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Wood for burning


Logs to Burn, Logs to burn, Logs to save the coal a turn.

Here’s a word to make you wise, When you hear the woodman’s cries.

Never heed his usual tale, That he has good logs for sale, But read these lines and really learn,

The proper kind of logs to burn.

Oak logs will warm you well, If they’re old and dry. Larch logs of pine will smell, But the sparks will fly.

Beech logs for Christmas time, Yew logs heat well. “Scotch” logs it is a crime, For anyone to sell.

Birch logs will burn too fast, Chestnut scarce at all. Hawthorn logs are good to last, If you cut them in the fall.

Holly logs will burn like wax, You should burn them green, Elm logs like smouldering flax, No flame to be seen.

Pear logs and apple logs, They will scent your room,

Cherry logs across the dogs,

Smell like flowers in bloom

But ash logs, all smooth and grey, Burn them green or old; Buy up all that come your way, They’re worth their weight in gold.

This poem may have been written a couple of hundred years ago but it is still relevant today. In this world of soaring fuel costs and spiralling prices, one thing I am quietly content about, is our decision to use wood burning stoves to heat the house. We have 3 wood burners in the house and one in my workshop. Other than a couple of electric towel rails in the bathrooms, (that are rarely on) we have no other forms of heating.

It is a big house with 7 bedrooms. The kitchen wood burner heats all four of the kids double bedrooms by way of vents into the chimney breast which siphons off the residual heat from inside the chimney stack. The Living room fire has a vent into the spare room and our bedroom has its own wood burner. That was not a fun job to get up the stairs! Needless to say we have flue liners that go all the way to the top of all the chimneys.

We are lucky because we have had plenty of wood to burn from renovation projects and fallen trees over the last few years, so we don’t often buy wood.

But when we do buy steres of wood in what should we look for?

Well as the poem suggests hardwoods are far and away the best woods to burn. They are more dense and less resinous than softwoods so they burn longer and hotter. Hardwoods typically have broad leaves like oak and maple, softwoods tend to have needles and cones.

Softwoods with more resin and a fibrous nature, once well seasoned give a fast quick heat, so are better suited to starting fires than long term burning. All wood needs to be seasoned, dried before its burnt, a moisture content of less than 20% is recommended to get the best out of your wood. I have to say that some of the things we have burnt on our fires have not been exactly ideal but then, its still free heat. As long as you make sure you have your chimneys cleaned a couple of times a year and install carbon monoxide detectors you cant go too far wrong.

Wood burning stoves are definitely the best and most energy efficient form of heating, open fires lose a lot of heat and eat wood like its going out of fashion but a good wood burner can keep a room toasty for hours on a decent sized log. We have three the same, Invicta is the make and we have found them to be very good quality pieces of kit. Plus they have a nice flat top for the kettle and a big glass door to mesmerise the dogs to sleep.

The question about whether wood is eco friendly as a renewable energy is still up for debate. I personally think that out in rural France heating your home using dead wood, fallen trees and the old beams out of your shed is basic recycling but of course woodsmoke does contain carcinogenic particles, alongside so many other ways of producing energy. The carbon neutral aspect of burning wood is a win, with a tree giving out as much carbon in burning as it uses up whilst alive, but of course its very hard for the government to tax wood that you find in your garden. So, there is a possibility that they might not really like it very much and encourage people to heat their houses and cook with sources of energy that are taxable and easy to regulate.

Currently A Stere of wood out here in Rural Normandy is around 55e. The amount of work in producing that wood, cutting, seasoning, splitting makes this pretty cheap and I cant imagine very profitable. But as a customer it does make for a very cost effective way of heating, albeit a bit time consuming and messy.

Some people are moving over to wood pellets with government incentives to do so, of course wood pellets are taxable and ‘quelle surprise’, the prices have soared this autumn. Did you know that a number of coal fired power stations in the UK have been converted to use wood pellets because its classed as an renewable and eco friendly energy but they still ship those wood pellets from Canada? I imagine they probably do something similar here in France. The problem with encouraging this kind of wood burning may be that hardwood and mixed plantations could be cut down and replaced with much faster growing (and profitable) softwoods for burning, thus destroying habitats and endangering wildlife. Nothing is ever simple is it?

Anyway I digress.

Wood for burning, here is a nice little chart I found that shows the top ten best woods for burning in your home.

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