natural dry wood
Thursday, January 8 2009
The wood from the large Red Oak that fell 70 feet south of the woodshed had been a wonderful windfall, but (contrary to expectations) the pieces I've cut and split from it have proven too slow-drying to be a major source of fuel for this particular winter. I knew it would be problematic once I'd determined that the process of drying it would eat through all my reserves of dry wood well before the winter's end. Either I was going to have to find another source of dry wood or I was going to have to, to some extent, abandon firewood as a heating source for the winter. So today I took my chainsaw in search of downed oak and/or chestnut, hoping to find wood that had already dried out naturally. There is plenty of such wood in the adjacent forest, but I've tapped out all the easiest supplies on this side of the Chamomile River (a tiny seasonal brook about 200 feet behind our house).
The key to finding new supplies, it turned out, was venturing a little from the Stick Trail. Less than 100 feet to the east thereof, I found a glorious tangle of downed trees that had obviously been horizontal for many years. All the sapwood had rotted away and, to the extent that they were moist, it was entirely due to recent precipitation. I cut the tangle up into firewood-length segments that would ultimately fill three of my wood carts, the whole time delighted to have a chainsaw that was reasonably cooperative. It was difficult to say what kind of wood I was dealing with, but it seemed too rot resistant to be Red Oak (or nearly any non-oak) and too dark-colored to be White Oak or Chestnut Oak, meaning it might have been American Chestnut, dating to the days when that tree was the most common component of the Appalachian forest.
Over the past several days I've been digging out the remainder of the soil inside the greenhouse, exposing the shale bedrock underneath. As bedrocks go, this shale is a pale shadow of the image the word "bedrock" normally conjures up. For some reason it is riddled with a network of fractures oriented as plane-segments of seemingly-random tilt. These fractures mean that the bedrock is something of a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle of blocks, most of which are smaller than a human fist. They fit together tightly across the fractures, but pieces aren't difficult to pick from the surface, and in the resulting voids other loose pieces can occasionally be picked out as well. As I've been removing the soil, I've also been removing a fair amount of bedrock. I remove everything that comes loose, and the result has been a further deepening of the greenhouse's floor. Indeed, along the north wall, I've removed so much shale that I've actually undermined the foundation by an inch or two in some places. These voids can easily be filled in with concrete, but there's another problem to worry about as well: the inside of the greenhouse is now lower than the perimeter drainage system, meaning that this part of the greenhouse will flood the next time there is a period of high surface runoff. Fortunately, such periods never last long and the cracks in the bedrock allows it to quickly drain well beneath the level of my drainage system once the flooding subsides.
This evening Gretchen drove down to the City, where she'll be cat sitting and living the urban life for the next few days. In so doing we would both be getting some much-needed alone time (something I normally get much more of than she does, since she has to leave the house to work).
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