I have mentioned several times how keeping bulk food storage is a fight against inflation. Just like food in your cupboard is better than money in the bank, so is a good woodlot. A stack of firewood seasoning in the spring is worth more than money in the bank for any homesteader.
I keep struggling with what we intend to plant for our woodlot. My initial search led me to a post about using hybrid poplars because they grow incredibly fast, and are easy to harvest, split, and you harvest them by coppicing. To coppice means to cut back (a tree or shrub) to ground level periodically to stimulate growth.
As I researched I found many who would argue against using poplars as they are fast and hot burning. They are referred to as gopher wood, because as soon as you put some wood on the fire you have to “gopher” some more.
What I also found out is that all wood has the same BTUs per pound, and that although you would need more cords of wood to create the same heat vs something like oak, oak takes decades to grow large enough to harvest for any useful purpose whereas poplers will supply a usefull harvest of firewood in 5-6 years. The idea being that poplars create a greater fiber content per year per acre than some of your denser hardwoods.
So here is the basic plan for the poplars… (I am quoting because it is pretty succinct already.
Plant 600 trees in a grid 8ft. by 8ft. After 2 years you cut the 120 trees closest to the East. This wood will be about 2″ in diameter, good for kindling. Doing this will give extra sunlight to the trees behind them. Next year (year 3) you cut the next 120 trees behind them. Year 4 you continue cutting your way back. By now you are cutting trees that are about 4 to 5 inches in diameter. Year 5 you have only 120 original trees left. They are 6 inches in diameter which means, no splitting. Cut them down and use them. You should get enough wood from those 120 trees to heat your house that winter.
Up to this point, you have been increasing the amount of wood you cut every year. You would say, now what?
Year 6 you will be cutting down the first lot of 120 trees you cut 5 years ago. They regenerate! Those trees you cut on year 6 will also be 6 inches in diameter. Year after year you will be cutting 120 trees that are 6 inches in diameter. Life expectancy of a poplar is 40 years.
Do you think your trees are getting old? Use some of the cuttings you get every year (you get thousands) to plant new trees.
You have heard that poplars do not give you the BTU that other woods do. That is correct, hybrid poplars will give you about .6 of the energy you can get from hard woods, such as hickory or maple but this shortcoming is offset by the amount of wood these trees generate.
I also plan to mix them up a bit with some other fast growing trees just in case one species gets a disease, so some of those 600 may be some other type of tree mentioned on my Woodlot post.
Hopefully I can also get some of the slower growing varieties as well.
Variety is the spice of life!