The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Honey locust and osage orange as firewood

Gathering firewood

Every location has a few easy tree species to harvest for firewood. Here on the ridge, we have a massive pile of lumber that was pushed aside during the construction of our septic system. And just about all of it is either honey locust or osage orange. The question became --- are either or both good for firewood?

Short version: both burn hot and well. Of course, it's more complicated than that.

Honey locust turns out to be a pretty optimal firewood (as long as you're careful not to jab yourself with the thorns). At 26.7 million BTUs per cord, it burns nearly as hot as black locust (27.9) and is much easier to split. I'm so glad to have such an excellent keep-the-fire-going wood close at hand!

Only downside? Honey locust is not a kindling wood. If this was our only wood, we'd have a bear of a time getting a fire started.

Osage orange sawdust

Unlike honey locust, osage orange is impossible to confuse with anything else. As soon as we cut into our first log, we were wowed by the yellow sawdust. Then we brought some to the chopping block and started swearing --- despite what the internet says, our osage orange was pretty difficult to split. Luckily, most of the logs were small enough they could go into the fire whole.

Inside, I soon found that osage orange is great for starting fires. Even though the logs feel heavy (and do burn extremely hot, clocking in at 32.9 BTU), they have a chemistry that makes them spark heavily. I suspect that same chemistry makes kindling light fast.

One warning: do not leave an osage-orange fire unattended unless you completely close the stove air vent because the sparks travel far and wide. On the other hand, the same feature can be very entertaining if you're sitting in front of the stove with a cat and a book listening to the snap, crackle, pop.

Overall, I'd say we got very lucky with our first round of firewood species here on the ridge. High BTUs mean much less work per unit heat. I'd say we've put about half as much effort into our fire this winter compared to what we used to do when burning tulip poplar, box elder, and black walnut down by the creek.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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unrelated to the burn temp but to the thorns - on locust and I thought sometimes on Osage too? - do you know why the thorns? A few other tree species in Ohio too. The trees are not yet aware, they have not yet caught on, that Mammoths/Mastadons/Giant Sloths are no longer around to strip their bark. Another interesting Osage aspect they are only growing a lower and lower altitudes. Nothing eats the mock orange fruits - anymore - it was thought the same prehistoric animals that would eat the mock oranges and leave mock orange/defecate wherever they went - up the hilll, down the hill, wherever. As nothing eats them now the mock oranges only roll down, not up, always down a valley to a water source. In a few 10K years they'll only be on a rives edge.
Comment by Jim Thu Feb 6 10:07:22 2020
We had a similar experience when we moved to Kentucky recently. At our cabin in Cape Breton, we have spruce and maple, with some birch and alder. We also have a direct vent to the outside which makes starting and maintaining the fire pretty easy. But we have to use a completely different method in KY - hickory and oak are predominant here, which are very hard to start. If we put a hickory log on the fire (even when it's well-started), we need to keep another faster-burning wood with it, or it will slow down and start to smolder. And we have to split oak into small pieces or cull our yard for pine twigs to get the fire going. We discovered that Bradford Pear is a good burner - there was a late winter storm in 2018, and a lot came down, so the tree service was giving it away in large pieces - we had to saw it to length but it was small enough to use without splitting.
Comment by Rhonda from Baddeck Thu Feb 6 12:37:04 2020
My neighbor did the same thing with his trees when he cleared his property for his house. There were a mountain of trees all stacked along the ridge line. He's 40'-50' above me on the ridge. In the three years since he commenced the build, all those trees have migrated down onto our property. They are blocking access roads to our animals now. Not that I'm complaining much because we heat with wood, but did there have to be so many yellow pine trees in the mix? LOL
Comment by Cockeyed Jo Thu Feb 6 13:18:22 2020
I seem to have lost track of you along the way, not that I haven't wondered how you're doing! Interesting to read through your last several posts. It's amazing how we have to adapt to a new area when it comes to gardening and other homesteading activities. Of course, the learning never goes away, but the curve can be a little steep in the beginning. I can especially commiserate with your drier, droughtier conditions. I'm always on the lookout for new drought-proofing ideas for our place! Now the Farmer's Almanac tells us to expect a wetter, "cooler" summer. We'll see.
Comment by Leigh Sun Feb 9 05:29:42 2020

What fun to get so many comments from familiar faces! I figured I'd lost you guys when my posting got so erratic. :-)

Jim --- Yes! I had read that about both species of trees. I love dreaming about mastodons when I see those huge honey-locust thorns.

Rhonda --- Just like you, I'm learning to keep the fire hot with smaller pieces and bits of osage orange when primarily burning honey locust. It's fun to learn new woods!

Cockeyed Jo --- What a windfall! Good thing our trees haven't migrated over to the neighbors. I'd miss them....

Leigh --- I've been enjoying the photos on your blog. It looks like your goats and home projects are doing awesome! I suspect it will take me at least a few more years to get used to dry-weather gardening. In the meantime, I dreamed last night about a dump-truckload of manure, which would be a pretty good solution....

Comment by anna Sun Feb 9 09:54:09 2020

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