat their homes in winter primarily with wood with a good size outdoor furnace.  Typically the wood furnace is loaded every 3-6 hours depending on how warm the temperature is desired.  I spoke with several people who heat this way, and on average they go through 3-4 cords of wood each winter.  How much is that?  Hmmm…  well a full cord of wood is about 8 feet wide by 4 feet tall and 4 feet deep, which should be about 128 cubic feet.  After I cut down and “bucked” a few old oak trees this fall, I estimated I got more than 1 full cord from a single large tree.  So the average home in our area burning wood for primary heat with an outdoor furnace burns the equivalent of about 3-5+ large trees each winter depending on how much supplementary heat they use. Those doing so further north geographically must burn a lot more.  We will probably use 1-2 cords per winter at most, as supplemental heating. 

Some interesting research on the net for wood burning and utilization.  This University of Nebraska Guide to Heating with Wood is an excellent resource.  It describes that one large tree of 22 inch diameter at “breast height” (4 1/2 feet from the ground) can yield one full cord.  But conversely, a 5 inch diameter tree would require 46-55 of the same size trees for a single cord of wood!  That sounds like a lot, but with proper forestry practices landowners can usually manage a sustainable resource.  In Missouri we do have healthy forests and many, many areas of federal, state and private lands that are managed very closely by various agencies to ensure healthy forest and wildlife habitat, as well as a sustainable resource.  There is a robust reforestation and management focus, and we are very proud of our state agencies.  The Missouri Department of Natural Resources and Missouri Department of Conservation are very focused on both management of the natural environment and stewardship for balanced resource use.  We do not have vast wilderness areas as exist in the western U.S., but between major metropolitan areas we do have a rural population with large areas of forest and farm land that serve as essential resources within the state.  As such, our state agencies also have excellent public relations and private lands management programs to encourage sound conservation practices on all lands. 

I think we do a pretty good job, and most landowners, farmers and sportsmen work together to achieve common goals.  We will continue to do our part by managing our small piece of land.   I plan to not take more than 1-2 trees down in any year, and will probably purchase additional cordwood if necessary.  I leave some trees standing as “snags” or deadwood trees to serve as habitat for wildlife.  For some wildlife species such as woodpeckers, old and dying trees are very important as a food source for insects living in the wood.  The trees can also serve as nesting or den trees for other wildlife species.   But some of the dead trees are hazardous simply because of location, and others need harvesting to provide a healthier balance overall among the tree species.  After the recent ice storms, nature has provided many large branches and limbs on the ground that I will need to cut and chip to clear the property.  I’ve also ordered about 180 seedlings of various native trees and shrubs from the Conservation Department.  We will plant these throughout the property with the hope that they grow to supplement the existing forest composition.  My parents did the same before we were here, and Fox Haven continues to grow. 

Wheelbarrow with Wood

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