Oct 112012
 
15sep12 015

Why Grow your own firewood?

Wood is the natural sustainable choice of fuel for many domestic fires – in use since the first fire thousands of years ago. When we warm our homes with wood, we participate in a natural cycle that we share with ancient ancestors.

The ability to burn wood for heat in our homes gives us more control and options for fuel. We are no longer dependent on large energy utilities and multinational corporations whose charges only ever increase. Even if we have to buy in our logs at least we are supporting our local economy.

Unlike the burning of fossil fuels like coal, gas or oil, burning firewood releases no more greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide) than would be produced were the wood to simply rot on the forest floor. If we are responsible in the ways we grow, cut, and burn our firewood, wood burning can actually be a good choice for the environment.

When sourcing wood you have three choices, buy in, buy a mature woodland, or grow your own.  This article will focus on the latter, check out this other article about sourcing wood away from the smallholding.

What trees are the best to grow for firewood?

Note that all woods burn better when seasoned and some burn better when split rather than as whole logs.  In general the better woods for burning that you are most likely to come by are:

  • Apple and pear – burn slowly and steadily with little flame but good heat.  The scent is also pleasing.
  • Ash – the best burning wood providing plenty of heat (will also burn green)
  • Beech and hornbeam – good when well seasoned
  • Birch – good heat and bright flame, burns quickly
  • Blackthorn and hawthorn – very good, burns slowly but with good heat
  • Cherry – also burns slowly with good heat and a pleasant scent
  • Cypress – burns well but fast when seasoned, and may spit
  • Hazel – good
  • Holly – good when well seasoned
  • Horse Chestnut – good flame and heating power but spits a lot
  • Larch – fairly good for heat but crackles and spits
  • Maple – good
  • Oak – very old dry seasoned oak is excellent, burning slowly with a good heat
  • Pine – burns well with a bright flame but crackles and spits
  • Poplar – burns very slowly with little heat
  • Willow – good if seasoned well

If the tree you are looking for is not here then try this link.

Timescale for harvesting wood as fuel

If starting from scratch then the quickest tree to plant and harvest is willow.  It can be grown on damp unusable ground, and if properly undertaken, will produce wood of a size that is manageable by a smallholder without specialist equipment.

Willow as firewood

Pros

Super fast growing varieties can produce logs up to 3 inches or more thick in only 5 years.  It is best to cut or coppice in the dormant season from late autumn to late winter.  This ensures there is the least quantity of water within the coppice poles, which reduces the time taken to season the firewood to a minimum.

To get reasonably sized logs you will have to coppice your willow every 4-5 years.  The advantage of short rotation coppicing has always been the small diameter of the trees which enabled them to be worked with hand tools.  The production of firewood is best carried out using the coppice system  because a felling licence is not required to cut coppice poles with a diameter at breast height (1.3m from the ground) of 15cm or less.

Cons

Willow wood is mostly water and takes a long time to dry out.  Some other woods will dry all on their own, simply as a function of time, but the willow dries best with good access to a breeze. Otherwise it can rot or start to grow again before it drys out.  If it sits outside and get’s rained on, it will soak up water like a sponge even if it was previously “dry”. Willow has to be kept dry- in other words, kept under cover. It should dry for a minimum of six months, but letting it dry for two to three years improves its performance slightly.

Willow is very soft wood and it burns very quickly so mix it in with your other firewood because it won’t last long.

Click here for more information on the benefits of willow, planting willow, and willow types for sale.

Coppicing trees 

Many species of tree can be coppiced (e.g. hazel). This involves regularly cutting the tree down to a stump called a stool. Multiple new shoots (known as poles) regrow from the stool. The cutting is done on cycle so to keep a consistent supply you need to plan ahead and have sets of trees which you cut each year. The interval between cutting depends on the species of tree. The trees are cut during the winter before the sap has risen, and the branches are all cut low to the ground. By repeatedly cutting the trees their lifespan can be greatly increased. One of the advantages of coppicing is that you do not need to replant the trees every time you cut.

The new growth is fairly straight and manageable, and can grow very fast. Because the wood from coppicing is relatively small it also takes less time than large logs to season and you should easily be able to season it over one summer. Coppiced firewood can be burnt in a wood stove and is ideal for use in gasification / batch boilers – these boilers have very larger fireboxes which can take long length logs. You fill up the firebox and the boiler burns the fuel transferring the heat to a heat storage or accumulator tank for use when needed.

Many types of deciduous tree can be coppiced: Alder, Ash, Beech, Birch (3-4 year cycle), Hazel (7 year cycle), Hornbeam, Oak (50 year cycle), Sycamore Sweet Chestnut (15-20 year cycle), Willow, Sweet Chestnut, Hazel (7 year cycle), and Hornbeam. 

Turning trees into firewood

Once you have harvested your wood you must split any logs that are more than 6 inches in diameter.  This increases the surface area of the wood exposed to the elements and therefore enhances drying.  You can get mechanical splitters, and attachments for a tractor, when you have large quantities to split, but they are not cheap.

For the average user or smallholder a maul is the tool needed.  It is a type of axe with a heavy wide head especially for splitting logs.  A maul does not need to be particularly sharp – unlike a narrow felling axe which slices at wood and needs to be sharpened regularly.  You can use a felling axe for splitting logs but it is much harder work than a maul.  The trick with a maul is to let the weight of the head do the work – swing the maul over your shoulder and let the head fall on to the log without forcing it down.  The wide head will force the log apart.  It’s also important to have the log you are splitting at a good height – on a tree stump or larger log about 18 inches to 2 feet off the ground is ideal – this makes the job easier and avoids back damage.

Kindling

Trees and shrubs suitable for kindling include:

  • The older wood or prunings of Buddleia
  • Gorse -as a fuel it has a high concentration of oil in its leaves and branches, and so catches fire easily and burns well, giving off a heat almost equal to that of charcoal.
  • Lilac: Thinner branches make good kindling, whilst the thicker burn well with a clear flame and a very pleasant smell.
  • Rhododendron: Old thick and tough stems burn well.


More articles on firewood can be found here


Oct 102012
 
scotland flag

You’ve got the land and now want some animals – Who do I need to contact? What are the rules? Where do I get the paperwork? What if something goes wrong?

If you are not interested in keeping animals on your land or smallholding then you probably won’t want to go any further than registering (if at all) your smallholding.

Keeping Livestock

If you are planning to keep animals such as sheep, goats, pigs, hens, and cattle then read on. Different rules apply to different animals. It is complicated – but not insurmountable! 

Is there a difference between a pet animal and livestock?

Do not assume that because your animal (e.g. sheep, micro-pig, goat, alpaca) is to be kept as a pet that these rules do not necessarily apply to you.  Ignorance is not a defence – if in doubt ask your local authority animal welfare officer.

Bureaucracy surrounding the smallholding

The bureaucracy surrounding agriculture and smallholding is a challenge, don’t let it get on top of you, but don’t ignore it either. You are treated by the authorities just the same as the big guys, and will therefore have to comply with all the regulations. It’s not what you came into smallholding for I know, but the good thing is that you are not alone! Local smallholder associations are there to provide support and advice.

 Things to do before you buy animals for your smallholding

‘Any person who keeps animals, or who causes or knowingly permits animals to be kept, must not attend to them unless he has access to all relevant statutory welfare codes relating to the animals while he is attending to, and is acquainted with the provisions of those codes.’

  • It is important that you read and understand the welfare guides/codes of recommendation relating to the animals you intend to keep.  Read more here.
  • You must register your land or ‘holding’ and get a CPH number (a unique code allocated to the land where animals are kept). You need this number before you purchase/acquire/move any animal onto your smallholding.
  • You must get a flock or herdmark number for your livestock (e.g. sheep and pigs)
  • Get the relevant movement documentation for your animal (from the previous owner) and be aware of the regulations around transporting animals. You may need a licence for moving certain agricultural animals (e.g. pigs see below).

Once you have your animals – other things you need to do

  • Your animals must be properly identifiable, with the correct flock or herdmark numbers. Different animals have different tagging rules and some even require electronic identification (e.g. sheep).
  • Poultry and other fowl may require to be registered (see below).
  • You need to keep a register and medications book. Return an annual inventory where requested, and notify a range of agencies depending on the animal and it’s movements (more details below).

Feeding your animals/livestock

Animal feed plays an important part in the food chain and there are rules governing this area. Most smallholders buy bags of animal feed direct from an agricultural supplier which is pre-mixed, however rules do apply about how that feed is stored (and your premises may be inspected to make sure you comply), as well as what different animals can be fed (e.g. pigs cannot be fed anything that has had contact with your kitchen).

You must be registered with your local authority if you;
  • manufacture animal feed,
  • market animal feed,
  • import animal feed,
  • store animal feed,
  • transport animal feed,
  • sell co-products of food industry as animal feed,
  • carry out on-farm mixing,
  • feed food producing animals,
  • grow crops to be used as animal feed.
 Contact your local authority Animal Health Officer for details.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is responsible for drawing up the rules on the composition and marketing of animal feed as well as improving food safety throughout the food chain. This includes improving hygiene on farms and making sure that public health is not put at risk through what is fed to animals.  Food hygiene legislation applies to farmers, growers and other producers, in many cases for the first time as part of the ‘farm to fork’ approach to food safety. There is a question and answer section available on the Food Standards Agency FSA website.

Smallholder paperwork

If you are the owner or occupier of a smallholding, you also need to keep records of animal stock on your premises. This is called a register of the animals on your holding; you should keep a separate register for each holding you use. This register will hold information about your animals, the holding and any movements of animals on or off your holding. You can keep your own records, in any format you wish however, it must contain all the necessary information as set out in the Scottish Government website you can download one from here .

Registering your smallholding

You must register your holding within 30 days from the date you first keep animals.  If you are a new sheep/goat/pig/cattle keeper you must register your holding with your local Rural Payments and Inspections Directorate (RPID) Office.  They will give you a CPH number which is a unique code allocated to the land where animals are kept. The CPH code is used when reporting and recording animal movements.

Where do I get a Flock/herdmark number from?

You must get flockmark/herdmark number for your animals.  This is done by contacting your local Animal Health Divisional Office (AHDO).
They will give you a flockmark (sheep) or herdmark (goats/pigs) for your holding. The flockmark or herdmark is allocated to the holding and must be used to identify all animals born on the holding. Keepers who use the same holding must use the same flockmark or herdmark. You require the flockmark or herdmark to buy identification tags and electronic identifiers (from agricultural shops/suppliers).  You must also inform your local AHDO within 30 days of ceasing to keep animals on a holding.

Movement of animals

What is samu?

You must notify movements of animals on to your holding to the Scottish Animal Movement Unit (SAMU).
SAMU, Government Buildings, 161 Brooms Road, Dumfries, DG1 3ES
Phone: 0845 601 7597, Fax: 01387 274 457
samu@scotland.gsi.gov.uk
When an animal moves, its movement must be recorded in the triplicate movement document (sheep and goats – different rules apply for pigs) and then reported to the Scottish Animal Movement Unit (SAMU) within 3 days of arrival at the holding by the receiving keeper; moves that take place via a Market in Scotland will be notified to SAMU by the Market. The movement document forms the basis of the notification to SAMU. The white copy of the triplicate movement document can be either posted or faxed to SAMU. You can also complete electronic notification of the movement details.

You get your triplicate movement document (sheep and goats) from the RPID office.  All movements from a holding in Scotland (except those for emergency veterinary treatment) must be accompanied by a movement document and sent to SAMU .

Annual inventory of sheep and goats

You must return the annual inventory of sheep and goats sent to you directly by the Scottish Government. They will only know to do this if you have registered your smallholding.

REGISTRATION OF PIG HOLDINGS

Keepers of pigs are required to register holdings where pigs are kept and must maintain records of all pig movements.  Any owner or person in charge of pigs is required to notify the Divisional Veterinary Manager (DVM) at local AHDO office giving details of :
i. name and address of the owner or occupier of the holding
ii. identification number (CPH) of the holding
iii. species of livestock kept, and
iv. to notify the DVM within one month, of any changes to these details

Moving pigs

When pigs are moved a self declaration movement document or a licence issued by the local authority or Divisional Veterinary Manager must accompany the animals on their journey. Where a self declaration movement document is used a copy must be forwarded to the local authority within 3 days. The local authority will in turn notify the Scottish Animal Movement Unit (SAMU) of the details of the movement.
In the event of disease outbreak, the precise location of all livestock is essential for effective measure to control and eradicate highly contagious diseases.
Self declaration movement documents are therefore used to record the details of a movement in instances where keepers move pigs from a farm. The type of declaration to be used (Schedule 2, Schedule 3, or Schedule 4) will depend on the purposes for which the pigs are being moved and the destination to which the pigs are being moved to.
  • Schedule 2: Movement of pigs from a farm form of declaration
  • Schedule 3: Movement of pigs from a farm for breeding, exhibition, artificial insemination, or veterinary treatment form of declaration
  • Schedule 4: Movement of pigs on return to farm after movement from farm for breeding purposes form of declaration
Keepers need to be aware of the requirements being placed upon them when using self declaration movement documents.  No fees are payable. This is simply a notification process with the requirement being to forward a copy of the relevant self declaration to the local authority within 3 days. Tacit consent applies. This is only a notification process so this means that you will be able to act as though your application is granted if you have not heard from the local authority by the end of the target completion period.
Examples of forms can be downloaded from websites below:
Downlodad animal transportation advice and get info on pig movement licences etc from this web page

Do I need to register my chicken?

If you own or keep 50 or more poultry birds then you must register with DEFRA (Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs). This is due to the avian influenza (preventative measures) (Scotland) Regulations 2005.  The poultry register remains open to allow for the continual voluntary registration of premises with less than 50 poultry. Bird species that must registered:
  •      Chickens 
  •      Turkeys 
  •       Ducks     
  •       Geese
  •       Quail     
  •       Emus  
  •       Rheas    
  •       Kiwis
  •      Pheasants  
  •      Partridge  
  •      Guinea fowl 
  •      Cassowaries
You can register with DEFRA by calling free on 0800 634 1112.

Disease in your livestock

Reporting Notifiable Diseases

Many animal diseases are highly contagious and must be reported as soon as an outbreak is suspected. Such notifiable disease include:
  •   Foot and Mouth Disease         
  • Swine Fever        
  •  Anthrax            
  • Rabies
If you suspect signs of notifiable disease, or have a case confirmed, you must report it immediately to: DEFRA Divisional Veterinary Manager, Local Authority Animal Health Officer and Police.  A comprehensive list of notifiable disease can be obtained from the DEFRA website

LOCAL AUTHORITY CONTACT DETAILS

You can find out your local authority animal health officer here.

Animals going to slaughter

Animals going to slaughter require a range of documentation

  • transfer of ownership through your triplicate book (see above)
  • movement licence for pigs (see above)
  • food chain document (see below)
  • you must also abide by the correct transport regulations and use a method of transport that is acceptable (e.g. you may find that an abbattoir might refuse to accept the delivery of sheep or pigs on a horse trailer because there is insufficient side gates which increases the risk of escape).

Food chain information

From 1 January 2010 EU food hygiene legislation required slaughterhouse operators to ‘request, receive, check and act upon’ food chain information (FCI) for all cattle, sheep and goats sent for slaughter for human consumption. 
Read more here.

The ‘five freedoms’.

  • Freedom from hunger and thirst. By access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vision.
  • Freedom from discomfort. By provision of an appropriate environment including shelter and rest area.
  • Freedom from pain, injury or disease. By preventing or rapid diagnosis and appropriate treatment including humane slaughter.
  • Freedom to express normal behaviour. By providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company.
  • Freedom from fear and distress. By ensuring that conditions and treatment avoid mental suffering
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