December 26, 2015


Chopping and stacking wood

suprise wood-splitChopping and stacking wood is a pastime where the world makes sense once more. Because our relationship to fire is so ancient, so universal, in learning about wood, you also learn about life. And beyond the philosophy, are a host of practical issues.

Assuming you have access to a source of wood – your own or someone else’s – some basic questions you should ask yourself before cutting are:

. Which trees should I cut?

. When is a good time to cut the trees?

. Should I dry, then split, or split the wood first?

. Will I ruin my woods/lot by cutting out trees for firewood?

Before you begin the firewood process, think about all you want from your woods/lot. Cutting firewood works for most owners, but where some trees might be good choices to cut for firewood, others might be left for use by wildlife, or to keep for landscaping or property value reasons.

When you inspect your trees for firewood, you should look for trees with evidence of disease, like cankers, bleeding lesions, and dieback in the crown. Crooked or densely arranged hardwoods often benefit by thinning, and make good firewood.

The trees selected to remain standing, should be clearly marked as “keepers” to help you monitor your progress as a property owner. You might want to take a closer look at trees that are acting as a wind-break, or as a stream or hillside soil retainer. Consult with a forester or arborist to determine if certain trees have a greater value left standing than as firewood.

Plan your firewood removal process to maximize chainsaw safety by planning out which trees to cut first, and to provide room to fell other trees afterward. If you decide to do this yourself, you should work with a partner and keep each other in clear communication and visual contact, to prevent accidents.

Trees with crown dieback may drop major limbs during the cutting process. It is also advised to check and mark trees in the late spring where you can easily see the dead branches against the green emerging leaves.

Also, before you start, you should consult with the city, county or subdivision codes/regulations to make sure that you are not on a variance or there is some other restriction. Checking with utility companies if any poles or lines are in the area is also a highly advisable.

Remember to look up first before you cut. Many trees grown close to, or may fall on electrical or telephone wires and cause serious damage to your property or neighbors. Along these same lines, check and make sure a tree will not fall on fences, water tanks/troughs, outbuildings, etc. before you cut. If any of these situations are present, you should consult or hire a professional.

Indoor wood stoves/fireplaces should be supplied with only fully seasoned hardwoods like sugar and red …

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Cold War launch center for auction on Ebay

There are silos and missile bunkers for sale all over the USA, but California investor Russ Nielsen can assure you that the hardest work is done in reclaiming his Cold War relic.

Earlier this year he and his hired crews unburied the decommissioned “Mike-1” missile control center near Holden, Mo.  It comes with 9 acres of land

After years of navigating intense defense and environmental regulations to establish what is now the first and only privately held Minuteman launch control facility in the U.S, Russ put it straight on the market.

The people who worked here held the keys to 10 of the 150 Minuteman missiles once buried in Missouri. There were as many as 1,000 buried in the U.S., though many of them, including all the Missouri missiles, were decommissioned and buried in the 1990s.

Starting bid, if you’re intrigued, is $265,000.

It’s on eBay, of course.

The Kansas City Star was there earlier this year when the excavation team dug down to the blast doors and learned that they would in fact open — a great relief to Nielsen.

Since then, crews have cleared out the rest of the concrete and rock that buried the facility, pumped out the water, plugged the leaks, put in some lighting and a ladder.

Now Nielsen hopes some of you out there will take a look and imagine the possibilities.

Maybe you want to live “somewhat off the grid,” he said, with a little more than 9 acres of land for crops or livestock and a steel-enforced underground sanctuary for whatever “end times” might come.

Or maybe historical preservation — a Cold War museum — makes good sense, he said. Or an RV park. Or a campground.

Bidding is open until Jan. 2.

“A lot of people shake their head when I talk about what I did,” Nielsen said. “It’s not your ordinary thing to do.”

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Kelvin Griffin stadning in his field on the concrete pads that will house his new solar array

Queensland farmers battle “Ergon rip-off”

State-owned energy companies in Australia are gouging their captive market – farmers and companies that depend on energy to make their profits – and employ tens of thousands of taxpayers..

Three long concrete strips in a Bundaberg cane field mark a personal blow by Queensland farmers in retaliation against State Government-owned utility Ergon Energy’s excessive power prices.

The three strips, which have cost around AUS$20,000 to lay, will provide the hard standing for a solar power system which will take the Griffin family’s 200-acre Bundaberg sugarcane property completely off the Queensland electricity grid.

“This is a direct response to the soaring power prices which have been crippling farmers like us for years now,” said Kelvin Griffin, who runs the farm with his wife Helen and adult children.

“If we used Ergon’s power for irrigation, if we could afford it, we would be putting at least $40,000 to $50,000 a year into this power giant’s pocket. We won’t, and can’t, do that. But we can take our custom away completely and go off-grid. From now on, our power money goes to pay off our solar system, and make us independent of this government-run giant which obviously does not want to listen to farmers and ordinary families who simply cannot afford their huge electricity costs.”

For the Griffins, it means that after battling flood, drought and now low sugar prices, they have to take on a $100,000 debt to pay for the system.

“This decision to take on this debt has been forced on the Griffin operation due to economic negligence by the Queensland Government. Why should people have to buy their own power infrastructure when our gold-plated network has already been funded by their taxpayer dollars”? said Dale Holliss of the Bundaberg Regional Irrigators Group (BRIG).

“The State Government has had the chance to reverse the impossibly high power prices imposed by its 100 per cent government-owned electricity utility, Ergon – rip-off prices which have soared for irrigators by 96pc since 2009,” he said.

In late October, State Energy Minister Mark Bailey said electricity price “surges” were over and praised the Government and Australian Electricity Regulator (AER) as offering “stable” power costs. But he did not accede to Queensland growers” demands to wind back prices.

“Extensive research has shown that reducing irrigators” power prices by 33pc would prove revenue-neutral to the State-owned Ergon operation simply because farmers could then start using its power to irrigate again,” Mr Hollis said.

CANEGROWERS Queensland delivered data and supporting information around the proposed 33pc cut to Ergon CEO Ian McLeod and the Queensland Competition Authority (QCA) in April 2014. No action was taken by the power giant and its regulator.

“By the Government agreeing to leave the prices at so-called stable levels, it is pushing the irrigators to tipping point over whether or not to install their own solar.

“Current power prices are ridiculous and

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