Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
We found a good solution to getting rid of our dead trees and not have them just rot in place. We have a local charity in our nearby town that helps the homeless and those who may not be homeless but still need a helping hand.
Winters can be pretty cold here in Colorado and if you can’t afford firewood ($150 to $175 for a cord) or are unable to cut it or process it yourself, it can make staying warm pretty hard to do, not to mention costly. This particular charity has groups that volunteer to assist, and they will come and cut up and haul off firewood for those who truly need it.
Last year, we were able to provide around 12 cords of firewood, and this year, we hope to double that amount. It is heartwarming to know that what had no value to us is being used by someone we don’t even know to stay warm during our cold winters.
We have 11 acres of heavily wooded mountain property and the fir, pine, and spruce all tend to either choke one another out, die from beetle kill, or drought. Colorado is a semi-arid state and water sometimes can be insufficient for trees to thrive. We have an abundance of standing dead that should go to someone who can benefit from it.
We have a very tall chimney (30 feet) that has a tendency to clog up with creosote and soot around the wind cap if we burn conifer trees. By the time the smoke rises to the top, it has cooled to the point that it collects around the very top. Aspen does not do that, so we burn those dead aspen trees ourselves since we heat our cabin with a woodstove.
For safety's sake, this senior homesteader uses his expertise to fall the trees to the ground (see photo) and then the charity comes out with a crew and removes the limbs and cuts them to firewood size and then trailers them to a place where they process it into firewood.
I have found that it is better to cut them down myself rather than risk anyone else getting hurt. This particular charity has groups of volunteers coming in from all over our state, and sometimes out of state, to help them. Most have no experience cutting down trees but they can haul the cut-up pieces to the trailer they bring to haul it away.
This charity has interns that come in to learn counseling and how to serve. They are usually fresh out of college and stay one year to work at this charity. These interns usually bring the volunteer groups to work hauling firewood. The volunteer groups work on numerous aspects of the charity and obtaining firewood is only a small part of that volunteer work.
The interesting part is that, when they call to schedule a time to come for firewood, we never know ahead of time which group of volunteers they will bring. So far this summer they have come with four distinctly different groups.
Types of Volunteers
The first group was from Estes Park, Colorado, and that group was mostly composed of men and women with ages from the mid 60s to 84 years old. This group has been volunteering for 24 years, and it proves age is not a hindrance to helping others. We senior citizens may move a little slower but we are persistent and get the job done. I work along with the volunteers and having fun people whom give from their heart is rewarding for me to just be around.
The next group was a mother along with her 16-year-old daughter and her daughter’s two friends from Boulder, Colorado. The girls worked hard all day and it was delightful to this old senior to have three teenagers around. I use my tractor and a small pull-behind trailer to haul the firewood so it doesn’t have to be carried as far and having those girls laughing and talking brought back very fond memories of raising our daughter and having her friends around.
The third group was some of the staff at the charity. It was the interns and one of the assistant directors and her sister from the nonprofit charity. All delightful people and just a pleasure to work alongside.
The fourth group was a church group from Denver. There were two chaperones and eight children from 10 to 12 years of age. These young people were a blast to work alongside. If seniors move slower, these children seem to never run out of energy. They were moving logs that weighed almost as much as they did and proved that many hands make a job easier. It is uplifting for this senior to be around and interact with children with all their questions, riddles, jokes, laughing, and games.
Creative Ways to Dispose of Dead Trees
The whole purpose of this particular blog post is to point out that there are creative ways to eliminate your dead trees if you have a wood lot. This is only one way, and there are many more. You can check and see if there are any websites where you can advertise free material that others may find a use for. Ours is called Freecycle.
There are also free wood fests which our community has throughout the year. There are several ways that dead trees can be used or put to good use where they will benefit others.
Concentrated Area and Safe Work Area
When I bring down dead trees, I try to keep them concentrated into a specific area that will be safe to work in, and I like to work with the volunteers to point out any obstacles or potential hazards. I can also direct where the piles of dead branches are to be located, so it is easier for me to get to them and haul to our community’s burn site.
Another benefit for us is to reduce our wildfire risk by not having so much dry fuel on hand. The greatest benefit is being around interesting people who have a heart for giving and knowing that the trees will benefit people next winter when the temperatures drop to 20 degrees below.
Bruce McElummary lives remotely with his wife, Carol, in an 880-square-foot cabin along with their three dogs. They implemented many of the things they learned from MOTHER since its inception as a magazine. For more on Bruce and Carol McElmurray and their lifestyle go to www.brucecarolcabin.blogspot.com. Read all of Bruce's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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