Trees -- Livestock? ;) -- possibly not but can someone help?

Keeping pigs or any other animals

Trees -- Livestock? ;) -- possibly not but can someone help?

Postby Lemain » Tue Jul 13, 2010 10:50 am

We are just finalising the purchase of a fermette in Normandy. Presently we have 8 acres of badly neglected woodland and I need to buy a book or see online advice on how to turn it around as our heating will be for the most part wood. Can anyone recommend a book or other resource?

Secondly, from what I have read, 8 acres of wood is a bit too small for the farmhouse. I would like to turn a few acres of the less animal-friendly pasture to woodland concentrating on fastest growth for firewood. I know nothing about trees (other than primary school stuff) so how should I choose the type to plant and which is the best economic age for a sapling? I would like to see the new woodland showing promise (i.e. capital value) within a decade albeit I don't expect to be able to cut it so early.

Many thanks for your input.

David
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Postby beardedwonder5 » Tue Jul 13, 2010 1:19 pm

Willow or ash.

Cleaning up woodland. First, (if you don't mind the trees being barked) goats. Second, you have to decide what varieties of trees you have - because with some varieties if you cut them near ground level (for firewood) they die. This might not be a bad thing if you wish to replant. If you wish the stumps to regrow for another cutting, then you have to hope you've got a lot of coppice wood, i.e. varieties like sweet chestnut. (Coppice used to be called underwood. It was grown for 7/14 year harvesting between "standards", like oak for ships, buildings. The latter weren't harvested for 50-100 years.)

If your woodland is overgrown, consider wildish sheep. They won't bark the trees but will eat lots of rough vegetation, and trample stuff like nettles and brambles.

What I would do is this. Fence certain areas. Cut down all fenced-in wood for firewood, (including breadwood, morning wood, i.e., thin stuff.)
Have a real bash at this between early leaf-fall and first signs of regrowth. During this period put pigs in the enclosure to pioneer out blackberry roots etc. At first regrowth get the pigs out, and glysophate off the stuff you don't want, leaving alone the new growth from stumps of the varieties you do wish to keep. Don't let any animals into the enclosure for a time. (Keep your fingers crossed - no deer.) Then introduce sheep, which tend not to touch bark and won't be able to reach leaves above their stretch height.

(I work as a volunteer for the Kent Wildlife Trust, which is using something like this method to deal with a large tract of former wilderness about half a mile from where I live.)

When you start, don't become discouraged. The sore muscles you never knew you had will become acclimatized. It ain't sitting at the tiller in the sun.
Last edited by beardedwonder5 on Wed Jul 14, 2010 10:50 am, edited 1 time in total.
GOS, yeah!!!
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Postby Lemain » Wed Jul 14, 2010 8:28 am

beardedwonder5 wrote:Willow or ash...........
Thank you -- really first-class reply. This forum is a treasure-trove of folk who have been there and done that.

The (soon to be) previous owners used to keep 'tame' pigs in the woods -- this is a VERY rural part of Normandy and they were not even fenced-in. I am wondering whether electric might be a good idea, for the section-by section approach you are talking about? We plan to buy weaners to finish for market in any case. What sort of size of enclosed fenced area do you suggest? Any particular breed of pig?
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Postby beardedwonder5 » Wed Jul 14, 2010 10:44 am

Google

SugarMtnFarm.com

and read both Walter's stuff and links.
GOS, yeah!!!
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Postby porker » Wed Jul 14, 2010 2:49 pm

I get all my firewood for free ... well I have been, this past few years have seen a huge rise in demand and my source may dry up.

I would stay away from anything fast growing, it has much less heating value, for the same work, I call them weeds. I think you'll find that 8 acres will give you a lot of firewood, I never cut down a tree, my firewood is all windfalls / storm damage. I would look around and see what timber does well in your area, and stick to that.

I've reached the big '50' this year and all I plant is Ash, Oak, Beech + some wild/ bird cherry, rowan for the wild life ... I'm not thinking about what I can get out of it, I'm doing ok from someone elses planting, so I'm passing it on, and trying to improve on the types of trees for future wood gathers.

I've oak thats in 22 - 25 years and could be cut, but it would really be a waste, so I leave it for others ... I'm guessing you are in the 50+ bracket aswell, so I would be expecting that your wood cutting days are becoming shorter, as mine are ... but there's always a demand for quality timber, and some nice hardwood thinnings may bring in a nice sum as you approach retirement.

When I find my wee place I'll certainly plant some fruit trees ... a very useful crop, and they become an obsession ... check out stephen hayes on utube for a great guy about apples.

If you find you're running short of firewood you could possibly buy a lorry load of oak etc from the local woods, so helping the local community and saving your own stocks while growing something really worth while.

AIMHO

I've seen too many folks planting willow etc and finding that it needs a special harvester, needs to be chipped etc etc not the same as burning a nicely seasoned log in your wood stove.

I get carried away on these topics, sorry.

Cheers

:)
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Postby Lemain » Wed Jul 14, 2010 4:03 pm

porker wrote:I get all my firewood for free ...

:)


I've got five years on you....as you say, one has to look to a quieter future at some stage...who knows what health cards one has been dealt? I am looking on it as a means of heating (self-sufficiency) on a sustainable basis + capital value when the fermette eventually has to be sold -- one of us is likely to survive the other and probably won't want to live on such a large plot. Retirement homes, etc. So I want to be sure that under our stewardship the condition of the land is improved, making for an easier sale and better return. The present owners have allowed the condition to deteriorate badly -- though with good personal reasons -- no personal criticism intended.

You cannot implement a plan that you don't have, with the best will in the world! So I need a plan even if I am not terribly good at working to it.

As for gathering wood from others, in this part of France they say that you judge a man's wealth by the steres stored outside his home :) Nobody, but nobody gives wood away. OTOH, my brother in law, in Berkshire, has felled dozens of good trees and BURNT them in the garden :roll: He, as a suburban Brit, is so ignorant of the value of wood for fuel that he didn't even think to offer it to close friends who live a few miles away, and enjoy a wood fire. Other Brits have told me that it 'isn't worth' selling wood :roll: Or that 'wood is cheap'.

However, I am absolutely certain that those attitudes are history. Before long Joe Berkshire will be desperate for fuel and food.
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Postby beardedwonder5 » Wed Jul 14, 2010 8:18 pm

Willow. The crux is dry matter per hectare per year. Willow is good.

BUT - there was a scheme to set up a power station which burned willow. Farmers planted willow. Scheme fell through.

One problem was that the power station was set up to burn willow on the analogy of ground up coal, air-blown into the boiler. So the willow had to be super-chipped. ££££££

Another problem with willow is that you can't use it for a cheery fireplace log. Wood-burning stove (closed) OK.

French peasants? My slight experience is that a French peasant (not a Metropolitan migrant) is a couple generations on from what a Brit would regard as poverty. If your that poor you don't give things away. The habits persist. Yes, a bottle of illicit Calvados. A half-winter's worth of firewood, no.

Are you aiming to make your smallholding a park? For eventual sale to a park-lover?

(N.b., oak timber will for the foreseeable future be more cheaply sourced from middle and eastern Europe.)
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Postby Lemain » Thu Jul 15, 2010 1:43 am

beardedwonder5 wrote:Willow. The crux is dry matter per hectare per year. Willow is good.
Interesting article I was reading the other day, from the USA, in which it was suggested that dry is not always best BUT wet must be burnt in a special kind of boiler that allows 'water gas' to form, and burn. Some interesting pics of blue flames...though I don't want to invest in that kind of technology right now as we have a perfectly serviceable log/anthracite boiler.

Another problem with willow is that you can't use it for a cheery fireplace log. Wood-burning stove (closed) OK.
We wouldn't dream of squandering our wood on an open fire (other than on Christmas Day, maybe!)

Are you aiming to make your smallholding a park? For eventual sale to a park-lover?
It isn't my intention. I think that a really well-managed and exploited smallholding is going to be more valuable as time goes by. The present economic crisis is a symptom of gross overspending, borrowing and mismanagement and is going to result in 'tough times ahead' for many. Food and energy are going to become more valuable -- I say 'valuable' as opposed to 'expensive'.

(N.b., oak timber will for the foreseeable future be more cheaply sourced from middle and eastern Europe.)
Can't be as cheaply-sourced as from your own land, if you fell and cut the wood yourself.
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Postby beardedwonder5 » Thu Jul 15, 2010 9:05 am

That's why I said "timber". By which I meant the saleable-to-joiners/buillders part of a mature oak.

It's interesting that in the UK proper forestry management of hardwood trees is hard to find. A young oak should be judiciously pruned of side shoots so that when eventually harvested the trunk is straight and knot free. In the old days it was the job of the wood reeve on an estate to ensure this happened. The upper curved bits had to be watched and controlled to produce ships ribs and those curved bits you see like in black-and-white houses. A boat constructed with these curved bits was called (x-wood, e.g., larch, pitch pine, etc.) on grown oak, (i.e., the ribs weren't curved with steam.) Nowadays in Britain very little newly planted hardwood is tended to produce high value timber. The culture sentimentally likes hardwood because it isn't coniferous.

Change of subject. In my ignorance I didn't think that water, in whatever phase, could burn. Exception: if you separate hydrogen from oxygen. But the energy input to do that is enormous.

So, Lemain, how are you going to transport the wood from where you cut it down to where you eventually use it?
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Postby Lemain » Thu Jul 15, 2010 9:21 am

beardedwonder5 wrote:Change of subject. In my ignorance I didn't think that water, in whatever phase, could burn. Exception: if you separate hydrogen from oxygen. But the energy input to do that is enormous.


Water Gas has been around for well over a hundred years. It is basically CO and H2 so deadly poisonous and very explosive, but used to be added to Town Gas at one time, in some places (hence sticking your head in a gas oven is a way out). The reaction is C + H2O → CO + H2 see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_gas Certainly the furnace I saw details of made perfect sense.

So, Lemain, how are you going to transport the wood from where you cut it down to where you eventually use it?


We have a Massey Ferguson 158 with front bucket and various trailers. The woodland is part of our property and there is tractor access almost everywhere, though in one or two places a winch might be needed to pull trunks into a more accessible place. Using the front bucket (hydraulic) and chains or ropes it should be possible to handle and cut in situ the largest of our trees, then transport them back in the trailer. I hope.
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