Tuesday, February 23, 2010

New Fave

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robinia_pseudoacacia describes a new favorite tree. Well, it's been a favorite for a long time, at a distance, when it blooms in the spring, but I'd never learned to know it up close.

Out of the depths of the woodshed, which housemate DK had stacked late last winter from the huge mixed piles our arborist friend accumulated over at the woodlot, came a supply of wonderful wood to see us through this especially cold winter.

With housemate DK, at first, and then WWOOFer KK more recently, doing most of the woodstove "work", I didn't really pay much attention to what was going into the woodbox, just what was coming out of the stove: HEAT.

But with DK having moved on to new digs in town, I get more opportunities to poke at the fire, and I started noticing this wood in the wood box. Deep furrowed, solid bark over yellowish-grayish, dense heartwood, it reminded me a bit of hedge. Certainly it was nearly that heavy in weight. And in the woodstove, it behaved like hedge: catapulting showers of sparks like the 4th of July out the door as I pushed the coals around. Not quite as intense in the pyrotechnic department as hedge, but definitely enough to get your attention. Another thing I noticed was the particularly pleasant smell of the woodsmoke from it.

It was certainly not nice, quiet, dependable, bland oak. And it was a trifle too lightweight, and too pale a color, for hedge. The tree had been reasonably good sized, not some odd little foreign ornamental cut out of yard.

I finally got a chance to ask the arborist the other day. Turns out it's Black Locust, the same tree whose fragrant, white trusses of flowers enchant me in early summer in certain groves along my bus route.

A real dilemma: I would love to grow it here at the farm for firewood, especially because it grows back quickly from the stumps in a sustainable production method called "coppicing". But apparently it's toxic to livestock, and invasive in some situations.

But no thorns. Fixes nitrogen. Fragrant, showy flowers. And fabulous wood that grows quickly. Worth thinking about.

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