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The 'Firewood Factory'

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The 'Firewood Factory'

Postby oldclaypaws » Sat Sep 13, 2014 11:01 am

This is a couple of pictures of a tree in our garden.

eucalyptus 1.jpg


Nothing remarkable looking about it you might think. However what is surprising is when I tell you its 15 feet high, each of the boughs is about 4 inches thick -perfect log size, it burns beautifully with a hot blue flame (almost like gas), but what you see is only THREE YEARS GROWTH. - And its coppiced from a sapling I planted about 12 years ago, with a base now nearly 15 inches wide. It also has no UK pests or species which would nibble it and has happily survived our harshest winters for decades. Its evergreen.

I reckon if we turned our garden over to this tree, planting around 100 trees, (each spaced about 6 feet apart), we would get an annual sustainable yield of about 100 log nets worth per year, or about 2/3rds of our firewood heating needs. Certainly I reckon 1/2 an acre would easily supply enough fuel for a modest sized domestic house, or if you had a firewood business it would yield more wood per acre annually than anything else I can think of, without the threats Ash faces. Ours got so huge so quickly I decided to chop it at the base, it regrew like a dense bush with numerous shoots in months, so I trimmed this back to just a few shoots, which is what you see.

What is this wonder species?- A Mountain Gum Eucalyptus.

It's non-native, which means it has few wildlife benefits, but grows very rapidly on a range of soils, is very frost tolerant, quite graceful, and makes excellent firewood. Being quite resinous (and smelling like Olbas Oil!), logs left out to season won't perish or rot. It splits very well. The smaller twigs make great kindling.

If you had a limited amount of ground and wanted maximum firewood yield with no pest issues, its a perfect choice. No, we haven't any in our wood which is all natives, but its well worth considering if you have a small area and want something trouble free, fast growing and churning out excellent firewood almost 'like a factory'.
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Re: The 'Firewood Factory'

Postby ballibeg » Sat Sep 13, 2014 11:39 am

And that's why it's the predominate tree Malawi.
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Re: The 'Firewood Factory'

Postby Terry » Sun Sep 14, 2014 3:06 am

You make a strong case Paws, however I would urge caution.
Human history is littered with these sorts of brilliant ideas which on the face of it had only up sides, only for the down sides to manifest later on to devastating effect.
The key is that everything on earth has evolved within ecosystems with checks and balances.
Transplant something from one ecosystem to another and you are going to get imbalances guaranteed - especially if done on a grand scale and exaggerated more by monoculture.

It is the same as the myth of the modern agricultural revolution where yields have grown remarkably.
The fact is that soil contains a certain amount of nutrients and to get higher yields, you have to add more nutrients and this has been achieved with artificial fertilisers etc which are mostly a product of the oil industry.
Yes there have been some gains in seed quality and performance as well as other factors, but these are significantly overshadowed by the fertilisers which are clearly unsustainable.

What we humans need to do is accept that we live in a finite world and we need to learn to live within its limitations and maintain its hard won balances to make the most out of our time here.
Our current way of life involves imposing our will on the world by adapting it to our wants rather than our needs and this is clearly having an adverse effect which is ultimately going to backfire on us.

From reading a good many of your posts I am sure none of the above comes as any sort of revelation to you and I am merely trying to remind you, as I regularly have to remind myself that this human need to influence and manipulate is a disease that needs to be resisted as it invariably leads us down a self-destructive blind alley.

Anyway, enough philosophising for this time of the day - best off to produce stuff and manipulate the world as I am contracted to do :? :roll: :lol:
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Re: The 'Firewood Factory'

Postby oldclaypaws » Sun Sep 14, 2014 10:39 am

Indeed Terry, no revelations and everything is interlinked. Its preferable to use natives that have an integrated part in the local ecosystem, but for someone with limited space wanting a high firewood yield its an interesting option. It doesn't seem invasive and might be an option in a small area of a wood just for firewood if you wanted the rest less intensively managed. Woodlands seem to be getting sold in smaller parcels, firewood is a prime usage, and the prospect of spending maybe £5000 or £10,000 on a small plot to secure an unlimited carbon neutral firewood supply for your house is in theory attractive. Not sure what would happen to the soil and other ground flora if you just had eucalyptus, its an unknown. There are non native species that have become an invaluable addition to the nations flora without too many issues, eg The Potato. Perhaps Eucalyptus would be useful as a species able to tolerate warmer temperatures and as a replacement for Ash?

I calculated we could plant enough eucalyptus to provide all the UK's heating needs, but it would use 40% of the land mass. As so much of it already goes into producing animal feed to feed methane belching cows and sheep to satisfy our indulgent meat eating habits, its not really viable and could lead to some unforeseen disaster such as herds of invasive Koalas nibbling telephone lines and interbreeding with squirrels to create super squirrels (?).

In terms of our ability to develop a sustainable use of the planet, I'm not over confident-. I suspect we've exceeded the 'tipping point' of CO2 levels and are heading for a disastrous period of dramatic climate change and upheaval. It was cheerful to get a mail from Avaaz, a leading international lobby group, asking to sign the latest climate change petition. It warned we are on the point of all the arctic methane being released, which could make temperatures soar several degrees in a few years, making life almost impossible. 30 years ago when I was an eco warrior, we called it 'The Doomsday Effect', and we are on the brink, for real according to leading climate scientists. Plumes of methane are already appearing coming up from the ocean floor as sea temperatures rise, and it has 40 times the greenhouse effect of CO2, creating a vicious circle of temperature increase and methane release. Avaaz's signature appeal started with the expression 'Sorry, but we're f****d.'

But then your average man in the street seems more concerned with lesser problems. One guy asked about the Scottish Independence vote cried "It would be terrible, I'd no be able to watch Match of The Day on a Saturday ! :o ". Isn't it reassuring to know the future of the Nation is in the hands of such intellectuals, he probably thinks that by living in Scotland a 6 degree increase in temperature would be 'great, bring it on mon'. :?
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Re: The 'Firewood Factory'

Postby SitkaSpruce » Tue Oct 14, 2014 6:13 pm

I like the firewood factory in the garden- I have my eye on a self sown holly in mine. It's surprising how much wood you can produce in a small space if you harvest the timber/ prunings. I wouldn't want to plant eucalyptus in my wood, though I notice a neighbour has done so. Be interesting to see his results. I would be happy to plant it in my garden if I had room and several neighbours have (huge) trees- one tried to have the top trimmed by some fencing men, they hacked off the top and it promptly grew even taller but with 2 stems. We've had wood from willow plants, some kind of viburnum, bits off the birch and rowan trees, and some kindling sized bits from blackthorn and hawthorn- all in a v modest suburban garden
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