The Gordon Gnohm

Play along at home, read Future Farmer in The Braidwood Bugle every Wednesday. 

Collecting Firewood

Welcome to winter. No sunshine means my fire has been running night, and day. I love sitting by the fire preparing for missions outside. I also love returning to the fire after completing those missions. Then outside again for a stint. One of those missions outside is usually collecting firewood.

I am the custodian of a beautiful woodland ecosystem. The native trees are plentiful and diverse, with wildlife in residence. It is an endless resource that I intend to keep. I figure if I work with the existing ecosystem rather than fight it and destroy it, the bush will provide.

Fires are a very good way to heat a human and a home, some might say the best way. The sun is better, but it doesn’t always shine, so fire it is. Collecting firewood doesn’t have to be destructive. The ecosystem can be left intact for gliders and other native critters, rather than reducing it to a wasteland. What if the act of collecting firewood could benefit your home?

Early days

We used to collect all the dry wood from around the initial campsite. It was close and easy, but we quickly realised that some of the wood was being processed by nature, so we started to leave it alone. 

Originally firewood came from trees removed for roads, fence lines and house sites. This bounty lasted for many years and was a great bonus for this new Blockie. Occasional expansion still provides the odd tree, but most of our firewood comes from another source. 

What to leave

We have a rule at our place, if you are looking for wood to burn you must make sure it is not habitat. A decaying branch or tree has more lifeforms calling it home than you might imagine. Decaying timber is a vital part of the ecosystem and is the basis for the Soil Food Web.

If a tree drops a limb in the wind, and it’s not near a fence or road, I leave it where it fell. This allows the gums to feed themselves with mulch, so the woodland can build soil and provide habitat. Many benefits come from leaving the fallen timber where it is. Sometimes I turn the log/branch on contour to assist with Basic Passive Land Hydration and soil building.

Leave the big ones

Lots of folk love the challenge of knocking over a big tree for firewood, but it’s a lot of hard work cutting rounds and then later, more work splitting. I prefer to not to cut trees bigger than my hips, for four reasons; 1. Small rounds need less splitting. 2. There are no nesting hollows in smaller trees. 3. I don’t need a BIG chainsaw. 4. It dries out in a year

Sustainable harvest

The popular choice is to collect the easy pickings or to fell a tree completely. Removing the material from the ecosystem and all the benefits it offered. Gone forever. Then in years to come, apply for grants to replant similar trees for endangered critters. It’s a wild cycle to watch.

I leave all the easy pickings on the ground, to make my property more like Monga NP. This invites wildlife, micro and macro, with habitat to set up permanent homes. The more diversity you have, the better your soil and productivity.

Pollard time

For me, choosing a suitable tree is about the end use, outside of the firewood. There are many benefits to pollarding, over the removal of a native tree. Most importantly, the tree stays in the ecosystem, roots and soil intact. Also as important, the pollard tree will outgrow any new seedling.

I chop the trunk at safe working height, between 1m to 2m above the ground. In weeks the gums start to sprout branches all over the trunk. In a year the tree looks like a Dr Suess drawing with a heavy mop of leaves atop a bendy trunk. In 5-10 years, the branch numbers have reduced, what is left has become fat and is ready for harvest again. 

End Use

There are many functions I have discovered since starting this program that now leads my decisions for choosing a new tree to pollard. 


In a grove of trees, I select one or more smaller ones to keep the canopy intact. The trunks will fatten faster to match the other trees, much like Bonsai. I cut the trunk at safe working height and store the firewood for next year. 

A keen eye can create a decent filter to the wind without an obvious row to ruin the view. The idea is to slow the wind, not stop it. Pollarding natives, to fill the gap between the lower scrub and upper canopy, can have quite an effect on the prevailing wind. In only a year after pollarding, the tree will be bushy enough to diffuse the wind. And grow more firewood.

Frost protection

Oil filled leaves perform better in sub zero temps than water filled leaves. You might not notice it if your gums are 20m tall, as the frost falls under the canopy. Reduce your gums to 2m tall and the bushy, oily regrowth will prevent frost nearby. This works so well that gumtrees inside my garden fence have been treated to a pollard. This has extended the warm season in areas of our garden more naturally than a greenhouse could.


There are plenty of natives on our property, but there is not much screening between 1.5-3m to distract the eye from the road, neighbours or fences. To prevent a line of sight I could plant new trees and defend them from the wildlife, or I could pollard a few more natives. 

Adapting a new attitude to my bush block, has provided many new learnings and I’m not wasting energy, time or resources. I still have the wild on my block and it’s helping me to create an oasis on marginal country, halfway up an exposed hill in salty soil. If you have stands of natives on your place, I challenge you to give this a go.

This week

Seedlings are moving slowly, but everything is growing. The living soil under my mulch is still 11C, checked at 10am. Even after a week of no sun, days of cold rain, and frosts. What is your soil temp right now?

Stay Awesome. 

The Gordon Gnohm

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