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What is the best way to grow fuel for an RMH

 
pollinator
Posts: 4154
Location: Northern New York Zone4-5 the OUTER 'RONDACs percip 36''
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Jack Edmundson : Almost every wood fuel chart gives a high BTU rating for Bamboo, it is a fast growing material serves many good purposes in holding soil
and counter-intuitively is found to be good for stabilizing the banks of rivers or damed stock ponds there are several more handling steps, I think location will
be great desired for where it will find acceptance !

For the good of the Crafts Big AL
 
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Dried bio mass per pound all essentially contain the same number of BTUs. It's a heck of a lot quicker to air dry bamboo however. The University of Vermont study was on a per acre basis, I should have mentioned that. The trees will provide a full canopy, with relatively only a small amount of light making it to the ground , soaking up a maximum of sunlight where bamboo cannot do that as effectively - or so it seems.
 
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Location: S.W. Missouri, Zone 6B
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I'm not sure bamboo is an ideal candidate. Many species (most?) are hollow, and I think that would be problematic (I imagine lotsa little chimney sticks poking up out of the feed tube, heheh). There are however, solid varieties of bamboo which may work well.
 
pollinator
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Location: Vermont, off grid for 24 years!
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David Searles wrote:The University of Vermont study was on a per acre basis, I should have mentioned that. The trees will provide a full canopy, with relatively only a small amount of light making it to the ground , soaking up a maximum of sunlight where bamboo cannot do that as effectively - or so it seems.



Do you have a link for that study (handy for me as it's my home state)? I'm curious what varieties that trialed and what other trees too.

I planted a bunch of poplar last year and there is some growing on my property. Livestock will eat the leaves so it could provide several yields.
 
Erik Weaver
Posts: 219
Location: S.W. Missouri, Zone 6B
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Erik Weaver wrote:
I'm not sure bamboo is an ideal candidate. Many species (most?) are hollow, and I think that would be problematic (I imagine lotsa little chimney sticks poking up out of the feed tube, heheh). There are however, solid varieties of bamboo which may work well.



Adding to the above: There are nodes, of course. But I'd expect these to burn through much more quickly than the outside fiber, creating the potential for becoming a feed tube chimney. Bamboo is a grass, and most are hollow, as previously noted (ignoring the nodes).

Containment can also be an issue. There are running and clumping varieties of bamboo. Runners have been known to really take over an area. There are means of mitigation, and I would recommend becoming familiar with the various containment maintenance plans (please note, it is a maintenance issue, not a one time fixes for all time, kind of issue; even properly designed and constructed barriers require annual up-keep). Clumping varieties are much more manageable, as they generally do not spread nearly as quickly; but they also tend to be slower growers.

Another consideration is growth rates and maturity concerns. Bamboo can take a few years to establish itself and really get growing well. On the other hand, many Willows, as an example, are fast growers right from the start; as a bonus they propagate very, very easily, and that may be an important consideration for some. Some also have multiple uses, which could be a valuable consideration (from basket weaving to growing living hedges, or "fedges" FEnce + heDGE).

If you can control it, or buy a sterile variety, Paulownia tomentosa (common names: empress tree, princess tree, foxglove tree) may be another option. This is a deciduous tree, and a reasonably pretty tree when it blooms, that is native to China. There are many plants that are native to China and that region of the world that grow very aggressively in the United States. Be sure to check your states prohibited list. Some states do consider the Paulownia tomentosa to be an invasive plant.

Invasive qualities rather go hand in hand with fast growing characteristics. If a plant also self-seeds or easily spreads through other means, it may quickly get out of control. Beings as this is a permiculture web site, I'd expect many here want to try to think a generation or more down the road, and not set up the next land owners/managers with big problems easily avoided through a degree of research and forethought.
 
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Hi folks,
I found a great book, which describes very well varieties , yields and requirments, for firewood crops.
The name is Firewood Crops: Shrub and Tree Species for Energy Production
you can also preview it here http://www.pssurvival.com/ps/crops/Firewood_Crops_Shrubs_And_Tree_Species_For_Energy_Production_1980.pdf

I am thinking that, if I want to be firewood sustainable (in my area in Greece grows no forest and we need fire for 3 months), I would have to plant a fairly big area of firewood crops for a rmh, maybe an acre?
 
Erik Weaver
Posts: 219
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Anef Alexos wrote:Hi folks,
I found a great book, which describes very well varieties , yields and requirments, for firewood crops.
The name is Firewood Crops: Shrub and Tree Species for Energy Production
you can also preview it here http://www.pssurvival.com/ps/crops/Firewood_Crops_Shrubs_And_Tree_Species_For_Energy_Production_1980.pdf

I am thinking that, if I want to be firewood sustainable (in my area in Greece grows no forest and we need fire for 3 months), I would have to plant a fairly big area of firewood crops for a rmh, maybe an acre?



I believe that will depend on a number of variables. You will need to read up on which trees are best suited to your growing zone, and select several which offer suitable growth characteristics. I would speak with some nursery growers in your area, as well as arborist (tree specialist) or if your country has government agencies or university extension offices which specialise in helping people manage their land, I would certainly talk to them too.

In general, I would argue in favor of coppicing. It allows the roots to develop, and for species which react well to the repeated cutting, a good crop of fire wood should be available. You might also consider living hedges (sometimes called fedges, fence + hedge). If these are suitable to your land you might be able to both grow firewood as well as living fences on your property. Such considerations are always very site-dependent as to the details that make a plan workable or not.

An example, which is totally off the top of my head and not at all researched or actually tried my me, is what if you had a pretty cross-tied willow living hedge, and at the end of each growing season you trimmed the tops off the "fence" and dried those to serve as kindling? If they provided enough kindling, that would be one way of having a living fence, that also provided your winter kindling.

I would also expect you will find there are some species of trees which will like growing where you live that also respond well to coppicing. Once you know how long each species needs to grow between coppicing, you can design a wind break made up of these trees grown in lines, with appropriate spacing to allow growth to the age / years between coppicing. Then you rotate among them, just like that book you cited talks about being done in Europe centuries ago.

For my site, that wind break is best along my west property line, as well as the north edge of my property. To the west, that wind break is shared with the next door property, and not all that far from the house. On the north, that is where my empty acre is located. So that wind break would form a separation between my house and the other acre of land I have available. Depending upon the planned uses for each area, and what plants make for easier neighbor relations, I may choose one plant over another in each location. These are the types of considerations, other then weather and growing zones, that might effect one's specific choice of what to plant.

A word of caution:

Rapidly growing trees are sometimes considered invasive. Where I live (Missouri) there are about a dozen plants that are prohibited. I think it is a good idea to find out if there are any plants which are prohibited in your area. Also, taking a tree native to one country and introducing it into another, can have unexpected consequences. There are many examples of this in the plant world.

By definition, for growing wood fuel crops, we are going to look at fast growing trees/hedges. We want them to grow fast so that we can have firewood. But some thought as to the condition of the land in 50 or 100 years is worth giving some time as well. What happens if the next owners do not continue to harvest for firewood? In these cases, are there plant options which will work well in both conditions (rotating coppicing and just letting them grow wild for decades)?

So we are walking a line between fast growth for fuel, and not making a poor choice that might later get out of control, and invade surrounding properties. We want plants that grow fast enough to be useful, but not so aggressive they create problems for our neighbors.

The book you cited is a good start on your research. It makes some interesting points.

As to your question of whether one acre is sufficient, that too depends what is growing on it. It is of interest to me, because I have about an acre of land that could be dedicated to firewood. However, less would be better because I am also looking at that same acre for other crop production. So a balance must be sought somewhere along the way. So while I do not have any specific answers to your question, I certainly appreciate why you are asking.

One of the benefits of RMH design is they are efficient, and make good use of smaller diameter pieces of wood. So if one buys firewood from another, it will last longer than in a common wood burning stove, and if one is collecting limbs that naturally fall from trees, it will require less of the drops, as it will if one is coppicing their own trees for fuel. So at least we are in a good position to make good, efficient use of the wood we use (smile).
 
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Location: Western Montana
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This has been a really interesting read... I've got 5 acres with a lot of Ponderosa Pines on it, and next summer I'm going to collect all the dead fall from the property and process it for fuel. I'm lucky enough that around here there's so much waste wood (and free scrap if you scrounge) growing trees just for fuel probably won't be necessary any time soon. I figure once I get all my own dead fall cleaned up, I can always go collect it from public land around here if need be.
Fun to read about other options though!
 
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When I read the title, my first thought was the branches I trim every late winter from my apple trees. I bundle them up, into groups of about 20 each, and my wife trims them to size for flowering in a pot in the house. It would seem to me for about every 10 apple trees, I would trim down about a hundred or so water shoots. They are long, thin, and maybe smell good when burning. They wouldn't take up much space while they dry out, and seems they wouldn't require any trimming beyond length, so, ready to burn when aged.
Or maybe they won't burn, and just look like a perfect fuel size?
 
gardener
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Apple is an excellent fuel wood, and the suckers ought to work fine. Larger ones will be better, as they will hold their shape longer as they burn and not make such a pile of coals on the floor of the feed tube.
 
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I don't have a rocket stove or mass heater yet, but I have already changed my management strategies for woody plants on our little acre and a half. In particular, we have chokecherries (Prunus virginiana) in profusion, and anyone who has them will understand that these pioneers like to break new ground every year. This makes them a pain in the backside for people who want their shrubs to know their place, but they are a godsend for easy production of burnable biomass. So I have let them grow densely around the zone 4-5 parts of the yard.

Of course, these shrubby trees serve other purposes. I sometimes harvest the cherries for preserves, but mostly we just let the birds enjoy them. They also provide shelter for nesting birds and those who come here to feed in our gardens. There are a fair number of hawks and kestrels around, so having good cover is helpful. Fallen and rotting wood goes into hugelkultur mounds. If I had a shredder, I would use them for wood chips. And if I start coppicing them actively, I'll have some good material for wattle panels or other basketry.
 
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Location: Newfoundland, Canada
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Instead of coppicing trees, what about the alder bush. Green alder is a weed here. growing along roadside, in ditches, abandon fields, a lot of places you don't want them too, etc. You can cut them near the ground with loppers, quickly strip the side shoots with a good strong survival knife and you have a bunch of 6-8 foot sticks 1" thick in no time. Leaving the roots in the ground, they will grow back fast.
 
pollinator
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Location: Massachusetts, 6b, urban, nearish coast, 39'x60' minus the house, mostly shady north side, + lead.
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The perfect rocket fuel in my opinion is the kind of stuff that always ends up in the burn pile for our rural neighbors: big yard-debris that's too woody to compost.



Recovering city person chiming in here--I am gradually getting the memo(s), sometimes it seems like to have any reasonably efficient stove or heater work at a basic level require a master's degree or being born in the forest. I was born in the city, and my people do not know the meanings of words like "bucking," "splitting," or "punky" except when this last is followed by "Brewster" or types of music.

I had this notion that you could use a rocket mass heater or rocket stove with sticks from your yard, but alas, this seems to be another Austrailian fact more than a cold climate fact.  

The burn pile suggestion from Erica makes sense--that is, I assume, medium-sized plus some twig-sized.  My neighbors o not have burn piles.  They put their yard waste out in brown paper bags which magically disappear after noisy truck drive by, their natural predators.  Amazing, I know!  

So I gather a bit of splitting may be involved in turning burn pile wood into rocket firewood,  but no chainsaw is really needed at this stage for the beginning "rocket scientist."  I could gather the fallen _branches_ (vs. just sticks) from nearby here, as I have done, build a "woodshed" (otherwise knwon as a plastic garden shed, or since that leaks a bunch maybe just put them in the dry part of the basement).  The waiting a year thing is a pain, but for this year I will just use basement wood (scraps of lumber).  

As I'm going to post on my beginner's thread about this, I managed to cook a pot of buckwheat on the somewhat poorly made, half-done "rocket stove" that my housemate made from stainless steel sheet metal.  

One small step for a city person, one giant leap for citykind.

If there isn't a beginner's chapter in the rocket books, that would be a helpful thing to create at some point!  Maybe my mistakes will be a useful resource in that regard.

Thanks as always for all the knowledgeable posts here, folks.
 
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