Wednesday, November 25, 2009

11-15-09: Wood Obsession

So… Living in the subarctic leads to some interesting obsessions, for example wood…

You see wood is both a construction and a heating material, which is kind of weird if you think about it, you wouldn't build your home out of gasoline assuming that you could somehow solidify it. However right now the current obsession is about burning wood, and the categorizations that you mentally develop for that wood.

We've categorized our wood into 3-4 general groups
• Morning Wood (Steady!)
• Day wood
• Cooking wood
• Night wood

Each of these is a name for the general use of the wood, for instance take Morning Wood, it has to be easy to get going, provide a quick burst of heat to warm things up (and get the coffee made), and then get the Day Wood going. So what is Morning Wood, it's a collection of stove lengths varying from 1/2 to 3 inches in diameter (mostly "sticks"), dry as a bone, everything that a quick hot burning fire needs to get that coffee percolator perking.

Day Wood and Night Wood are kind of similar with similar intents, provide constant low-level heat for an extended period without worrying too much about the thing going out, which is where the larger chunks of wood are used, generally between 4-7 inches in diameter, a little damp is ok, since this helps to keep the home fires burning longer.

Cooking Wood is similar to Morning Wood, but goes up to 4 inch diameter piece, so you can actually cook for a period with it, not just get the coffee made.

That was the easy part, now where it gets more extreme is when you add in the type of wood, we currently have these categories:

• Deadite (40 year old dead standing left from a wild fire in 1969)
• Green Spruce
• Green Poplar/Aspen
• Green Birch
• Year old Spruce
• Year old Poplar/Aspen
• Year old Birch
• Seasoned Spruce
• Seasoned Poplar/Aspen
• Seasoned Birch

This forms a 2 dimensional matrix of wood types, some are not effective at certain things for instance green aspen or poplar is not cooking, morning or night wood, it just can't do the job; whereas seasoned Birch is way too good for wasting on morning wood, or cooking. The reason for this is quite simple, depending on the wood type the length of burn and the heat produced by that wood varies, the more dense the wood the longer that wood burns and the more heat it generates during its burning time. Surprisingly 1 lb of balsa and 1 lb of oak actually contain roughly the same energy content, however 1lb of oak is significantly smaller than 1lb of balsa, so it burns longer without interference or refilling the finite capacity wood stove that you have.

Since we live in a sub-arctic region seasoning takes nearly 2 years, even for softwoods like spruce so hence the three time scales for the types, also Birch is not very common up here, the majority of large tree stands that you see are either white spruce or quaking aspens (we also have some tamarack, black spruce, balsam poplars, etc. etc.) with a few rare stands of paper birch this makes Birch a premium wood up here as you can likely tell.

Now on top of this there's also the obsession with wood collection, and how much we need for how many days. Fortunately a couple of good big trees can see you for a couple of days and can cover all of your major woods (unless it's green).

Anyway, maybe it's just my mind over analyzing something that others have been doing for centuries without the benefit of my categorization matrix… Or maybe I'm just obsessed with keeping warm, who knows.

[Plickety sez: I think G-man is more obsessed with getting his dinner cooked and coffee brewed than staying warm - ROFL)

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