Thursday, October 20, 2011

Did you miss us?

Hi! I'm sorry we missed you for a couple of days. Here's what we've been up to.

Migraines for a couple of days but feeling a little better now. Meghan felt under the weather too. Then yesterday Kate was on the receiving end of a swung leaf rake and she's totally swollen and bruised from her forehead to cheek on one side of her face. This morning her eye is swollen shut but at least the weeping has stopped and her cheek is scabbing over. She's beautiful shades of red, blue and purple. We have the annual Harvest Ball coming up tomorrow and she's just going to look fabulous! Actually she wants me to go to Frenchy's clothing store to find her a fancy dress so she feels better about her eye. She didn't go to school today because she felt bad and didn't ride last night either. But she seems more chipper today so that's good. Jordan and Meghan had a riding lesson last night while Steve tuned their piano so everyone came away happy I think. And I found a horse I would like to buy but don't have the money yet so I'm hoping it doesn't sell right away and gets cheaper. It's a draft/quarter horse so would be good both for me to ride and pull a light plow or hoe for the garden. Hopefully nobody out there is looking for a big horse right now. This is typically the time of year when livestock sells very cheaply or not at all because people don't want to have to buy in hay for the winter. Hay here is usually between $2 and $4 per bale with really expensive hay in a bad year going for $5. WAY cheaper than when we lived in BC. Straw is easily available and cheap too. Due to the wet weather this summer there isn't as much cut hay as usual so I expect that the prices will stay higher for the winter this year.

The weather is warm and wet. We're supposed to get up to 80mm of rain but we'll see. It has rained pretty constantly all night and morning so far. It's dull and overcast like BC in the winter but at least the leaves remaining on the trees are pretty. The rain is really coming down now and for the fourth time this year I've lit the furnace but just put on a couple of small logs. We picked up some boxes of those compressed sawdust logs, you know, the ones that come 9 to a box and are supposed to burn for a couple of hours. Well they were on really cheap as a special promo, I think it came to about $4.50 for a box of 9 logs with 13 boxes having the same BTU's as a cord of hardwood apparently. The logs are pretty small but once they get going they burn nice and clean so a couple of those is all that's really needed to raise the house by a few degrees to make it comfortable again so they work perfectly. We also made sure they don't have any weird additives and are environmentally certified. I think we got 20 boxes so for the occasional small fire in fall and spring they should work like a charm.

Unlike BC where most firewood is pine, cedar, poplar and other locally available softwoods, in Nova Scotia the firewood is predominantly hardwood. Oak, maple, apple etc with some other woods mixed in. We're able to get wood for $90 per cord that's been cut into 8 foot lengths and left to season for 2 years. It's nice stuff and once it's finished drying the water from the rain it will burn clean and hot. The amount of heat from wood really varies so do your research and get the best wood for your money. Of course we'll be cutting wood off our property from here on in with any luck and so it doesn't matter what kind it is...we'll burn it because it's free. But hardwood does typically burn hotter and cleaner than softwood so 3 or 4 cords of softwood would perhaps equal the heat available in 1 cord of hardwood.

Managing a woodlot takes a little time and forethought. The first year will be spent picking up and dragging out any blow downs so they can be assessed and dried if still good. Rotten logs can be used for growing mushrooms once inoculated with spores but burn poorly. Snags (trees that are dead but still standing or leaning against other trees) are great for burning because they are typically dry and not rotten. They do pose a fire hazard though so getting them out of your woodlot and into a woodshed is the second task for us to do. The longer wood has to dry and season, the better. I'd be happy to have a 3 year supply of wood or more if we have the space. It doesn't all have to be cut and split at once either. Wood that's in 8 foot lengths is much less likely to be stolen than split wood. And if you have lengths you can use them for other things too such as posts, fence rails, or mill them for dimensional lumber.

Once you've cleared out your woodlot the next thing to do is assess if there are some trees that are too close to others and remove them if there are. Having good light penetration and air flow makes for a healthy eco system. Another thing to consider is long term goals for your woodlot. Hazel and maple trees can both be coppiced which means to cut out the main trunk and let the shoots that come up from the stump, called a 'stool', reach a certain size before using them. This can make for very usable handles, hurdle making wood or slender poles. One interesting note is that trees which are coppiced typically don't reach the end of their natural lives for hundreds of years instead of maybe 50 years for an un-coppiced tree. So planning ahead is important. These trees are going to be around for a while.

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