As it is chilly here in the high (7200 FAMSL) mountains of northern New Mexico this October morning I lit a fire in our re-burner style of wood burning heater. I hope you all are aware of the benefits of using ocote to light your fires. In case you are unfamiliar with fatwood here is a Wiki link Ocote aka Fatwood
I will discuss how to create your own fatwood.
Here in the northern part of New Mexico we're experiencing more precipitation at irregular time of the year due, I believe to rapid climate change. We did some experimenting in 2017 after that Summers constant deluge of precipitation. One of the issues I personally have experienced due to the fact that we've been stewards of this land since 1971 is in how we treat our felled trees. We normally would cut tree stumps off at or below ground level to create a more natural looking forest floor. Given the time available or friend's and family's help available at the time of forest thinning we would use a rake and or hoe to clear out around each tree we wanted to remove so we could disappear the stumps under the thick layer of pine needles that fall every Fall. While this makes a very good looking forest in my opinion, it does little to promote fatwood stumps.
So I needed to change the way the Rodgers have always done forest management in order to test this concept of actually promoting fatwood here on the ranch. I know this sounds simple and easy, but at age 64 change is anything but easy.
My friend Jason who doesn't yet suffer from this old people stubbornness issue, said yes let's try it. We did all sorts of calculations in our heads such as considering the position of the moon as it relates to tidal ebb and flow. We want to get that sap moving as fast as possible in these stumps.
Ocote-aka-fatwood-stump-idea-worked-charm-too-after-one-week! This is how much sap the tree was moving after cutting the tree only one week ago.
This was a real eye-opener for me. I believe more so than ever before that leaving unhealthy trees standing in the forest causes unnecessary water removal from a semi-arid forest floor. After forty years of pruning and thinning the forest we were always of the mind that not all the trees that the US forest service wants cut out right away should be cut. Of course leaving half the trees while thinning the forest gives us the chance to harvest trees for fire wood year after year. Nevertheless, seeing how much moisture those trees that were left are sucking out of the ground tells the real story.. In these images we had an unusually wet Summer, so the effect was exaggerated.
Besides an extremely successful fatwood creation experiment, the other issue this proves is how very important it is to have young people getting involved in forest management.
Thank you Jason
Fat wood is a wonderful thing! Although I am still waiting on the cool weather, having a supply of fat pine for fire starting is always on my mind when I'm collecting firewood. Here in my area all the old (early 1900s an older)houses' floors and lower frameworks was made of fat wood. Termite deterrent. I've lived in a couple over the years an termites ate all the little soft wood areas an yet the fat wood structure remained sound. Now days they don't leave the trees to grow long enough to cut meaningful amounts of fat wood lumber from. I had disassembled an old house in the early '00s an built a small animal shelter from that wood. The hand hewn headers and joists were just amazing. Not great in the face of fire, but solid build otherwise. Anyhow... Their is plenty of old stumps and even old fence posts around in the woods around here that are fat pine. The few old timer friends I have call me when they come across a big fat stump or a few old fence posts....
Wow, thank you Annie
I didn't know fatwood was used in that way. I guess my lack of knowledge is due to living in the semi-arid southwest. I see termites now and then, but they really weren't an issue. With Climate change I suppose I better pay closer attention to termite invasion of our house. The hugel I'm building with rotting logs may attract termites, I worry. How do folks deal with termites in hugelkultur? I hope just keeping the hugel ten or more feet from the house was a good idea.