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Ash - the best wood to grow for firewood?  RSS feed

 
Posts: 235
Location: West Midlands UK (zone 8b)
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Here in the UK, we are expecting to lose large quantities of ash to Chalara dieback

But on the subject of willow, I was told by an old bloke "willow keeps you warm three times.  Once when you're cutting it, the second time when you burn it, and the third time when you're jumping all over the hearth rug stamping the sparks out."  It was the demonstration that had me in hysterics.
 
Posts: 129
Location: Maritimes , Eastern Canada
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fish food preservation forest garden homestead kids pig trees wood heat woodworking
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We have alot of ash. Ash is a very useful tree , especially for crafts, baskets , stakes , fodder as pointed out by many here. Having alot of it has us worried about the borer turning up soon. In general we try to favour the ash, but it s nice the way it can be coppiced especially . We try not to cut any living ash trees and it rarely dies, hard to kill in fact thats why it is the "tree of life" in the Scandinavian tradition.
I agree with the point made by others , use the dead wood and windfall if possible for fuel. We have been removing tons of standing dead spruce from  a plantation made by the previous generation (60 years old) these are bone dry and they are light and easy to handle . The long seasoning makes the spruce a much better fuel. In many cases the bark is gone. Burns hot and lasts really long, mostly because it is left round.
In the last week we have filled 8 cubic yard bulk bags with the dry wood. These are then kept tarped for future use/ sale.
We keep 2 houses going with firewood, and rarely cut any live trees. The 25 acre spruce plantation provides a surplus. We are stockpiling now because we want to clean the area up to let more sunlight in.
The ground is good farmland and was pasture and fields for over a hundred years prior to being planted with red spruce in 1960.
The plan is to gradually transition first to woodland pasture (hogs or sheep) and then to open farmland again. The spruce has had its day, most is overmature and dying, which it does in our area at about age 60. Saleable logs are being hauled out this winter. Leaving oversized and young trees and the scattered ash to rebound.
In areas cleaned up in the past 5 years the pasture grass has grown back thick and shiny .
This is how the land has inspired our work.. the old ditches are still there , and they still drain the area. All it takes is a lot of work !!
 
Posts: 298
Location: SW PA USA zone 6a altitude 1188ft
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If I were going to plant trees for firewood I'd grow what heats your home the best, which wood (sic) be the hardwoods.

Oak, white, or red
Hickory, shagbark
Wild Black Cherry, the lumber tree not the fruit
Maple, I'd plant sugar maple for dual use
Apple and Crab Apple make good firewood, but you don't get the long straight lengths

Elm is hard to split
Locust is harder to split
Ash and Poplar aren't good heat generators, comparatively.
Aspen is like balsa wood.

Any of the evergreens fill your chimney with creosote, so would be a good choice if you want to burn down your place.

I think I'd plant Walnut, Cherry, or Oak if I were planting firewood. In about 75 years I'd sell off the Walnut and burn the limbs. Or I'd sell off Walnut futures in 50 years or so.

I'd guess that it'd take 25 years to get a face cord from a hardwood tree.

My favorite firewood is Cherry. It's easy to split, it looks nice, and doesn't give you a splinter every time you pick a firelog up.
 
Mark Deichmann
Posts: 129
Location: Maritimes , Eastern Canada
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I was thinking more about Ash.

Biggest advantage is that when you cut it down it starts sending up suckers again. I have one here that made 35 new stems.

So it is a very good tree  for sustainablility.  Not all trees regenerate like this.

Given the quality of ashwood both for fuel and crafts it would be a very good choice for "tree farming". The new stems are generally straight  .

I use a billhook to trim off lower branches and have lots of these clumps of regenerated "coppiced" ash.

In the UK they have tradionally "farmed" ash this way , alot of it going into rustic furniture etc.

Whether or not it will grow where you live is another question. We only have it growing in certain areas , mostly wet ground .

I will try to get a photo and upload of coppiced ash.
 
Mark Deichmann
Posts: 129
Location: Maritimes , Eastern Canada
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On burning firewood for home heating.

I see alot of comments that creosote is a problem and dangerous.

One should alway burn with lots of airflow and clean combustion using only dry firewood.

Green wood , poor draught and "choking" the stove - that is lighting it and slamming the door and closing the draught-  will give creosote build up .

Burn it hot and when you have  a good bed of coals close it down .

Chimneys should be swept /inspected yearly as most of us know.

The problem is alot of people are so cheap on wood they try to heat with a "smolder fire"  and get by with one stick a day or some such foolishness...

I Know people who use this method and when they open the stove door the creosote is dripping down. Regardless of wood species, its the method of stove use.
 
Mark Deichmann
Posts: 129
Location: Maritimes , Eastern Canada
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It takes ash about 15 -20 years to reach a diameter of 4 inches at chest height. Keeping in mind that where you cut one tree you get 3-6 on average back. Its long term at best but a nice tree to manage and nice to look at too.
 
Posts: 315
Location: Clemson, SC ("new" Zone 8a)
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Mark Deichmann wrote:I see alot of comments that creosote is a problem and dangerous... The problem is alot of people are so cheap on wood they try to heat with a "smolder fire"  and get by with one stick a day or some such foolishness... I Know people who use this method and when they open the stove door the creosote is dripping down. Regardless of wood species, its the method of stove use.


Although I have limited personal experience with wood stoves - I have helped tend other people's stoves on occasion, but not yet relied on one as the primary heat source in my own home - I will offer an opinion here.  I agree that the method of stove use is the primary problem, as opposed to choice of firewood species.

But I don't think this is mostly because people are "cheap" on wood use, but rather that the nature of conventional wood stoves suggests this type of behavior.  Most people prefer a steady, comfortable temperature; yet maintaining a full-throated, clean burn produces a lot of heat very quickly.  So, you overheat.  Or, as a result, you instead build multiple short but intense fires throughout the day and let things cool off in between.  So, your temperature oscillates noticeably.  Either way, it is hard to maintain the desired, steady, mild temperature with a wood stove without using the "smolder fire" method and thus producing more creosote (not to mention other pollutants).

In case you hadn't guessed where I'm going with this, this should not be read as an endorsement of dirty-burning wood stove methods, but rather as an argument for rocket mass heaters!
 
John Duda
Posts: 298
Location: SW PA USA zone 6a altitude 1188ft
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I found a list of firewood rated by BTU per cord:

Osage Orange (Hedge) Maclura pomifera 4,845 30.0
Hop Hornbeam (Ironwood) Ostrya virginiana 4,250 26.4
Persimmon, American Diospyros virginiana 4,165 25.8
Hickory, Shagbark Carya ovata 4,080 25.3
Dogwood, Pacific Cornus nuttallii 3,995 24.8
Holly, American Ilex Opaca 3,995 24.8
Birch, Black Betula lenta 3,910 24.2
Oak, White Quercus alba 3,910 24.2
Madrone, Pacific (Arbutus) Arbutus menziesii 3,825 23.7
Oak, Post Quercus stellata 3,825 23.7

It's at: this site.

Apple is tied with white ash and Oregon Mrtyle (?). and better than black and red Maple. The Osage Orange which we called monkey ball trees when I was kid are on top! also the Ironwood and Persimmon also surprise me. I thought Ironwood was only used for survey stakes in the 1800's, after the survey trees were cut down. Another quality firewood tree that surprises me is #5 Pacific Dogwood. One I notice that's missing is Poplar. We used to be stuck with Silver Poplar at fishing camps east of the northern tip of Lake Superior. It would freeze overnight some nights and you could see the fire in the box stove was burning but couldn't feel the heat.

I looked this site up after looking for my Oregon chain saw book/ manual which I couldn't find. That manual also listed firewoods by BTU's. I notice that some of tied trees match in BTU's and also the weights match.


 
Mark Deichmann
Posts: 129
Location: Maritimes , Eastern Canada
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Of course, any masonry stove/ heater/ rocket  stove will be the best choice for complete clean combustion as thats what they are designed for. I am a big believer in them. A design with large firebox such as a fireplace /masonry stove combination which gives both long slow even heat distribution as well as immediate Radiant heat and light can be a good solution that gives the best of both worlds.

Her is a photo of a solid brick fireplace on stone base that has a large heatexchanging hood in brick. It is freestanding in front of the flue and located in the center of the house. The beauty of this design is the amount of light and radiant heat it gives and how the whole unit absorbs and re radiates heat . ONe of the best I have ever built.

SANY0486.JPG
[Thumbnail for SANY0486.JPG]
 
Posts: 68
Location: Essex, UK
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Mark Deichmann wrote:It takes ash about 15 -20 years to reach a diameter of 4 inches at chest height. Keeping in mind that where you cut one tree you get 3-6 on average back. Its long term at best but a nice tree to manage and nice to look at too.



Depends on climate and growing conditions, also on age of tree/rootstock. Round here, it grows a lot faster than that, more like 10 years to 4" diameter, though personally I wouldn't want it to get that thick, especially for the first cut. Not only will it be a shock to the tree, but it's more work to cut and handle generally. Coppicing (or pollarding) is the way to go. An established rootstock cut down regularly will put on much more growth than a new sapling. Typical cycle times are given as 7-10 years, but it really depends on how many stems you leave, and how thick you want them.
I have one that was cut at waist height (long story) when it was about 3" at that height, about 10 years ago, it now has three main stems all 4" or slightly more at chest height, but then again, I know where there are some ash trees in a car park that have hardly grown at all in the last 12 years.

For BTU per acre per year SRC willow is the best, and can be burnt in a rocket stove/heater, but if you need logs, I reckon ash cut at 2-3" is the best. Cutting down on your energy requirements will make 'which wood is best to grow for burning' less of a concern and you can have more space for growing other things, even other trees with other uses. Rockets aren't fussy about what they burn and will burn sticks, so once you have one you really don't have to grow anything special for fuel, just enough to provide adequate quantities of prunings.
 
John Duda
Posts: 298
Location: SW PA USA zone 6a altitude 1188ft
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From my experience of trying to heat a home for 20 years with a box stove, which would take a 28" log.

I could get about 4 hours out of a load of firewood depending on the outside temperature. As it got colder the fire burned better. So you could say it was self regulating to a small extent. To get four hours I needed to load it up with 5 logs about 6" in diameter. I needed to close up the damper, but if I closed it up too much it would back puff. Which means that the fire goes out for lack of oxygen till it allows oxygen to come back down the chimney at which point it explodes, blowing sparks out the damper.

From my experience if you put wet or green wood on top of the pile in the stove it would kiln dry as the fire burned. If it was nice dry wood the whole pile would burn making an uncontrollable burn. A wood that burned hot was more controllable as you got the heat you needed without having a roaring blaze. What oak I had I burned in January, my coldest month. I preferred Cherry, but also liked Maple.

The advantage to me of Ash is that it's main attribute is that it will burn green. If I had Ash I'd be happy burning it, but I wouldn't plant it. To my way of thinking there's no difference between coppicing and growing from seed, as in a stand of trees if you cut a hole in the canopy a tree will grow there. They've been reproducing from seed for millions of years and have become good at it.
 
pollinator
Posts: 84
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We've burned ash for over 40 years and it will burn (in a fashion...) when green, but as it gives out so much less heat and throws out a lot more emissions that gunk up your flue system and annoy the neighbours than if you let it dry properly - why bother?

Just give it time to dry
 
Marion Kaye
Posts: 68
Location: Essex, UK
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Thanks for that info., I'd often wondered if that was the case, but as I only use well dried, smaller diameter stuff I've never really bothered/needed to try. I don't use so much that storage is an issue, so I always have dry stuff available.
 
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