1. Welcome Hearth.com Guests and Visitors - Please enjoy our forums!
    Hearth.com GOLD Sponsors who help bring the site content to you:
    Hearthstone Soapstone and Cast-Iron stoves( Wood, Gas or Pellet Stoves and Inserts)

How long dead?

Post in 'The Wood Shed' started by AJS56, Aug 22, 2012.

  1. AJS56

    AJS56 Burning Hunk

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2012
    Messages:
    217
    Loc:
    Central Lower Mich
    Ok, my first attempt at pic posting here.

    Attached are pics of an old tree that was lying in my woods. It looked to have been down so long (weather worn smooth, brush/saplings growing up in and around it, etc.) that I figured it wold just be all punked out, though the trunk was mostly off the ground, still supported by a few large limbs. Didn't really know what kind it was, etc. One day I was near it and grabbed one of the well weathered limbs and gave it a yank, expecting it to crumble and fall off. To my surprise it was strong and didn't break. So I cut into it and was surprised to find beautiful solid oak under a 1/2" to 1" layer of punkiness. I cut it up and ended up with a lot of nice oak firewood, I would say 1-2 face cords once c/s/s.

    I am curious as to how long this might have been dead/down. The "stump" was pretty well rotted and gone so it seems like it had to be a long time. But the wood inside of the weathered layer was solid and nice. Smelled so good when I cut it! We've only lived here about 4 years, and the neighbors I talked to say its been decades since anyone cut back in there. I don't know whether it might be 10 years, or 50 years. Anyone with more woods experience care to hazard a guess as to how long something like this might have been dead and/or down? Thanks!

    Attached Files:

    Helpful Sponsor Ads!





  2. TimJ

    TimJ Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2012
    Messages:
    1,231
    Loc:
    Southeast Indiana
    AJ, I have seen this a few times myself. I cut some red oak this spring that I said was down 15 years. That was a conservative guess. I believe it to be closer to 25 years.
    Cut other downed trees in the same condition. I just cut up some rounds that were laying for 6 years and 90% of it was perfect. Some did get punky though but very little.

    And as they say here at hearth.com...................nice score
    AJS56 likes this.
  3. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2006
    Messages:
    16,091
    Loc:
    Northern IL
    More than 3 and less than 10.
  4. AJS56

    AJS56 Burning Hunk

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2012
    Messages:
    217
    Loc:
    Central Lower Mich
    Yeah Tim, it seems like 20+ years wouldn't be out of line at all. Looking at the stump, it was so rotten/disintegrated it was barely identifiable as a stump were it not for the trees laying there. When I say trees, it appeared to be two trunks that had been joined at the ground, forming a V or crotch right about at ground level. They had fallen in opposite directions By counting the rings the tree appeared to be 80 or more years old. I was kind of in awe that this tree might have been "born" over a century ago!
  5. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Feb 14, 2007
    Messages:
    27,815
    Loc:
    Michigan
    A guess would be just that: a guess. It must have been a long time as you describe but that does not matter at all. The big point is that the thing was off the ground. Oak will last many, many moons that way as will other wood. Just enjoy the great find you have.

    Looks like a pretty good load on that trailer too.
    AJS56 likes this.
  6. Blue Vomit

    Blue Vomit Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jul 12, 2011
    Messages:
    663
    Loc:
    eastern PA
    I would be interested in the moisture content of that stuff. Do you have a meter?
  7. bogydave

    bogydave Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Dec 4, 2009
    Messages:
    8,426
    Loc:
    So Cent ALASKA
    Been dead "a long time".
    Still will need a year , maybe 2 to season after it's cut, split & stacked off the ground. That outside layer of sap wood holds in moisture.
    Great score of premium wood ;)
  8. AJS56

    AJS56 Burning Hunk

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2012
    Messages:
    217
    Loc:
    Central Lower Mich
    No meter. To me it's always seasoned or not. I usually give it more than enough time as I'm still cutting standing and fallen dead stuff in my woods. And yes, it was a good find that I ignored for a year or two!
    Backwoods Savage, Thistle and ScotO like this.
  9. ScotO

    ScotO Guest

    Okay, I'll throw my hat into the ring too. I'm gonna say that tree has been dead for around 15 years or so. It has probably been on the ground for around 7 of those years, maybe a little less. That tree is some of the best firewood you can get, but I would venture to say that it is going to need some time after being c/s/s before you will get the optimum burn out of it. That's just how oak is, even though it has been dead for ages, it will still have a higher moisture content in it. I'd be curious to see how it burns. Don't get me wrong, it will burn decent now, but you wait a year or so and it will burn excellent. The punk layer is just the sapwood, oak is notorious for having the sapwood punk out, especially if the bark is still on the tree.....
    Backwoods Savage, AJS56 and Thistle like this.
  10. golfandwoodnut

    golfandwoodnut Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2009
    Messages:
    1,427
    Loc:
    Pittsburgh PA
    I have lots of dead Oak like that, the White Oak lasts even better than the Red Oak and that is what it looks like. My guess is it is 20 years dead as the Gypsy Moths Killed many Oaks 20 to 24 years ago. They moved from the East to the West because of a science experiment gone bad to make stronger silk and the bugs escaped the laboratory in New England, I believe. Anyway I bought my property in 1990 and that was the year they hit here and I had to have a plane spray the property with chemicals, so I know it well. They seemed to have killed the ones closer to the power lines than anywhere else on my property, a forest ranger said they were already stressed by the power lines and the Gypsy Moths put them over the edge. If I could get to certain places on my property I could get over 100 cords of that stuff, I am in no hurry as the stuff seems to last forever and if some rots that is ok too.
    AJS56, ScotO and Thistle like this.
  11. Thistle

    Thistle Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Dec 16, 2010
    Messages:
    4,206
    Loc:
    Central IA
    That's the way I like to find my usual Red/Black & White/Bur Oak. Standing snag,little or no bark,weathered silver grey & several long deep vertical cracks.Cut some White last October that was easily 20 yrs gone,really does a number on chains,not unusual to see a spark or two.Even smaller size Red can last 6-7 yrs as deadfall if its not in a wet area.Cut some spring 2011 that I remember seeing get hit in a storm almost 10 yrs ago,with everything else going on I forgot about it until then.Most still quite good,bark long gone & sapwood about 1/2 way there.
    AJS56 likes this.
  12. AJS56

    AJS56 Burning Hunk

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2012
    Messages:
    217
    Loc:
    Central Lower Mich
    Thanks for all the feedback guys. I was just curious about how long it may have been dead purely for curiosity's sake. Since cutting, the rounds have seriousdrying cracks and I will be splitting it in the next few weeks as the evenings cool down. Probably won't burn it until fall 2013, unless we have a way hard winter in which case maybe I might use it in spring 2013.
    ScotO likes this.
  13. ScotO

    ScotO Guest

    Cut these white oaks last winter on the farm (during the little snow we had, I needed to haul them out on my snowmobile). Like GAWN said in his post, the gypsy moths hit them in this area back in the late 80's/early 90's, the trees in these pictures were killed in that period, I suspect. I know for a fact these trees have been dead since I was in my late teens, I remember seeing them go through the different stages of decomposition (limbs dropped, bark loss and sapwood loss) over the years while hunting on the farm. I had been wanting to get these two oaks for several years, but there was always something that come up. They were in a very hard spot to get to (only accessible by snowmobile, the neighbor doesn't want UTV's or ATV's on the property), so when I had a chance with that tiny bit of snow last year, I went and got 'em.....


    Whiteoak2-1-1.jpg Whiteoak6-1-1.jpg Whiteoak3-1-1.jpg Whiteoak1-1-1.jpg 2012-01-22_15-45-29_100.jpg 2012-01-22_16-50-50_576.jpg
    AJS56 likes this.
  14. AJS56

    AJS56 Burning Hunk

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2012
    Messages:
    217
    Loc:
    Central Lower Mich
    Yeah, that trailer load was one of 3 that I got from these trees. Many of the rounds were big enough that I used the FEL to put them on the trailer.
  15. AJS56

    AJS56 Burning Hunk

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2012
    Messages:
    217
    Loc:
    Central Lower Mich
    Thanks for sharing those pics. I love being in the winter woods, with some snow, but not too deep. But you have to watch your footing!
    ScotO likes this.
  16. Shadow&Flame

    Shadow&Flame Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2011
    Messages:
    788
    Loc:
    Central Arkansas
    Nice find...they will suprise you sometimes. The bugs and weather down here wont let them last long...:(
    AJS56 likes this.
  17. golfandwoodnut

    golfandwoodnut Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2009
    Messages:
    1,427
    Loc:
    Pittsburgh PA
    i cut a few this summer, the bugs are the only bad thing as the woodpeckers pound holes and bugs are in the cracks. Some juicy spiders in there, but I am sure by winter they are gone once split. I burned some in the firepit recently and that Oak can burn for a long time. I still had some flames 10 hours later.
  18. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Feb 14, 2007
    Messages:
    27,815
    Loc:
    Michigan
    I really find it interesting all the chatter about the gypsy moth damage. We had them really bad in the late 80's. However, worry as most of us did, I know of no tree that was killed from the moths. Perhaps it was because they moved away faster? I'd really be interested to know.

    I recall the year they left. It was the third year. It was either late May or early June when we had to go to town to fix a hydraulic line and a mile from our house the road was completely covered with them. Never saw anything like it. You could not see the road! We ran over thousands that day. Since then, we see only an occasional worm or moth. Good riddance!
  19. golfandwoodnut

    golfandwoodnut Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2009
    Messages:
    1,427
    Loc:
    Pittsburgh PA
    I do not know if it is the same for you but we used to always get tent worms in the cherry trees, once the gypsy moths came we hardly ever see any. We had a few this year. We are loaded with Oak trees here and that was their main target, we didn't have any problems with any other trees. If you remember they layed the eggs about chest height in the Oak Trees. Since the big wave went through I do not remember seeing them, but the first wave was something I hope not to see again. On the edges of Highways (like our Turnpike) and power lines it seemed to really kill a lot of trees. I remember driving on the turnpike and see thousands of dead trees.

Share This Page