Oak Reuse

Caveat Emptor– this blog post has nothing to do with technology, learning, spam, WordPress, twitter, or the other junk that makes up the focus here. Its just about what I did with a tree. I could make a stretch and leap to something about learning objects, re-usable content… but that can be an exercise left for the reader.

Now that I am living in Strawberry Arizona, a small town in the middle of a National Forest, at 6000 feet elevation, a number of environment differences are obvious. First, form where I lived before in Scottsdale, the city has a progressive recycling program- paper, cans, bottles, plastic go in a big giant can, it disappears, and we assume it is all recycled. That story is another blog post.

But in a small town, recycling, transporting, etc is likely cost prohibitive. There is a collection for aluminum can at the fire station, and WalMart in Payson takes paper can cardboard. How I hate now tossing glass and soup cans in the trash! And most of my paper has been used for starting fires in the wood stove.

And heat is an issue, cause it gets damn cold; well below freezing December through end of February, and even through May, can get to or below freezing. I have propane heat provided as a utility (flows out of a pipe form somewhere), but propane prices have gone through the roof- the paper from Payson has stories of people closing rooms, lowering the thermostat to 60, and still paying $500/month. The place I am in now is small (less than 900 square feet) so it heat up well, but I’ve been trying to do most of my heat from burning firewood in the wood stove (another issue not mentioned is the effect of smoke on the ozone, or consuming natural resources).

The wood goes fast when you are here all the time, and I can say there is some exercise value to splitting wood and moving if from the pile to the storage area below the deck to the rack on the deck to inside. I’ve taken a few medium/small trees down (one too close to the house or ones the weather got to) so its nice to use my own wood.

A few weeks back I bought from Alex a cord of wood (good lord what a weird unit- “One cord is defined as 128 cubic feet (3.62 m³), corresponding to a woodpile 4 feet wide × 4 feet high × 8 feet long.”) which is really a pile from the back of a truck. When Alex was here he was eying a big oak off the corner of the houe, right between that and my shed. It was maybe 35 or 40 feet high, with branches over the house, and wa honestly of not much use, especially if I ever considered adding a room or a real garage.

Plus, a he told me, the tree was top heavy. These are either Arizona White Oak or Emory Oak (I tried to find the difference, but am not a botany dude and it really does not matter to me). Alex told me the centers of these tree tend to stay soft and absorb water like a sponge for times of lean water. Smart species find a way to adapt to arid conditions. Anyhow, this tree had a huge open hole on one side, so the sun shined in there and dried out most of the bottom of the tree, which was then largely hollow, while the top was still solid and heavy. So the whole tree was top heavy, and possible in danger of falling.

It was a much bigger job than my chainsaw and skills could manage, so I hired Alex to take it down and leave me the wood. He said something about an extra $25 to haul the crown and smaller limbs to the dump, but I said, “woah” I can find a way to use it all. Let’s not add stuff to the dump I can put to use.

So this is how I used an entire oak tree (or will use).

This Old Oak

First of all I got a lot of solid oak firewood. Maybe a 1/4 of a cord was dry enough to split and use right away, and I have another 1/2 cord of giant pieces that need to dry out a year. In the stove it burns long.

Next, look at this stump:
Oak Tree Base
There is no scale, but its about 30 inches across. Inside of it was a lot of soft pulp and chip that was great additive for my compost pile, so I scooped it out. I’m thinking when I plant in May or June, I can fill it with soil and have a nice little flower bed.

Next, I had a huge pile of medium sized branches, limbs with leaves from the crown, that stretched in a pile across the driveway. It at there a few weeks as I was traveling and did not have time to deal with it.

Oak Tree Crown

This is almost the last bit- I did not get a picture of it all, but it was 4 or 5 times as much as you see here. So the job was clipping off the medium sized branches, and stripping the leaves in to bin, and breaking up the medium and small limbs and filling bins. I use these as kindling to start fires on my wood stove.

Shredding the Limbs

Its very tedious, stripping leaves with work gloves, snapping the bare limbs into bite sized pieces.


And I ended up with about 6 bins full of kindling.

There are medium sized limbs that can be clipped with pruners
Needs Cutting

And there are large limbs, some pretty solid, that will need some chainsaw action to cut into pieces small enough to use in the firewood pile:

Bigger Limbs

All of the leaves and twigs stripped from the branches go into the compost/mulch pile where the garden will be, so that will get recycled as I start turning dirt in a few weeks

Where the Leaves Go

So I am using the entire tree- am I actually engaged in permaculture? I dunno, but there is a lot of satisfaction in (a) a few days of physical labor (“real work” not this computer crap); and (b) re-using everything in some new manner.

Not that I want to do this kind of work every day 😉

So that is the story of a big tree I have been working on, disassembling, and redistributing…

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An early 90s builder of web stuff and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person. And he is 100% into the Fediverse (or tells himself so) Tooting as @cogdog@cosocial.ca


  1. A change is indeed as good as a holiday Alan. Recycling par excellence. Similar story here yet nowhere near as resourceful as yourself.

    In order to have some drainage works completed at our home an old eucalyptus tree had to come down. It was a reluctant decision actually, but our ground floor and our neighbour’s ground floor no longer get flooded now. My wife Shao Ping blogged about it here with some photographs.


    As Shao Ping’s post indicates the tree was a haunt for possums. Here are a few photographs of these occasional visitors.


    The tree was massive and require special permission for its removal. We had to plant some more native trees elsewhere to make up for its loss.

    Anyway, the tree came down and the branches were turned into small wood chips to use as mulch on our garden. The neighbours took some as well.The trunk was given to a local woodturner. I kept one cross section of the trunk to take to school so that I could use it to demonstrate dendrochronology to my year eleven ancient history class ~ the art of tree ring dating.

    Enjoyed reading your post. It’s good to branch out now and then, eh?

    John Larkin, NSW, Australia.

  2. John, thanks for sharing your tree story, maybe we now have a meme (2 make a meme?). Wow, that eucalyptus was a huge one; it must have been quite an operation to watch. I think I liked mot how you got an educational ue out if.

    BTW, we have a fair number of imported eucalyptus trees growing here in Arizona.

    Yes, nice “branch”, cheer from across the water.

  3. Alan, thanks for the reply. It was a massive tree and that was why I was reluctant to have it removed. It was magnificent and a place that possums visited from time to time. The local council had a specific name for such outstanding trees ~ I forget what it is. We planted some smaller local varieties in our backyard to make up for its loss.

    I could handle water in our garage but the neighbours were trying to sell their home and each time it rained they would get some water in their garage. A new stormwater drain with a pit would solve both problems so the tree had to come down. It was actually a little dangerous as well.

    We get some runoff from our other neighbours property further up the hill and I am hoping that they will collaborate on a similar stormwater set up on our shared boundary.

    A two person meme is sufficient. ^_^

    Next time you are downunder Alan you can join us on an ‘adventure’. You can use your existing pseudonym and become a ‘member’ of ‘The Adventurers’ Club’. The ‘club’ has been a little quiet since December as one of our fellow founding members, ‘Diamond’, busted his knee on the last day of term.

    The ‘club’ has turned out to be a neat pastoral or collegial entity for staff at our school. Not unlike your tree recycling episode our minds are taken off the day to day stuff and we get to enjoy an environment only minutes from our doorstep. You can read some of our adventure stories here if you like.


    None of the stories mention technology.

    Take care, John

  4. We live a bit out in the country here in Virginia, and in the winter we rely heavily on a woodstove insert to provide additional heat to the house so we can keep the thermostat at a pretty low temp.

    As a result, pictures of piles of kindling resonate very deeply with me. 🙂 My husband, who is a much more gifted firestarter than me, thinks I’m crazy to be as nuts as I am about kindling, but I can’t help it.

    I’m not as virtuous as you, however. Last year, I broke down and asked for a bag of fatwood for Christmas. Erik was mortified that we were actually using store-bought kindling. The good news is that I’m getting better — I can now usually start a good roaring fire with a single piece of fatwood wrapped in a sheet of newspaper. But you’re making me think I need to spend some portion of this summer being diligent about collecting our own kindling from our property. There certainly is plenty to be found if I set my mind to it.

  5. I have to say being a weekend firetarter wa an adventure- doing it every day got old a bit. I keep a box full of paper (no longer need to shred bills), and my fire start with a pile of newspaper balled up, pine cones if I have them, a pile of twigs or thin pieces left from splitting the wood. Sometimes it can take a good 15 minutes to have a solid base I can toss logs in an walk away from.

    When its going good and red hot, its just a matter of keeping some fresh logs in there every hour or two. I let it go through the night, and often it is red hot enough in the morning to start w/0 matches.

    I feel so mountain man, me in a cabin with my interent.

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