About Me

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Murlough is cared for as Ireland's first nature reserve since 1967, the fragile 6000 year old sand dune system offers some lovely walks. Due to the reserves wild nature you can discover birds, flowers, butterflies and more, all overlooked by the rounded peaks of the Mourne Mountains to the south.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Firewood Processing

The Set Up

Old faithful, she keeps us warm and dry
Here at Murlough Stableyard, we own a log gasification burner which provides hot water and spacial heating to the offices, the workshops and the volunteer accommodation.The set up consists of a incinerator complete with a downdraft system, which directs gasified wood and smoke into a secondary burn chamber. Here, the gases are ignited, virtually eliminating smoke when running at full tilt.

All of this thermal energy is transferred to a surrounding water jacket which heats up counter-flowing water, which then flows to a nearby tank. The connected water tank is encased within a thick layer of insulating foam to minimise the heat loss. It is this store of heated water that us volunteers so heavily depend upon during the bone-chilling evenings.

From Felled Timber to Seasoned Firewood       The video

 It all sounds complicated but it is essentially a very efficient water heater. Grand you may say and indeed it is. Although you wouldn't think so when you are getting up in the early hours and tending to a smoking fire in the bitter cold. Also, providing the fuel required to run the burner in the first place is no easy task. It can be physically straining and potentially dangerous , seeing as you are using axes, but all of the hard work certainly pays off.

It is not as straight forward as " Look, a prime tree , fell it". After all , if we did we would be left with a field of stumps. In fact, there is a lot of planning and safety orientated surveying before a single tree is cut.
My pride and joy
We carry out annual tree surveys which flag up trees that could possibly be dangerous to the public. The reasons can vary, but usually it is down to the tree being detrimental to the public’s safety, thanks to a heavy lean or rot at the base of the tree. 

Once we have found our tree we would identify the best direction of fall depending on the lean of the tree, the crown’s distribution and neighbouring trees. Then we would clear the immediate area of shrubs and low-lying branches, anything that could get in the way of your escape route. Eventually when the ranger is happy with the situation, he will fell the tree whilst us volunteers stand very, very, very far way and ensure the public do not interfere.

If you want to know how we process our  timber from start to finish, please follow this link to our blog video on YouTube: The video

The  Reasoning Behind it All

Seasoned firewood ready to burn
So why go through so much trouble to find a suitable fuel for heating?

 Well there are certainly a few factors to consider.

Wood fuel that is derived from a sustainable source is virtually carbon neutral. This means that the volume of carbon dioxide that is released during the pyrolisation of the wood, is the same volume that was taken up during the gasses in the atmosphere.

The face of tyranny
In the grand scheme of things, the wood we burn here is essentially carbon neutral, save the emissions given off by a chainsaw and a tractor's engine. Most of the legwork is done by hand (sounds odd?) with muscle power (volunteers) doing most of the work.

Many of the trees that are taken out also contribute to the overall management plan of the reserve. A prime example being the felling and clearing of young Silver Birch ( Betulina pendula). These are a pioneering species, meaning that they will encroach upon a wide variety of terrain and colonise in large numbers. The seeds germinate relatively quickly and then shoots vigorously, in our native climate the grassland can be littered with healthy saplings within a few years.

This, from the perspective of species rich grassland, can spell disaster. Therefore in order to conserve the said grassland the birch trees are cut on a regular basis, within the cutting season of course. The wood itself  also makes respectable fuel, burning fiercely but quickly. In summary, the management of tree species such as the birch is both a benefit for us volunteers and the continuing conservation efforts in Murlough.

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