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


Windfall oak

Oak trunkThis oak tree is both literally and figuratively a windfall.  Oaks are an extremely handy genus, but we have few of them on our property, mostly because oak trees like it high and dry and our property is low and wet.  So having a huge oak tumble down near our parking area set me to pondering what's the best use for this quality wood.

My first thought was to saw the trunk into boards.  The trouble is that it's not worth most sawyers' while to cut up a single trunk, no matter how tall and straight it is.  We could possibly do it ourself with the chainsaw log mill, but that procedure was slow as molasses, exhausting, and not very precise last time we tried it.

Mark had the permaculture suggestion of turning the oak into mushroom logs.  "Shiitake" literally means "oak mushroom," and even though the fungal species will grow on other types of trees, they like oak best.  I'm wondering if inoculating the 28-foot-long main trunk with shiitakes wouldn't result in harvests lasting a decade or longer (although we might get sick of pounding in 1,400 plugs), or we could just cut logs from the medium-sized limbs.  Another option would be to try out maitakes (aka hen of the woods) on the big root mass.

Root mass

Finally, there's always firewood.  I suspect that even cutting up the "little" limbs that aren't much use for anything else would keep us warm for a whole winter.

In the meantime, the raccoons (or maybe foxes?) have already marked the trunk as their own, and I can't help thinking the water-filled root pit will be perfect habitat for the frogs who have just started to call.  It will be intriguing to see how this disturbed area changes over the years.

The Avian Aqua Miser is a POOP-free chicken waterer, perfect for chicks, laying hens, broilers, and more.

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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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Using a chainsaw would be a waste, I think. You'd loose a lot of the wood as sawdust.

A less wasteful method would be to use a small bandsaw set driven by your generator and set-up as a sawmill. See this example. Note that he's only using a 1 hp motor. Your generator has ample capacity for that.

But an even better way that uses almost no tools is riving; splitting the wood with hammers and wedges. See here but especially here for a more thorough article. The planks will not be as straight as sawn planks, but they will be very strong because the wood is split between the fibers. It is a technique well-suited for oak. All leftovers are firewood or mulch. Riving is usually done with green wood, and works better in the cold. Viking ships were built from rived planks.

Comment by Roland_Smith Mon Feb 25 15:14:46 2013

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