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Paige's Highlights

For my highlights this week, I'm going to be focusing on a big topic as opposed to giving a ton of little tid-bit links.  I recently was reading about Coppicing and Pollarding in regards to firewood production and was intrigued.

Apparently, coppicing and pollarding are techniques that came from Europe when life was completely based around wood--you used it to build, make tools, build homes, and heat/cook.  Obviously, Europe has a large population in relation to its wood reserves, so these two techiniques were employed to grow wood faster.

Coppicing is a technique where you plant decidious trees (most commonly), then cut them off at the ground when they are a size that you want.  This forces the tree to maintain a juvenile state of growth, and the leftover crowns (stools, as they're called) will regenerate and send up multiple additional shoots/trunks in later years.  This serves two purposes.  The first is that the fastest growth occurs in the few several years of a tree's life, so you are able to there by increase the productivity of the tree and keep it in a "forever young" and productive growth stage.  The second is tree longevity.  Managed like this, trees can live MUCH longer than standard trees.  There are some stools that are estimated to be thousands of years old.  The roots are constantly regenerated and as the tree never grows huge, there is no sad day of watching the tree get knocked over by a wind storm or such.

Pollarding is a similar idea as coppicing, but rather than cutting the tree back at ground level, the tree is cut back at a height of about 5-6 feet off the ground.  This technique was orginally implemented and accomplishes all the same goals of increased production and tree longevity as coppicing; however, this technique has the added benefit of being able to graze livestock below the trees.  The trunks on which new growth accumulates will be above the "browsing height" of livestock.  New shoots of coppiced trees are susceptible to the grazing/browsing of livestock.  The drawback: TIME!  Although both methods can be time consuming, pollarding takes MUCH more time and is much more labor intensive.  Coppiced stands of trees can almost be "mown" down to harvest, while pollarded trees require maintenence akin to pruning.

Dan and I know that although we'd LOVE to had a stand of woods, being able to create that in a feasible length of time to provide our own firewood during our lifetime is going to be difficult.  Therefore, we'll likely convert a field to "standard woods" for our kids and grandkids and use coppicing during our lifetime--or a mix of the two, knows as coppicing with standards.

We've decided on coppicing over pollarding for several reasons.
  1. Labor--Coppicing is less labor intensive.
  2. Machinery--Coppicing simply requires a chain saw.  Pollarding requires ladders and I'm not sure I want Dan on a ladder/lift with a chain saw.
  3. Speed--Coppicing is faster production of firewood, as you don't have to spend time getting the trunk all ready, as with pollarding.
  4. Habitat--Coppicing creates a nice brush and leaves it undisturbed for between 8-15 years (or more depending on the species grown.)  This encourages wildlife and has a different eco-system as compared to standard forests.
Below is a list of trees commonly used in coppicing and pollarding material.  I've compiled the information from several sites, and I have them listed  below.  (Please note, that I've primarily focused on coppicing trees and lengths of time for firewood use. Also, there is a lot of variability involved depending on site quality, sunshine, and variety of tree chosen.)
  • Tree                # yrs. rotation
  • Ash                   15-25 yrs.
  • Elm                    15-30yrs
  • Field Maple          ~15 yrs
  • Chestnut             15-20 yrs.
  • Hazel                 12-15 yrs.
  • Hornbeam          15-30yrs.
  • Oak                     50 yrs.
  • Mixes spp.          20 yrs.
The Ancient Art of Coppicing
BTCV--Firewood (I HIGHLY recommend this site.  A wonderful resource)
BTCV--Coppicing (Navigate the links on the left side of the page.  TONS of great information available.
How to Choose Firewood Trees by Cornell Univ.  (good general info, not specific to a coup)
The Overstory--Coppice with Standards


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