I don’t know what my carbon footprint is. But I do know that I make an effort to keep it small.
Yet, only since we moved from the city and disconnected from mains gas (choosing to heat our house by wood alone) do I know the true metrics of what it takes to “stoke the boilers” in our house for just one year.
It breaks down like this: We burn 4 wheelbarrows of wood a week in the winter to heat our house and do most of the cooking. In the summer we would use just 1 wheelbarrow a week. Winter is 8 months, summer is 4. We have 2 log storage compartments in the woodshed that each take 2 trailer-loads of logs to fill. Each trailer is about 1 tonne of wood. Each compartment lasts about 1 month, so it holds about 16 wheelbarrows.
In terms of volume, one of our storage compartments can hold about two whole 35-year-old ash trees, including the trunk and all the branches that measure up to 20mm in diameter. In a year we use about 5 or 6 trees.
I know that to fell 1 tree, limb it, move it, split it and stack it, is 1 day’s work on my own. This will consume about ¼ of a litre of 2-stroke and half of that in chain oil for the chainsaw. I consume approx. 6 cups of tea and 2 litres of water on the job. The limbing and splitting is done by axe. We need to split and dry all the wood in advance so that we get full energy from the burn and don’t end up drying the wood on the fire.
Indeed, an ash tree takes 1 year to dry enough to burn hot. A sycamore takes 6 months. Hazel and Hawthorne 1 year, oak and beech take upto 2 years or more and rescued driftwood from the river takes 2 months to dry under an airy tarpaulin. Trees take longer to grow than firewood does to season, so deciding what to cut down and planning replanting needs a lot of consideration.
These days, every household has power, heat and water on demand. It wouldn’t be far from the truth to say that most of us probably take it a bit for granted.
Yet by leaving the comfort zone and disconnecting from the mains, the inconvenience, effort, planning and physical preparation I now have to go through has actually reconnected me with exactly what it takes to sustain just me and my little family.