19 February 2008

Firewood and managing forests

France has about 65,000 square miles of forest. That's equivalent to the area of Wisconsin. And it means forests cover nearly a third of the overall surface area of France. It's fairly surprising when you think that the country has nearly 65 million inhabitants and is "only" about the size of Texas (which has "only" 20 million inhabitants).

Last Friday it was very foggy out on the paved road
at the top of the vineyard.

The French forests seem to be pretty strictly managed. There are almost no areas where first-growth forest remains, of course — people have lived on this land forever. Here in Touraine and around the country, patches of forest and woods are cut periodically and then allowed to grow up again. A lot of oaks grow here, but there aren't very many big trees.

I noticed a new "road" cut through the woods and decided
to walk down it with the dog to see where it went.
It turned out to lead to a place being logged.

A lot of people heat their houses with wood, and some do so exclusively. Other houses, like ours, have an oil-fired or electic boiler and radiators in addition to a fireplace or wood-burning stove. Many places we looked at before deciding on this one had no central heat, just a big fireplace. The climate is not harsh, though it does get cold.

Some wood had been cut into one-meter lengths and stacked.

The vineyard we live on the edge of is otherwise surrounded by woods. These are constantly being cut for firewood, and you seen big piles of logs along the sides of little country lanes when you drive around the region. You also see big woodpiles in people's yards and outbuildings.

This is a row of hazelnut bushes along the edge of our
property. Walt has finished trimming for the season.

We have almost burned up all the wood we bought three summers ago. I hope we will be able to find some more to buy this year, but it's not always easy. It's especially not easy to find someone who will deliver several cords of wood to your driveway.

These are the suckers W. cut off the hazelnut bushes.
We'll cut them up and burn them as kindling next winter.

I have to start asking friends, neighbors, and other locals, including the bread lady and the vineyard owners, if they know where I can buy some. And of course I'll ask the guy we bought wood from last time. He does gardening work periodically for our neighbors, and maybe he'll be able to get wood for us and deliver it again like last time.

P.S. I just noticed this article in today's New York Times: "With Oil Prices Rising, Wood Makes a Comeback" — you need to register to read the NYT, but it's free.


  1. Looking at these nice pictures of the "forest", this reminds me of a book( a novel I would say) by Alexandre Dumas (pere) where he wrote about his childhood, the forests and his passion for hunting.

  2. It's true, isn't it, that "forest" in English means something different from what is called a "forêt" in France. At least in North American English, where we have such extensive forests of huge trees.


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