AFR September 2016 Letters

AFR: Your magazine is full of machinery that cuts or chips and hauls, but one machine seems to be missing. It would be a machine that chips from the brush right into a basket or bucket that dumps into a truck. I am referring to all the biomass that exists on our public roads, the forestry roads, and the utility corridors across the province. If one operator could cut, chip, and load while another operator looks after the trucking, then there would be an efficient way to collect all the biomass needed to supply the existing plants in Nova Scotia.

Charles Jess
Yarmouth, N.S.

(Interesting suggestion, Charles. Such a machine would indeed be an efficient way to tap into an underutilized supply of biomass. And since we don’t actually want to promote the growth of vegetation along these corridors, depletion of soil nutrients would not be a concern. But I’m not so sure about the efficiency of trucking that material long distances to large, centralized boilers. Maybe it would be better suited as feedstock for community biogas plants, given that it would contain a considerable proportion of high-moisture leafy matter. We should consult an expert! Thanks for the note. DL)

AFR: I found David Palmer’s story on making charcoal in Mexico interesting. About 15 years ago I discovered a Woodflame barbecue made in Quebec that injects air into a small fire of several 1.5-inch square pieces of hardwood to produce a hot, clean burn. This is in sharp contrast to how charcoal is made by choking off air supply, but the old blacksmith technology is effective. I soon learned that 10 minutes and a quarter tank of gas will provide a year supply of barbecue from birch and maple saplings. It would also be convenient for carpenters who tend to have a good supply of wood scraps.
    We’re now on our second Woodflame barbecue that uses 110 volts or batteries for the small fan. We’ve taken it camping and even slide the grills apart to place a pot directly over its burner. We also have a small single-burner wood-fired camp stove that boils water quickly. On recent visits to MEC and Cabela’s, I discovered different brand barbecues that use the same process. Perhaps the technology is catching on with those of us that like to use wood.

Tim Whynot
Enfield, N.S.

(Thanks for passing on that information, Tim. Sounds like a great product. If I understand correctly, it’s a variation on homemade “rocket” stoves, with forced instead of natural draft. There seems to be a vibrant online community of people advocating these more efficient ways of burning wood. Apparently some progress has been made in introducing better stove designs in the developing world, helping to improve air quality and reduce deforestation. Still lots of room for technological advancement, right? DL)