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planting trees for firewood

 
steve bossie
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hey folks! i got a idea that i want to run by you tree people on here. i live in n. maine. we have lots of forests up here but they are getting cut down at a alarming rate. 99 percent of people up here burn wood for heat in our very cold winters. well the hardwood being sold for firewood is mostly maple and beech. both take about 30 years to grow to 6-8in. on the stump which is cuttable size for firewood. another problem is these big logging companies are clearcutting hardwood ridges and replanting only spruce for its fast growing timber value. there is going to be a major shortage of firewood up here in the very near future. i was thinking of buying up some of the old farmland up here and plant some fast growing hardwood species such as black locust, honey locust,northern red oak and western larch. all of which produce fire wood in almost half the time as our native hardwoods. these species also put out much more btu's than even our best hardwood. they also benefit wildlife. i can coppice the honey and black locusts so i don't have to replant them. i can be harvesting trees off my land as soon as 15 yrs. i think firewood prices are going to double by that time. I'm finding it hard to find smaller parcels of land i can afford to buy but when i do find some, do you guys think its its doable and a good idea? I've been thinking about this for awhile now. the money would help me start a homestead on the same property. you think this would work?
 
Dale Hodgins
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Plant for timber value. Firewood should be a byproduct, not the main goal when regenerating a forest. Once labor and land tax is factored in, firewood production is likely to pay poorly. There's not much value added product made from firewood. Good timber could supply you and your heirs with raw materials for a number of businesses that use wood.

Is it safe to assume that you said 99% use firewood, based on casual observation ? ☺ Seems high.
 
Rose Pinder
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Sounds like a great idea to me.

This is also an issue where I live (peak firewood). Unless someone starts planting trees for firewood specifically we are going to run out. To what extent that could be combined with other eventual outputs I think depends on many things. In our situation firewood is going to be a priority over making an income because we won't be able to buy firewood no matter how much money we have.

If the land price to firewood selling price ratio doesn't work, you could consider other models eg offering shares to people in your firewood forest, or a CSA model. I would buy firewood ahead of time like this, although I don't know if this has been done before and the logisitics worked out.

What size land are you looking at buying?
 
steve bossie
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Dale Hodgins wrote:Plant for timber value. Firewood should be a byproduct, not the main goal when regenerating a forest. Once labor and land tax is factored in, firewood production is likely to pay poorly. There's not much value added product made from firewood. Good timber could supply you and your heirs with raw materials for a number of businesses that use wood.

Is it safe to assume that you said 99% use firewood, based on casual observation ? ☺ Seems high.
i was considering that but the big wood companys up here are planting only for building timber so it will stay cheap because of a constant supply . there is a strong market for black/ honey locust and n. red oak for flooring and furniture but that requires more time and a bigger log than just for firewood. i really think that the demand for hot, long burning firewood is going to outstrip supply very soon. most people won't be able to afford to switch to alternate energy sources due to this area of the state being the poorest with little well paying jobs. they will be forced to burn inferior wood just to keep warm. most have oil backup but thats not going to stay cheap either. i see the price of the good hardwood tripling in the near future (10-15 yrs).. if everyone would see how efficient the equipment thats is used to fell trees nowadays, it would put most in a panic! one feller/ buncher can clearcut a 1000 acres in a week and there's 100's of these going at it right now trying to keep up w/ the demand for wood! they're even cutting the little swaths in between fields due the demand and price being so high. you can use a lot of different wood for furniture but only certain types of wood are suitable for firewood in a very cold region such as n. maine. its not just about making money. its about helping my family and neighbors to be able to keep warm when the time comes. its what permaculture is all about ,right?
 
steve bossie
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Rose Pinder wrote:Sounds like a great idea to me.

This is also an issue where I live (peak firewood). Unless someone starts planting trees for firewood specifically we are going to run out. To what extent that could be combined with other eventual outputs I think depends on many things. In our situation firewood is going to be a priority over making an income because we won't be able to buy firewood no matter how much money we have.

If the land price to firewood selling price ratio doesn't work, you could consider other models eg offering shares to people in your firewood forest, or a CSA model. I would buy firewood ahead of time like this, although I don't know if this has been done before and the logisitics worked out.

What size land are you looking at buying?
with you folks having limited land bieng on a island, it will definitely be a problem. but is also hard to buy land for the same reason. you guys have pretty temperate climate so the demand isn't as immediate as it is up here. we have lots of old farmland in soil conservation due to a lot of farmers going out of business around here in the last 20 yrs. problem is trying to find a affordable amount of acreage for myself. most of these old farmers don't want to subdivide and i can't afford to buy more than 25- 50 acres right now. most are selling in 100's of acres. I've tried to convince others to invest with me but because all of the forestland up here, they don't believe we will ever run out of wood. because the big wood companies aren't outright voicing a concern about hardwood shortages they think it isn't a issue.the timber companies also profit the most from spruce building timber. not hardwood firewood. thats just in the way right now for the money trees they're planting once they fell the hardwoods! I've worked in the woods and i hunt and fish out there. the reality is what people call forest up here is now mostly recent clear cuts or less than 15 year old clearcuts being replanted or have been replanted with mono stands of spruce for timber. bad for the animals, bad for the firewood supply! bringing in firewood from elsewhere in the country won't be cost effective and the rest of the working forests in the country are also planting timber varieties instead of hardwood worstening the problem! i hope the scientist come out with a cheap alternate energy for heat soon or our colder climate areas could be in trouble!
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Steve, have you checked with any bankers about possible financing of land purchase for this project?
The best way I know to be objective about any good idea is to create a business plan.
In the process of putting the business plan together, you will find; how much land will be needed, how long the selected trees will need to grow prior to harvest, the sustainability of the new hardwood firewood forest.
You will also find out if your ideas of demand are on target since you will need to do some polling of nearby area folks for demand information.

Once you gather all these Cold, Hard Facts, you will be far better off knowledge base wise and you will have an instrument that just may help you get the money needed to make the land purchases.

The key is going to be that moniker "Sustainable" you need species that grow fast enough, produce enough BTU units as to be profit makers.
I have no doubt that in Maine many people use wood for heat, but you need Real Numbers, not thoughts or probabilities.
One place to get these numbers would be polling of wood furnace and wood stove sellers, find out how their business is doing. If they are selling lots of units, the wood demand will be there.

You are going to be amazed at how much land you will really need to pull of this venture. Remember that wood is sold by the cord and a cord is 4'x4'x8' That is 128 cubic feet of wood. This wood also needs to be dried, split and delivered to the buyer.
Here in Arkansas, a Rick goes for 65-85 dollars there are 4 ricks to a cord so total income for a cord would be 260.00 It takes me 4 8" diameter Hickory or White Oak trees to come up with a standard cord of fire wood, not including branches and kindling sized twigs. Those smalls can also bring in extra money or you can include a bundle of each with every sale of a rick, or you could include them only with full cord sales. I have a couple of friends that live in the deep woods of northern Maine, they currently are cutting and using 4 chords of wood per year. Right now they are cutting next years wood.

I wish you good luck with this venture, I believe you are onto something that will indeed be in great demand.
It would be far easier for you if you could manage to buy some hardwood timber land along with some cleared land but we all do the best we can with what we can get.
Keep us up to date on this venture, it sounds to me like a good idea.
 
steve bossie
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:Steve, have you checked with any bankers about possible financing of land purchase for this project?
The best way I know to be objective about any good idea is to create a business plan.
In the process of putting the business plan together, you will find; how much land will be needed, how long the selected trees will need to grow prior to harvest, the sustainability of the new hardwood firewood forest.
You will also find out if your ideas of demand are on target since you will need to do some polling of nearby area folks for demand information.

Once you gather all these Cold, Hard Facts, you will be far better off knowledge base wise and you will have an instrument that just may help you get the money needed to make the land purchases.

The key is going to be that moniker "Sustainable" you need species that grow fast enough, produce enough BTU units as to be profit makers.
I have no doubt that in Maine many people use wood for heat, but you need Real Numbers, not thoughts or probabilities.
One place to get these numbers would be polling of wood furnace and wood stove sellers, find out how their business is doing. If they are selling lots of units, the wood demand will be there.

You are going to be amazed at how much land you will really need to pull of this venture. Remember that wood is sold by the cord and a cord is 4'x4'x8' That is 128 cubic feet of wood. This wood also needs to be dried, split and delivered to the buyer.
Here in Arkansas, a Rick goes for 65-85 dollars there are 4 ricks to a cord so total income for a cord would be 260.00 It takes me 4 8" diameter Hickory or White Oak trees to come up with a standard cord of fire wood, not including branches and kindling sized twigs. Those smalls can also bring in extra money or you can include a bundle of each with every sale of a rick, or you could include them only with full cord sales. I have a couple of friends that live in the deep woods of northern Maine, they currently are cutting and using 4 chords of wood per year. Right now they are cutting next years wood.

I wish you good luck with this venture, I believe you are onto something that will indeed be in great demand.
It would be far easier for you if you could manage to buy some hardwood timber land along with some cleared land but we all do the best we can with what we can get.
Keep us up to date on this venture, it sounds to me like a good idea.
thanks for the info. and reassurance bryant. I've done most of what you suggested already. the cordage burned up here averages 7 per season , if only burning wood w/ a wood fired hot water unit, which most have. the black locust beats out the sugar maple, our best native by 2-3000 btus and grows nearly twice as fast. talked to the foresters and on cleared farmland i can plant 700 per acre w/ 8 by8 spacing. that produces 6in on the stump trees in 15-20 yrs. or i could get a average of 3500 3-4in. on the stump trees in about 12 yrs. doing coppricing like they do in europe. all theses species i mention except the larch and oak, send out suckers once the 1st growth is cut. prune down to 5 of the strongest ones. you never have to replant again and quadrupled what a acre can produce. now its just a matter of putting all this info together and finding the right land for the right price!
 
Russell Olson
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Before coming here I never gave much thought to coppicing trees. I don't burn wood, but have witnessed the power a coppiced tree has.
That big root sytem can put alot of energy into those suckering shoots. Inferior but fast growing species like boxelder can shoot out 6-8' in one season. We cleared a small area last fall but didn't remove stumps and it looks almost as thick already with coppiced boxelder up over my head.
I would think getting a bunch of healthy black locust saplings could be done for a good price and if you can get them into a growing system that they thrive in, I can't see why coppiced black locust wouldn't provide a large amount of renewable wood every few years.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Steve, have you looked at the White Oak varieties? Mine sucker from stumps all the time, I have four that I am using as coppice just for fire wood right now. My Hickory trees do the same, I have four of those I am using as coppice too.

I agree with you on the black locust trees being a good choice up there but you might want to check into the White Oaks and Even Hickories for some even higher BTU plantings.

I leave a 1 foot stump on the trees I set up for coppice use. I do the initial cut down just as summer arrives and within a month the suckers are coming on strong, I thin those so they are fairly equal spaced around the trunk and I suspect they will be large enough for harvest in five or six years.
 
allen lumley
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Steve : Coppicing was never extensively practiced as any part of " Forrest Management '' here in North America with few exceptions,

usually related to turning the Whole Tree into wood chips.


However the practice in England alone goes back at least as far as the 3800's BC. Some Coppiced Stands of hardwoods are currently

figured to be several Centuries old ! Coppiced tree appear to keep a 'juvenile Vigor 'and can be cut in rotation every 7-20 years


Here is a link to a good place for starter information :


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coppicing

For the Good of the Crafts ! Big AL
 
steve bossie
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:Steve, have you looked at the White Oak varieties? Mine sucker from stumps all the time, I have four that I am using as coppice just for fire wood right now. My Hickory trees do the same, I have four of those I am using as coppice too.

I agree with you on the black locust trees being a good choice up there but you might want to check into the White Oaks and Even Hickories for some even higher BTU plantings.

I leave a 1 foot stump on the trees I set up for coppice use. I do the initial cut down just as summer arrives and within a month the suckers are coming on strong, I thin those so they are fairly equal spaced around the trunk and I suspect they will be large enough for harvest in five or six years.
up here (zone3) hickory won't grow. and white oak is VERY slow to grow. black locust is not native either but does real well up here as does norway maple, larches, n. red oak and honey locust. most of our natives are too slow growing as well and don't sucker except for a few such as the birches, aspen and poplars which have marginal btus. thought about hybrid poplars but you would have to burn 12+ cords to keep warm in the winter! i don't have that much time to spare! ill probably try a few species to see how they do. i planted 3 bareroot b. locust on my 2 acres in may. they were 3in. high bareroot seedlings. they are over 5ft. tall now w/ 4 separate shoots off the trunk that same length! i didn't amend my soil either and we have shallow rocky heavy clay which grows very few crops, none without some amendment. our summer highs this year were very cool even for our standards, staying in the mid 60's till' aug. when we started into the mid to upper 70's. for a tree thats native to zones 6 to 7 thats phenominal growth! rivals our poplars growth! I've gone up to central quebec in canada (zone2) and found b. locust growing up there in the parks and field edges! I've done a lot of research on the different species and b. locust comes out on top just about every forum I'm on. only problem they seem to have is the locust borer in its native range. out of its native range is less of a issue and only a issue if you have stands of it nearby to your planted ones. up here they are very rare as no one has caught on to their benefits yet. also the borers seem to target trees over 25 yrs. which mine won't ever see w/ coppicing any way. so i don't put all of my eggs in one basket I'm going to mix the species within the stands to give diversity to the wildlife and lessen the chances of tree specific parisites which can destroy pure, mono species stands. thornless h. locust are popular landscape trees up here and so are norway maples. all w/ similar btu ratings and suckering properties. the n. maples been grown i zone 2 in europe. h. locust is zone 3 tolerant. the yellow birch up here is a fast growing native hardwood and has btus similar to the beech but its fussy on where it grows. liking moist cool valleys and bottomlands w/ fairly good soil. also prefers light shade so i don't know how it would do in old farmland. black and honey locust are also nitrogen fixers, so in mixed species plantings, it should benifit other species growing nearby in the same stands. limiting or eliminating fertilizing on a regular basis.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Ah, I was thinking that, but didn't know for sure.
The furthest North I've lived was West Point New York.
I'm sure the black locust will grow quite fast for you.
Down here we use it for fence posts and siding mostly, grows like a weed too.
Sounds like you just need to locate the land now and get it growing.
Good luck to you and this endeavor.
 
steve bossie
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allen lumley wrote:Steve : Coppicing was never extensively practiced as any part of " Forrest Management '' here in North America with few exceptions,

usually related to turning the Whole Tree into wood chips.


However the practice in England alone goes back at least as far as the 3800's BC. Some Coppiced Stands of hardwoods are currently

figured to be several Centuries old ! Coppiced tree appear to keep a 'juvenile Vigor 'and can be cut in rotation every 7-20 years


Here is a link to a good place for starter information :


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coppicing

For the Good of the Crafts ! Big AL
thanks allen. i ve read a few books on the subject and it seems as our demand for quickly produced wood gets bigger, coppicing is going to be the way to go , like it was in the past. i watched a show on public broadcasting network about farmers coppicing in denmark. they were using special harvesters to cut down, chop up and blow 2m tall willow whips into trucks. they then dried it in mounds and sold this cut up willow to businesses that burnt it in biomass boilers for heat and hot water production. the farmer had 400 hectares and would cut the willow in rotations, every 4 to 6 yrs. he would also grow out some of the willow for longer pole lengths for other uses. he also said since he converted his farm from food production to coppicing, he was seeing a explosion of wildlife that was rare on his land before! some farmers harvest willow over there every 2 years for cattle feed. apparently in its young, green stage, it produces more cattle feed than a field of hay does. b. locust is being tested for this as well because at this stage of growth, shoots and leaves have more protein than alfalfa does, produces more feed than a field of alfalfa w/ close spacing planting and is even better than willow for this use. and , like willow, NEVER needs replanting! its amazing how coppicing is seeing a comeback ! a process that medival europe survived on a 1000 years ago! without meeting the demand for charcoal for forging metal back then, we wouldn't have moved as far forward as we are as a cilvilization!
 
steve bossie
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:Ah, I was thinking that, but didn't know for sure.
The furthest North I've lived was West Point New York.
I'm sure the black locust will grow quite fast for you.
Down here we use it for fence posts and siding mostly, grows like a weed too.
Sounds like you just need to locate the land now and get it growing.
Good luck to you and this endeavor.
thank you! yeah I've heard horror stories of b. and h, locust and norway maple can spread like a weed. with our poor clay soil i don't think it will be a issue and i don't intend to let it get out of my stands. i plan to mow in between my stands to eliminate any suckers outside of my rows.
 
bud smith
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You've discounted the possibility of using hybrid poplar because of it's low BTU potential but have you ever considered it as a possible wood pulp source?
I don't know what the mills are looking for in your area but if hybrid poplar has a local market as pulp wood then it might be a route that needs to be considered.
Also sugar maple should grow well in your location. It can be used as a maple syrup source and a firewood source.
 
steve bossie
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bud smith wrote:You've discounted the possibility of using hybrid poplar because of it's low BTU potential but have you ever considered it as a possible wood pulp source?
I don't know what the mills are looking for in your area but if hybrid poplar has a local market as pulp wood then it might be a route that needs to be considered.
Also sugar maple should grow well in your location. It can be used as a maple syrup source and a firewood source.
didn't even consider poplar for pulp as we have so much of it from our native aspen they don't even bother chipping the branches from them. just the trunk and even then if its not strait enough to get into the chipper they leave whole mature trees out there to rot. there are massive plies of chip left in the woods because the stuff is everywhere up here. they'd rather cut it and run it over to get to the money timber trees. unreal the waste in the woods up here. in europe its almost priceless. as far as s. maple goes, its a good wood but grows way too slow to actually grow as a firewood for profit. thats why i picked the species that i did cause they will produce a cuttable tree in less than 20 yrs. 12 if coppicing them. if you didn't have a sugar maple camp passed down to you from family you won't be able to find land with nearly big enough trees to start one on your own. takes 35 yrs. to get a tree that starts to give out a little sap. 50 for one that gives a good supply. trees that size aren't in our forests anymore up here. they hit 4-5in on the stump and they're cut for firewood. state parks and private land put aside to protect trees that size is the only place you will find a few that old. up till about 10 yrs. ago we still had big old growth trees up in our allagash region but as of lately the price and demand has gone up so much they went in and cut the rest of it down. a area i moose hunted last year was being clearcut. seen lots of old growth hardwoods. some as wide as my truck hood. went there this spring, looked like a abomb went off! not a stick standing as far as the eye can see . where hills covered w/ lush virgin old growth once stood 6 months ago! this is the legacy we are leaving our children! very sad. soon the only place you will see a tree older than 20 yrs. is in our state park! this is from a state w/ 22 million acres of working forest. the most east of the Mississippi. nothing but wasteland now and nobody wants to do something about it for fear of some logging jobs bieng lost! once the wood runs out there won't be anymore jobs and we won't have a forest for the tourism industry either! sad part about it is its a canadian company that bought up that land for almost nothing at the turn of the century. sorry about rambling. gets me upset sometimes.
 
steve bossie
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one last thing. if you think I'm exaggerating look at nothwestern aroostook county, maine on google earth and see the devastation for yourself! seeing it in person is much worse! moderators , i apologize for these 2 posts. feel free to delete them if I'm breaking the rules. just had to let people know whats going on up here.
 
Heinrich Kegeldank
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When coming up with plans for my future homestead, coppicing black locust seemed like the obvious solution to a frequent problem. A fast-growing tree with high-BTU wood, and it gives my bees food early in the year and my livestock an ever-present source of high-protein green shoots? On top of that, it fixes nitrogen for other plants? I don't think any other frequently coppiced/pollarded tree stacks as many functions. With its nitrogen fixation and light shading, I plan to utilize my firewood copse to plant a variety of shallow-root herbs and "wild" edibles as a sort of auxiliary food forest.

I don't know about making a business venture out of it, but I definitely see the potential for self-sufficiency and sharing resources. Don't be discouraged if you can't make a major profit; if you harvest enough wood just to be able to share with your neighbors then you've already accomplished something meaningful that might reap non-monetary rewards. That being said, I know black locust also has a major importance in the fence-post and other markets. You may be able to make a successful business if you look at more than just firewood.
 
steve bossie
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Heinrich Kegeldank wrote:When coming up with plans for my future homestead, coppicing black locust seemed like the obvious solution to a frequent problem. A fast-growing tree with high-BTU wood, and it gives my bees food early in the year and my livestock an ever-present source of high-protein green shoots? On top of that, it fixes nitrogen for other plants? I don't think any other frequently coppiced/pollarded tree stacks as many functions. With its nitrogen fixation and light shading, I plan to utilize my firewood copse to plant a variety of shallow-root herbs and "wild" edibles as a sort of auxiliary food forest.

I don't know about making a business venture out of it, but I definitely see the potential for self-sufficiency and sharing resources. Don't be discouraged if you can't make a major profit; if you harvest enough wood just to be able to share with your neighbors then you've already accomplished something meaningful that might reap non-monetary rewards. That being said, I know black locust also has a major importance in the fence-post and other markets. You may be able to make a successful business if you look at more than just firewood.
if i could make enough to pay for the land and make a little extra off of the wood produced, i would be happy!
 
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