Friday, June 25, 2010

Ashes to ashes

All of my automotive repairs, plus the traveling, have put me behind on the firewood chore. We need four cords, cut, split and stacked by the end of July if it's to be properly dried by later October.

So today I sharpened up the blade on the new chainsaw, which was dulled on the old elm in our yard last time I used it, and cut some more wood in our woods.

I cut ash, the gray ash and the brown, both of which we grow in abundance. The new saw makes a much straighter cut than the old, which makes it easier to split, and it cuts a good deal faster as long as the blade is sharp. I trim the smaller branches and twigs with a machete, which I keep sharp on the grinding wheel. Sharp tools are the key to an easy job of wood cutting. I have two new Oregon blades on order for this saw; they should arrive soon.

The logs are loaded in this old trailer, which takes about 1/3 of a cord, and ferried the hundred yards up to the dooryard using the Bolens 16 horse lawn tractor, which is plenty traction and can handle the heaviest load and steepest hills we have. Once in the dooryard, they are spit if need be and stacked to dry. Ash splits easily when wet, but it's still a fair old work-out. A couple-three hours of wood cutting and splitting is enough for me in any one day. More, and I can't easily repeat the process the next day.

Old man.

We use old pallets, of which we have a fair collection, to keep the logs off the ground while they dry, and old plastic sheeting to keep the rain off and let the sun in.

The sheep love to munch on ash leaves, and so I let them back into this enclosure where the trees grow once I was done cutting, and they happily stripped the branches and twigs for an hour or two.

If you cut while the sheep are in there, they get in the way and may get brained by a falling tree. Sheep are silly like that. Aimee, on the other hand, is nowhere to be seen while wood is being cut. I deduce from this that Aimee is smarter than a sheep, especially where work is concerned.

Today's haul was about 1/3 of a cord. I will need another nine or ten just like it before I'm done with the firewood chore for the year. The largest tree I cut was nine inches DBH, and 22 years old by its rings. That's about the age and size of most of our hardwoods. It's only along the hedgerow that we have bigger, older trees on our own lot. It will be many more years before we exhaust the supply on our three point five acre plot, even though we are cutting them faster than they grow to open up space for sheep. Once we get done with the home lot, we'll have our leased land to go at. That supply will never be exhausted since we can't possibly cut and burn trees faster than they can grow on twelve acres of well-watered Maine woodland.

Eventually the leased land will have much larger trees and be full canopy, primarily ash woods with small patches of light where cutting has occurred recently, while the home lot will be a kind of grassy parkland with widely spaced apples, bird cherries, birches, spruces, tamaracks (larch) and Great Farm elms.

Parts of it already look like this now since I've been cutting and clearing for several years already. It's a pleasant place to work.

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