Thursday, July 24, 2008

New pictures, and a net zero logging job

Aimee's new mailbox, very artistic and even comedic, with pictures of various Womerlippi farm residents, including an impression of a chicken standing on a sheep, which believe it or not happens regularly around here. She also made three cedar bird boxes like this one.

And then a series of shots of the demise of a medium-large wild cherry tree, made into a cord of firewood. The tree was shading out some of our semi-wild Great Farm apple trees that we hope to semi-domesticate. It was on the south side of the apples and had the upper hand, so it was either the cherry or the apples.

The only difference between the way we make firewood and the way other Mainers make firewood is the sheep.

The sheep like to eat the leaves of downed trees, almost as soon as they're down, so if you give them a chance to do their job, there's less volume of brush and leaves to pile. But you have to get them out of the way as the tree comes down. Luckily, they don't like the noise of the chainsaw much, so that does the job. Chickens, however, are another matter.

The white Bolen's lawn tractor is the unsung hero of work around here. It only cost 600 bucks, and the red trailer $150, but together they can haul a half a cord of firewood, essentially a pick-up load, from the bottom of the main field to the top, a 1 in 5 slope, and in places 1 in 3, and in the last week they have moved more than a ton of chimney debris to the bottom of the yard, as we wrecked out our old chimney, ready for a brand new one.

Oh, and it also cuts grass. But not often, because the sheep generally do that.

Between running the tractor and the chainsaw, and running me own own pathetic, spotty fat body, the fuel needed for today's cord of cherry firewood was about a pint and a half of gas, plus a bowl of granola pour petit moi. In return we got, according to the nifty table I found on Google, 14 million BTUs worth of firewood, a three-week supply at the rate we have been burning it each winter, although I'm hoping our various modifications/repairs to the chimney and basement reduce that by about a third.

At 115,000 BTUs per gallon of gas, that makes an 87,500% Energy Return on Investment (EROI). (Ignoring the granola which I would have eaten anyway.) In other words, we got a whopping 875 times the energy out of today's operation that we put into it. Eat s..t, ethanol lobbyists. And a cord of wood costs 200-250 bucks, so for my 2 hours work, we were paid $125 an hour.

(Problem is, splitting a cord of wood in 80% humidity and 75 degree heat is all you can do for a whole day, never mind if it only takes you ten minutes of maul-ing. After my energy was dissipated, I went to town to run errands, then I puttered around doing nothing hard. Although I did dig up our first spuds of the year. German Butterballs, Aimee says, very good spuds.)

And our firewood system ss sustainable, since we have 15.5 acres all with young trees that probably grow about 15 cords a year, and we only take five or six. In fact, we are probably sequestering more than enough carbon to make up for the tiny amount of heat oil and propane we burn. (Although not the gasoline for our two cars.) And, since we're on hydro, this makes the house at least carbon neutral. (If not the vehicles -- where is my cheap electric car? I keep looking on eBay.) We'd like to keep up with the cutting of trees, so we are in effect clearing land, but we only are making a dent in the area closest to the house right now, and would have to increase our rate of cut by a factor of four or five if we really wanted to get more grazing lands. Old timers simply burned trees to make grazing and arable land. That would be silly today since firewood is more valuable than the food you can grow on Maine farmland.

Still, it is getting more open close to the house.

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Welcome to our Farm Blog.
The purpose of this blog is for Aimee and I to communicate with friends and family, with those of our students, and other folks in general who are interested in homesteading and farming activities.

The earliest posts, at the very end of the blog, tell the story of the Great Farm, our purchase of a fragment of that farm, the renovation of the homestead and its populating with people and animals. Go all the way to the last post in the archive and read backwards from there to get it in chronological order.

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