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Every winter, we look forward to the pleasure of warming our hands and feet by a blazing fire, mesmerized by the dancing flames.
While I don’t have a fireplace or wood stove myself, several of my neighbors do, and the aroma of their wood stoves brings back many childhood memories. There is just something about the aroma of a good fireplace.
When buying firewood, two factors will determine just how hot your fire will be – the kind of wood you use and how well it’sseasoned, according to Doug McLaren, a University of Kentucky Extension forestry specialist.
Wood is made up of air and cellulose (wood fiber). The more air space between the fibers, the less there is to burn. Buying wood with the heaviest/densest per-unit volume will keep your fire toasty.
Osage orange, hickory, black locust, all species of oak, sugar maple and ash produce hot fires; plus they are easy to split.
Yellow poplar, silver maple and red maple provide much less heat per log, but are good for kindling because they catch fire quickly.
Avoid elm, sycamore and sweet gum. They do not produce as much heat and are tough to split because their fibers are so interlaced.
The good firewood species are found in our area, although suppliers sometimes will identify their stock only as “hardwoods” without identifying the species. Be sure to ask your dealer what kind of wood you are buying.
The second thing to look for when buying firewood is how much water is in the wood. Because wood is the product of a living plant, it contains water. The more water in the wood, the less heat it generates when it burns. Ask the vendor if the wood is seasoned.
Fresh-cut wood contains 50 percent moisture and needs six months to a year to dry out enough to burn efficiently. Dry or seasoned wood has a gray appearance on the outside and the ends appear split.
Firewood is sold in a variety of measures. A cord measures 4 feet wide by 4 feet high by 8 feet long. This may be too much wood for the occasional user. Many vendors will price their firewood by the pickup truckload, or will sell in fractions of cords, such as “ricks,” “racks” or “face cords.”
For the warmest fires at the best price, do some comparison shopping before you buy. For more information on firewood, contact Trimble County Cooperative Extension Service at (502) 255-7188.
Michael Pyles is Trimble County’s Cooperative Extension agent for agriculture.