Got Wood, Coming and Going

Yesterday, a good balance was struck between indoor and outdoor projects. Finally, an alignment of stars that put into the same day a bit of sunshine (with bitter winds, of course) AND a working chain saw.

Add to that concurrence a windfall, literally, from last month’s ice-and-wind event that brought down the weaker trees in both directions from the house.

Weaker trees hemlock and tree of heaven (Ailanthus), being less energy-rich for firewood, they both will be falling across our road for decades to come.

Hemlock is on its way out as a species, due to parasitism of the HWA, the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid, that is decimating one of my favorite trees across the eastern US.

Hemlock is a softwood, and pretty far down on the BTU per cord charts. There is the common dichotomy of opinion about its tendency to create creosote.

I burn a hot fire or otherwise would let hemlock burn rich, and our triple-wall pipe keeps stack temps hot. It does have a reputation for sparking and crackling, but with our glass door stove, that makes for enough entertainment to override its energy deficits.

Tree of Heaven, OTOH, is on its way in. As an invasive, there is very much of it along the Blue Ridge Parkway, but only one stand of it I know of down along Goose Creek. When the big hemlock fell across the road, it took out a couple (but not nearly enough) of the Ailanthus. I can’t even find its BTU content, but the tree’s name is generally spoken by wood burning folk with a certain degree of disgust or disdain.

Even so, like the old-timers say, the best kind of wood to burn is the wood you got plenty of.

CAPTION: The old Dodge Dakota Rustbucket (1995) that keeps on ticking. It has become one of Gandy’s favorite places to be. I have to pull her by the collar to get her out of it.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Just realized something. I commented on a header that was on top of this particular post for Feb. 28, 2013. After I clicked “submit” and it “went”, the post came back, BUT with a different header! Guess I never noticed that before. I was commenting on beautiful, delicate off white and very pale coral shaded flowers. Very interesting header.

  2. Ailanthus actually burns fairly well. The bad news is that you’ll have a zillion new sprouts come up where those trees were knocked down. Ailanthus has a disturbingly high “will to live”…

  3. Interesting to see that you have no snow on the ground. Here in northcentral Pennsylvania we continue to have a fresh inch or two every day. As we greet meteorological spring today, the clouds seem especially pervasive but the glib tv weatherman promises a bit of sunshine next week. I was interested to see your old white truck. We too have an old white truck (an old Ford 150) that is also a favorite hangout of our dog, Betsy and a great potato hauler!

  4. I have heard that the hemlock is not faring well these days, which makes me sad. It was one of the first trees I learned to recognize, while I was a kid living in northeast Ohio. Also, congratulations on your new venture with the German website/app.