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

Sustainable firewood strategies

Firewood"Is there a five, ten year or longer plan for wood? That is will there be a rotating supply for the future growing in time? Good idea on let [the goats] eat poison ivy. Any trouble touching them after they have brushed up against the leaves?" --- Jim

Jim has a very good question about developing a sustainable firewood supply. To be entirely honest, we haven't had to cross this bridge yet because we own 56 acres of woods and seem to be constantly needing to take out trees to give me more room for pasture or orchards or to keep our driveway clear. I suspect we'll continue on this getting-established track for several years to come.

In the long run, we will need to develop a plan for firewood harvest, though. One option is to coppice the trees in the powerline cut that aren't supposed to grow too high anyway. The plus side of this is that small wood is very easy to harvest with our electric chainsaw, it dries quickly, and the limbs require little or no splitting in the winter. The downside is that it takes about three times as long to sock away the same volume of firewood when working with small branches versus larger trunks.

Gaps in the canopyAnother option is to develop a woodlot plan for the areas close enough to our core homestead to make transport of the firewood simple. Selecting a maybe 5- to 10-acre zone in which our goals are promoting trees for sugar tapping (for the humans), nectar production (for the bees), and log production for mushrooms would give us an incentive to take out competing trees in that area. I've already started this plan in my head, but should probably commit it to paper soon while I still know where all those useful trees stand.

Goat with fly on her head

To answer your second question --- I'm not actually allergic to poison ivy, and was (I'm ashamed to say) ripping poison ivy away from our newly cut trees with my bare hands Friday evening. Unsurprisingly, I didn't notice any issues when petting on our darling doeling after her cleanup job. That said, I definitely wouldn't have let my mom touch a goat who has been on poison-ivy duty since she seems able to contract poison ivy just by looking at a plant funny. So your mileage will definitely vary.

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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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Wouldn't the goats' eating of poison ivy (and other poisonous plants) affect the quality of the milk obtained? I remember reading somewhere that feeding goats weeds and other "junk" affects the quality of the milk, including aftertaste etc.
Comment by NaYan Tue Jul 21 13:32:26 2015

NaYan --- I've read that too about certain things (although not about poison ivy). So I take a daily sip after milking to make sure whatever I've been feeding hasn't imparted an off flavor. So far, my taste test has always come up negative.

I suspect if you fed only certain problematic plants, you'd taste a difference in the milk. But our girls are too spoiled to let me make that kind of feeding mistake, and a bit of poison ivy here and there doesn't seem to cause any problems.

Comment by anna Tue Jul 21 14:40:47 2015


Be thankful you have not had a case of poison ivy yet! As a child I could touch poison ivy, even took a nap in it one time with my sister. Nothing happened to me by she had it all over her. As a camp counselor I used to pick it and tell the campers to never touch it. Then in the early 1990s, I had poison ivy climbing up a beautiful pine tree in my front yard. I cut it down one Sunday morning just before going to Florida for a week long training. I took all the precautions before and after cutting. By Tuesday I had 1" to 1,5" blisters on my legs. The only way I could stop the pain was to take a needle and prick the blisters so they would drain the fluid. I was a mess. However, I survived and definitely stay away from poison ivy now.

Comment by Sheila Tue Jul 21 23:00:12 2015

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