Saturday, January 26, 2019

half way there

Just finished burning half of the firewood I split for this winter. Since it is toward the end of January, I think we'll make it to spring.
(This does not include my contingency cord of wood in the old shed) A cord of wood is a volume four feet by four feet by eight feet. ( 3.6 cubic meters)

So I wondered, on a long term sustainable basis, how many acres of woods does one need to heat their home in our climate?

We are at roughly N43 latitude, with pretty cold winters. ( It got down to -18F (-27C) yesterday, and they are forecasting -26F (-31C) for Tuesday night, but these are about as cold as it gets)

Tending outside chores was not too comfortable.

I did some googling at forestry and wood heating forums, and a rough average is 1/2 cord of wood per acre that can be harvested in perpetuity. There is obviously a wide range, depending on soil, rainfall and climate. Since we have been burning around three cords each winter, I need six acres (2.4 hectares) to heat our home.

In the rural areas of America, and here in Wisconsin, there are no natural gas pipelines, so most people heat with trucked in propane, though some regions heat with diesel fuel. And what about the cities, where by far the most people live? Natural gas is relatively cheap right now, but it will not last. There is a lot more to sustainable living than this but just the one example of home heating shows how precarious things could get.

I've been fortunate enough to afford buying land which has around  15 acres (6 hectares) of woods, so this home will be ok if fossil fuels fade, especially after I get more good quality trees planted. But what about everyone else? Even if they could afford the land, there is not enough for everyone.

This is an old photo from last fall. It is about 1.5 cords, or half of our annual firewood use. We currently have around eight inches of snow on the ground.

Friday, January 4, 2019

top predator job opening

In southwestern Wisconsin, as in some other areas of the U.S., the white tailed deer has made quite the comeback in the last few decades, and is in fact a problem for the ecological balance in many areas.

We killed all the wolves.

Deer are overeating their terrain, preventing any new trees from taking over as older trees die, and generally affecting the "normal" plant community distribution.

I'm not sure it was quite the intent, but now we need to step up and take on the job of being one of the predators with a specific role in the ongoing predator prey balance that goes on at all scales in a complex ecosystem.

The new twist here, is that because of the overcrowding, CWD ( chronic wasting disease, a form of prion infection similar to mad cow disease) had been spreading through the herds, as there is more deer to deer contact. Hunters are actually encouraged to take more than one deer in specific areas that the Department of Natural Resources has determined need thinning. We need more predators.

So this winter, I did my part and took a nice buck, which we will be eating soon. I'm not what you would call an avid hunter, or very good or dedicated at it. If the deer were not wandering around in our woods, I would not go elsewhere looking for a hunting site. In fact, I get bored sitting in a tree stand for hours in the winter cold, but had some good luck and took a good shot.

This is the deer after I field dressed it and drug it out of our woods.

I view deer hunting as one more part of land stewardship. The DNR does annual assessment of deer populations, and sets deer harvest regulations to try to keep a good balance for the ecosystem health. In my area this year, one deer hunting license permits you to harvest one buck and four does. That is a lot!