Monday, January 17, 2011
Today is Martin Luther King Day in the USA, a public holiday. We're off work, although Aimee has driven in to confer with students.
I decided to spend the time more selfishly.
Our firewood pile has been declining at an alarming rate since the cold weather arrived. It does this almost every year, because we only have convenient storage space for about four cords, and we need a cord more than that if the winter is a cold one.
There's only really a month-and-a-half more of the very coldest weather. By the end of January, winter is half over, and by the end of February, daytime temperatures come back above freezing, saving considerably on heating.
But we'd used more than half our firewood, so I wanted a little more.
Unity College's Woodsman Team obliged. Right about when I needed it, they advertised firewood for sale. This is wood left over from woodsmen- and woodswomen sports, which are basically competitive elaborations on tradition lumberjacking.
Unity College has lots of useful student clubs and sports teams.
I'd has this firewood before. It's what Mainer's call "popple", otherwise known elsewhere as quaking aspen, Populus tremuloides, which is deciduous, but doesn't really count as a hardwood. It burns well enough, but the BTU content is low compared to ash, cherry, or elm, the three species we have the most of on our woodlot.
Twenty-five dollars a pick-up load was not too shabby, though, and I'm probably well ahead on dollars/mBTU. One pick-up load in the farm truck with the new bed was about a half-cord.
Popple is 13.7 mBTUs/cord, whereas the white (AKA gray) ash is 21.6 mBTUs/cord. Elm and cherry are a little less than ash, but not enough that you'd notice.
But white ash costs $200 to $250/cord dried, whereas this popple is costing us $50/cord.
$50/cord divided by 13.7 mBTUs/cord equals $3.64 per mBTU
$250/cord divided by 21.6 mBTUs/cord equals $11.57 per mBTU
Pretty cheap per BTU, I'd say.
Of course, this isn't a fair comparison, since I cut the ash myself.
Don't ask me why Americans still use the British Thermal Unit as their preferred unit of home heating energy.
I quite like it myself, but it is a clunky kind of a unit.
I think I'll get at least another pick-em-up truck load of popple.