When Life Hands You Lemons-Make Maple Wood Chunks
11/Sat/11 - 21:37 Filed in: Lessons Learned | Smoking Tip
Once again events outside my control have kept me away from the grill and smoker. Those of you who live in the Northeast know all about the October Nor’easter that tore it’s way up the coast on October 29th of this year. Here in Massachusetts this was the earliest we’d ever gotten this much accumulating snow. Now normally 8” of snow is not a problem around here. But where this snow storm was nearly a month earlier than normal, the leaves were still in the trees. The snow was of heavy wet, sticky variety. It stuck to everything. It that wasn’t enough, try throwing in strong winds with gusts in the 40’s. The forecasters had warned of power outages and my lights were out only 2 1/2 hours into the storm. Normally I have lots of branches come down from the 100 foot plus pine trees in the woods in my backyard, but strangely not this time around. For this storm it was primarily the hardwoods, which still had their leaves, that took the majority of the damage. Around here we were without power for 4-5 days, but fortunately it got into the 50’s about a day after the storm. So for most folks in the state, they didn’t have to worry about their pipes freezing due to lack of heat. The big problem, which has kept me busy for 8 days straight after the lights caee back on was tree damage. But this problem is also an opportunity.
The aftermath of the storm was very low key for me. 6 branches, all 10’ (3 m) long or less came down. Also when the lights came back on I had to throw out everything in the refrigerator. My parents weren’t so lucky. They have six 50 year old maples in their yard which suffered massive damage. All the trees lost substantial branches, some 12” (30.5 cm) in diameter. A tree planted by the town in the front yard next to the street lost over half of it’s branches. The power came back on 10 days ago. For the 8 out of the last 9 days in a row, I have been over at my parents house working with my dad to clean up the downed limbs. The amount of branches down is staggering. The grass under the 6 maple trees is covered with huge piles of branches about 3’ (1 m) high and extending out in a circle the radius of the tress crown-or at least it’s former crown. The picture at the start of this blog is the plle of branches on the left side of the town tree. This pile extended at this height in a circle around the tree. The street side had been cleared by the town when this photo was taken, 4 days after the storm, The other 5 trees in my parents yard had similar piles surrounding them as well. Some of the branches are over 25’ (7.66 m) long and, as I mentioned, up to 12” (30,5 cm) in diameter. We cleaned up the front yard first and piled everything on the grass next to the street to make hauling it away easier.
After a week spent on the front, we finally were able to move on to the backyard. For the back yard I drove my pickup out back and we’ve been filling it with chopped and bundled debris and bringing them out near the street. Maybe I was tired, maybe I am slow or perhaps it is because I have pine branches in my own yard, but I’d never thought of the potential benefits of these downed branches. These are all maple branches. I suddenly realized that by setting aside some of the best logs and branches, I’d have a free supply of maple logs for my fireplace and maple chunks for smoking. I will admit my spirits were flagging when we reached the back yard, which was in worse shape than the front yard that had taken us a week to finish. But the thought of an abundant supply of firewood and wood chunks lifted my spirits. I estimate I will get at least a winter’s worth of fireplace logs and 10 years worth of large branches which can be used for wood chunks for my CG. I just need to bring them back to my house and find a dry place to store them.
My mood improved considerably when I started setting aside select branches for use as maple wood chunks. I need to let them dry out and then cut them to size and take the bark off with a band saw.
Actually this might come in handy in a situation where there was tree damage where you live. Around here folks were cutting the branches up and stacking the wood up in piles according to size. You might be able to drive around and find some good wood that people might be happy to let you have for free and all you have to do is haul it away. It is a Win Win because it is less wood for them to dispose of and the price is right for you.
So if life serves you up some lemons-make some wood chunks!
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