Wartime Wood

Even though the recent gales have caused damage they have brought a harvest. Fallen wood. During the war the art of foraging in forests and parks for wood came to the fore with the rationing of coal. In early spring, those still on the domestic front wood forage for wood. With the recent rise in utility bills and the rise in wood burners, we have seen wood prices rise but there are still gluts out there to take from the forest floor. After the December gales we went out to find wind fall and dry wood on forest floors but there was another source closer to home. 

Harvesting fallen wood.

Our neighbour's stacked wood from their pruned ash trees in the back lane two years ago, and this wood left under a season of weeds came to the surface once more in January as the rose willow herb and wild raspberries that once poked through them dried back to brittle bones to reveal our bounty. One cold, dry morning, we all three picked over this wood pile, hacking out sticks and kindling. We came away with around fifteen large sacks of sawn wood, four bags of twigs and kindling, and there is still more to collect. This wood will last us over a month supplementing our wood pile. We foraged on common land but it is always advisable to ask permission of the land owner before taking something off their land. We also advise that you only take fallen wood and do not cut standing trees. Remember also not to take all the wood, rotting wood on forest floors are home to a variety of bugs, birds, amphibians and bacteria. We left piles of wood behind us to create bug hotels for all of these. Taking fallen wood isn't just about keeping you warm but should also be about how you want to manage a forest or a piece of land. If you take all the wood away then you will have taken away a vital part of the food chain. Like any foraging, common sense should prevail. Take it all and you will inevitably lose out in the long run.

Foraging shouldn't just rural, look to the urban waste.

We haven't just been collecting from rural areas, you'd be amazed what wood is available in rural and suburban areas. We have two large two cubic metre square bags full of pallet wood, wood stripped from roofs, Andrew's parents unwanted decking and gazebo (we even have wood from this to build staging in spring), wood from kitchens, wood from gardens, wood from packing cases. The more you look, the more you will see how much wood we throw away, nowadays we are lucky if we go anywhere without returning with found wood. This isn't an easy lifestyle, and it gives us some insight into what happened to many women and children on the home front during the Second World War, but what it has done for us is to not take things for granted. That includes our heating too

Don't take all the wood, use foraging common sense.

A question that comes up many times on our Facebook Page is what wood is best to burn, and the last word for this should go to Celia Congreve:

The Firewood Poem
Beechwood fires are bright and clear
If the logs are kept a year,
Chestnut's only good they say,
If for logs 'tis laid away.
Make a fire of Elder tree,
Death within your house will be;
But ash new or ash old,
Is fit for a queen with crown of gold

Birch and fir logs burn too fast
Blaze up bright and do not last,
it is by the Irish said
Hawthorn bakes the sweetest bread.
Elm wood burns like churchyard mould,
E'en the very flames are cold
But ash green or ash brown
Is fit for a queen with golden crown

Poplar gives a bitter smoke,
Fills your eyes and makes you choke,
Apple wood will scent your room
Pear wood smells like flowers in bloom
Oaken logs, if dry and old
keep away the winter's cold
But ash wet or ash dry
a king shall warm his slippers by.
You can view more on our #wartimegarden plans on twitter and through the following links:

Wartime Garden: Harvest Festival

Digging for Victory: The Guardian Blog