Mar 13 2012

Firewood in The Stone Age

Published by at 9:28 pm under Expeditions and Experiences

I have been thinking quite a bit about how it was possible to efficiently getting enough firewood for the winter up here. Stone axes and antler axes have not shown to be sufficiently efficient to me. It is worth noting that before getting guns (in America) it was not possible to keep a large number of dogs in the subarctic zone and thus limiting mobility in winter. Women’s winter camp was generally in a fixed location, in a rather well insulated earthlodge, often with several families in it. In Siberia, a similar pattern seems to have been the case before the spread of reindeer husbandry.

This made it possible to save up quite a lot of firewood in advance and three options were particularily valuable I feel:

  • Twigs on standing or downed trees. This method requires frequent collecting of firewood.
  • Beaver sticks provided an abundance of perfect sized wood for the fire. Often high quality hardwood.
  • The remains of burned patches of wood. Natives in most areas burned ares that had a lot of deadwood to rejuvenate them. The leftover unburnt pieces were usually better sized (and without the brush) lengthwise than dead standing trees.

I don’t recommend stripping a beaver lodge or dam to stock up on a winter of firewood. There are usually plenty of pieces laying around in the forests in which they fell trees. Unutilized ones laying on the shore of lakes are also common.

When it comes to setting fires to windfelled forests, it’s a pretty hot affair and I wouldn’t recommend it for someone without previous experience in burning lands… I’m not sure if I’d dare myself, at least close to habitation.

It’s an unusually early spring here. More than a month earlier than normal. There are however many patches of snow left. With the marshes pretty dry this makes for perfect burning conditions. It’s long overdue, with lots of dead material on the ground. I burnt in heavy winds towards a snow drift. Started  with small strips close to places judged to be dangerously close to the forest. The heavy wind helps keeping direction of the fire and it’s easier to extinguish it on the sides.

When the edges of the burn have been established the fire is started in the direction furthest away from the wind in many places and let go. The fire got pretty hot in places, but I’d expect most of even quite small trees to survive. Hopefully the new grass and heather will be attractive to wildlife.

Here is a simple, temporary storage platform that I’ll store skins on while the house is being renovated.

Finally are various scenery pics, two from about a month ago and one from this day.


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