Researchers extract sap from maple saplings

Smaller maple trees could be used to produce syrup with a new system being researched in Vermont. Photo by Bethany M. Dunbar

Smaller maple trees could be used to produce syrup with a new system being researched in Vermont. Photo by Bethany M. Dunbar

by Tena Starr

copyright the Chronicle 11-27-2013

Researchers at the Proctor Maple Research Center have stumbled onto a new way of sugaring that could revolutionize the most rapidly growing agricultural industry in Vermont.

Instead of getting 100 taps per acre, it would be possible to get 5,000 or more.  Instead of getting roughly 40 gallons of maple syrup per acre, it would be possible to get as much as 400 gallons per acre.

It would be possible, in other words, to have a prosperous sugaring operation on a single acre of farmland.

The idea is that saplings could be “tapped,” either in a regenerating sugarbush, or in a densely planted field.

Four years ago, Tim Perkins and Abby van den Berg at the Proctor Maple Research Center set out to study how sap flows in maple trees when a vacuum system is employed.  Vacuum sucks sap out of a tree rather than letting it flow at its natural, and much less predictable, rate.

Normally, in a thaw, sap flows downward through the tree.

“But if you’re on vacuum, you continue to get sap out of a tree after that process stops,” Mr. Perkins said.  “The only logical conclusion was that we were pulling sap up out of the ground.”

If that’s the case, then the top of the tree isn’t necessary to get a sap run, Mr. Perkins noted.  So, to test the theory, he and Ms. van den Berg lopped the top off a sapling, attached a plastic bag with a piece of tubing to the top of the stump, and sucked the sap out with vacuum.

It worked.  It worked so well, in fact, that, after four years of research, Mr. Perkins has concluded they discovered a whole new way of making syrup — one that could protect the industry from climate change and Asian longhorned beetles, allow new sugarmakers to get into the business despite prohibitively high land prices, and permit existing operations to expand.

A new sugarmaker could plant a closely spaced plantation of maple saplings.  A sugarmaker already in business could end up “tapping” the saplings that have grown up in his woods instead of clearing them out.

“There’s no question it works,” Mr. Perkins said.  “We generally don’t like to talk about things unless we know they’re going to work.  We spent four years looking at this before we began talking.  You can certainly make considerably more syrup per acre than with the standard method of sugaring.”

The only problem is it’s not yet possible to sugar such a plantation.  That’s because the device needed to get sap out of a sapling doesn’t exist — at least not on a large scale.

Mr. Perkins said the researchers made the equipment they used by hand, but no one would want to make enough for an entire plantation.  “It’s the same as if you had to whittle your own spouts,” he said.  “You wouldn’t want to make 5,000 or 6,000 of them.”

The device that’s missing is the plastic bag with the piece of tubing that would connect to the rest of the system.  “You need to get that sap out of the bag,” Mr. Perkins said.  “You can’t do it now because the devices to pull out the sap aren’t available commercially.”

Manufacturers have been approached and expressed interest, but at the moment no one is producing the piece needed for such a sugaring operation, Mr. Perkins said.

“We’ve spoken to manufacturers very briefly,” he said.  “Our next step is to start meeting with each manufacturer, describing it in more detail, and seeing if they want to start working with us.”

Among longtime sugarmakers, the procedure has generated good-natured cautiousness.

“When I saw it my immediate opinion was that’s crazy,” said Bucky Shelton of Glover, who has sugared for 35 years and is a sales and service man for Lapierre USA in Orleans.  “But if you put your mind into the future then it’s probably an interesting way to do this.  I’ll say one thing, you don’t have to worry about the wind blowing them down.  “It’s more secure as far as environmental problems go.”

Wind is a major threat to sugarmakers, and storms have been increasing, Mr. Shelton said.  He’s still cleaning up his own sugarbush, which was hit by a windstorm in May.

Jacques Couture, chairman of the Vermont Maple Sugarmakers Association, also a longtime sugarmaker, agrees that plantation sugaring could be a defense against increasing threats.  For instance, the hurricane of 1938 wiped out many mature sugarbushes, setting the business back years, he said.

“Some of the older sugarmakers talked about that.  All these beautiful sugarbushes got completely mowed down.”

“I don’t see myself doing it anytime soon, but it’s interesting,” Mr. Couture said.  “If we had some kind of major disaster, a lot of people would look at this seriously.”

That’s one of Mr. Perkins’ points.  Vermont’s sugaring industry, thriving right now, is whim to weather and pests, as is any agricultural venture.

The Asian longhorned beetle isn’t yet in Vermont, but it’s been found in neighboring states, and currently there are infestations in Massachusetts, New York, and Ohio.  It’s a serious threat to maples and other hardwood species, but it doesn’t like little trees, Mr. Perkins said.  They’re big beetles, and they like big trees to bore into, he said.  Saplings just don’t appeal to them.

And, 50 years down the road, as the temperature warms, smaller maples will be more likely to produce syrup.  Being smaller, they freeze and thaw quicker, allowing for more sap runs.

“In the projected environment we’re going to have 50 years from now, smaller trees will probably be better suited for sugaring,” Mr. Perkins said.

The ideal maple for plantation sugaring would actually look more like a bush than a stately 100-year-old maple.  Two-inch stems are optimum, Mr. Perkins said.  A single stem works fine — for a while.

The first year the top would be cut off to get the sap run.  Each year another six to 12 inches would be cut off the top of the stem to get the sap running.  But with a single stem, “eventually, you’re going to get to ground,” Mr. Perkins said.  A sapling with multiple stems, on the other hand, could last a very long time.

At the moment, the cost of production, for a variety of reasons, works out about the same as for a traditional sugarbush, Mr. Perkins said.

“Where this new method starts to get better is if you can plant saplings that have the genetics to be sweet trees,” he said.

And work has been done on developing particularly sweet varieties of maples, Mr. Perkins said.  Individual trees vary in sugar content, he said, and researchers were breeding for sweetness.  That work came to an end when reverse osmosis was introduced, he said.  Reverse osmosis removes some of the water from sap before it’s boiled, thus “sweetening” it and reducing boiling time.

“If we can increase the sugar content of sap to 3 percent, you’d go from 400 gallons an acre to 600 gallons,” Mr. Perkins said.

A plantation of particularly sweet trees would significantly cut the cost of production.  “If we could breed sweet trees and grow them fairly quickly,” the economics would be quite different, Mr. Perkins said.

The cost, and availability, of land is also a factor in sugaring today, he said.  “In Vermont right now about 50 percent of the optimal land for sugarbushes is being used for sugarbushes,” he said.  “The rest of it is mostly tied up.  There’s still land available, but it may not have the highest density, or people don’t want sugaring there.  This provides another option for people to continue to grow their operation.”

The idea of plantation sugaring, turning what is currently a semi-wild crop into a farm crop, causes some sugarmakers to raise an eyebrow — and laugh a little.

“It’s not too romantic,” Mr. Shelton said.  “One of my first thoughts was, boy, this is pretty far from tradition.”

“It does change the image if it becomes a cornfield type of thing, or sugarcane type of thing,” Mr. Couture said.

No, cutting the tops off saplings is not a traditional notion of sugaring, Mr. Perkins said.  “But, unfortunately, the traditional image doesn’t represent the reality of what’s out there.  We don’t have people walking around with horses anymore.”

He said he doesn’t see the new way of sugaring replacing the traditional methods anytime soon, although it could augment some operations and buffer the entire industry against disaster.

So far, the reaction from sugarmakers has been generally positive, Mr. Perkins said.

“I’m definitely open to seeing how it works,” Mr. Shelton said.  “They’re thinking out of the box, and I think we need to think out of the box for the future.  Everything old school is just getting uprooted.  It’s important to be thinking in these terms.”

Steve Wheeler at Jed’s Maple in Derby, which produces organic syrup and maple products, said he had not yet even heard about sugaring maple saplings.  “We’re set up so traditionally here that it’s kind of a shock,” he said.

He said he hasn’t formed an opinion, but sees no reason why sugaring in a whole new way wouldn’t work.  “I don’t see why you can’t approach it like traditional farming.”

Mr. Wheeler said he has great respect for the UVM researchers.  “Proctor has some really neat ideas,” he said.

contact Tena Starr at tenas@bartonchronicle.com.  For more free stories like this one, see our editor’s pick category on this site.  We hope these will interest you enough to make you want to subscribe to our online or print editions.

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Circus Smirkus zoning permit is appealed

Brin Schoellkopf hovers above the tight wire.

Brin Schoellkopf hovers above the tight wire, in a Circus Smirkus show.  Photo by Joseph Gresser

by Bethany M. Dunbar

copyright the Chronicle November 20, 2013

GREENSBORO — Circus Smirkus’ local zoning permit, which allows it to move its camp to Greensboro Village, has been appealed to Vermont Environmental Court.

No trial or hearing dates were set after a telephone conference Monday because the project will also need an Act 250 permit.

Once that permit application is filed, the Act 250 case and the local zoning case will most likely move forward in a bundle, according to Mark Hall, the lawyer representing the circus.

Meanwhile, the show must go on — and so must the camp.  It will, in Burke. Continue reading

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In the UTGs: Has industrial wind worn out its welcome?

UTG webby Paul Lefebvre

copyright the Chronicle 11-13-2013

ISLAND POND — Seneca Mountain wind developers stuck their head in the lion’s den here Monday night, and the lion roared back.

Eolian Renewable Energy is proposing a 20-turbine project for Seneca Mountain that would be sited exclusively in the town of Ferdinand, a small, sprawling community and a member of the Unified Towns and Gores (UTG). Continue reading

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Examining the crossroads of bullying and social media

Irasburg Village School students wore blue to take part in “Stomp Out Bullying,” on October 7.  October is National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month.  To signify its importance, STOMP Out Bullying created Blue Shirt Day, which is the World Day of Bullying Prevention.  Pictured, sitting in the front row, from left to right, are:  Mia Moore, Harley McCormick, Holden Lefebvre, Brody McDonald, Chase Monfette, Owen Brochu, Hutch Moore, and Dominick Daigle.  Sitting in the back row are:  Katelyn Turgeon, Abby Mcdonald, Sam Fecher, Thomas Annis, Ava Carbonneau, Joey Annis, Ryan Moulton, Seth Moulton, Tyson Horn, Hunter Baraw, Cy Boomer, and Zachary Rooney.  Standing in the front row are:  Dominick Fontaine, Bronson Smith, Logan Verge, Freddie Moore, Tyler Goodridge, Wyatt Gile, Rosie Fecher, Abigail Moore, Nicole LaFratta, Madison Berry, Mckenna Cartee, and Isaiah Brochu.  In the next row are:  Alyssa Butler, Byanna Palmer, Nicole Parrish, Hunter McElroy, Peyton Lackie, Garrett Labounty, Tyler Young, Keira Butler, Kaylee Jewer, Harlee Miller, Nicole Dutton, Mercedez Hodgdon, Dakota Jones, Taylor Schneider, and Michael Kittredge.  In the next row are:  Beverley Hall, Tyler Jewer, Dillon Stebbins, Josh Cole, Dinah Daigle, Glen Cartee, Drew Drageset, Connor Lanou, Dawson Stebbins, Emma Downs, Denise Goodridge, Seraphina Fecher, Abigail Bromley, and Sarah Cousino.  In the last row are:  Desiree Ouellet, Tucker Wilson, Jordan Fecher, Kiara Hodge, Brendan Dutton, Cody Lanou, Garrett Gile, Jacob Young, Nick Young, Maureen Currier, Emily Wells, and Francis Annis.  Photo courtesy of Paul Simmons

Irasburg Village School students wore blue to take part in “Stomp Out Bullying,” on October 7. October is National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month. To signify its importance, STOMP Out Bullying created Blue Shirt Day, which is the World Day of Bullying Prevention. Pictured, sitting in the front row, from left to right, are: Mia Moore, Harley McCormick, Holden Lefebvre, Brody McDonald, Chase Monfette, Owen Brochu, Hutch Moore, and Dominick Daigle. Sitting in the back row are: Katelyn Turgeon, Abby Mcdonald, Sam Fecher, Thomas Annis, Ava Carbonneau, Joey Annis, Ryan Moulton, Seth Moulton, Tyson Horn, Hunter Baraw, Cy Boomer, and Zachary Rooney. Standing in the front row are: Dominick Fontaine, Bronson Smith, Logan Verge, Freddie Moore, Tyler Goodridge, Wyatt Gile, Rosie Fecher, Abigail Moore, Nicole LaFratta, Madison Berry, Mckenna Cartee, and Isaiah Brochu. In the next row are: Alyssa Butler, Byanna Palmer, Nicole Parrish, Hunter McElroy, Peyton Lackie, Garrett Labounty, Tyler Young, Keira Butler, Kaylee Jewer, Harlee Miller, Nicole Dutton, Mercedez Hodgdon, Dakota Jones, Taylor Schneider, and Michael Kittredge. In the next row are: Beverley Hall, Tyler Jewer, Dillon Stebbins, Josh Cole, Dinah Daigle, Glen Cartee, Drew Drageset, Connor Lanou, Dawson Stebbins, Emma Downs, Denise Goodridge, Seraphina Fecher, Abigail Bromley, and Sarah Cousino. In the last row are: Desiree Ouellet, Tucker Wilson, Jordan Fecher, Kiara Hodge, Brendan Dutton, Cody Lanou, Garrett Gile, Jacob Young, Nick Young, Maureen Currier, Emily Wells, and Francis Annis. Photo courtesy of Paul Simmons

by Natalie Hormilla

“I wish that I could put a scrambler over my building that would not allow any airwaves to come in and out during the day,” said Lake Region Union High School Principal Andre Messier. 

He made that comment during a phone interview Monday on the topic of cyber bullying.

Sometimes cyber bullying happens only online — as in a “comments fight,” or nasty e-mails — and sometimes there’s an instance of a real incident continuing to live online.

Such was the case recently when an argument between students at the Orleans Elementary School was posted online.

The incident occurred while students were on the way home from school and involved a group of middle schoolers and at least one younger student. 

What most agree was basically an argument between kids generated much attention because videos of it were posted online, and it appeared to some that a young black girl was targeted by an older white boy.

Orleans Elementary School Principal Kim Hastings conducted an investigation into the argument, which took place off school grounds last month, she said in a phone interview Monday.

“It was a just a verbal fight amongst middle school kids,” Ms. Hastings said.  “There were inappropriate things said all around by the kids, and what happens is that they all got mad.”

Social media has exacerbated bullying, Mr. Messier said. 

He has been an educator for 22 years, so he’s been on the front line of handling social media issues with students as they have become more prevalent and more complex.

“Back in our day, it was passing notes and throwing them in people’s lockers…now everything is so immediate and so much out into the world,” Mr. Messier said.  “You know, you post something and it’s not just that one person you’ve written this note to, it’s public.”

Because of the public nature of the Orleans incident, many people learned about the fight, which some did consider to be a case of bullying.

At least one of the students recorded two videos of the incident and posted them on Facebook.  Then an account of the story appeared in a local newspaper. Continue reading

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Hungry Vermonters face cuts in aid

hunger web

Joe Patrissi at the NEKCA food shelf. Mr. Patrissi said it was fully stocked on Monday morning, but demand is great, and a few hours later several of its shelves were bare. Photo by Tena Starr

Years ago, Kim Arel found herself in a tough spot.  She had two young children to feed, and for a brief time the only way to swing that was to visit a food shelf.  “I was surprised to see other people there that I didn’t think I would,” she said in a recent interview.

Later, when she was in a better place, Ms. Arel decided to pay it forward, and became a donor to food shelves herself.  And for the past 12 years or so, she’s been running the food shelf in Jay, which serves five towns.

Last week, she said, many of her clientele were talking about the latest round of cuts to 3SquaresVT, the program that helps poor Vermonters put food on the table.  “They don’t know what they’re going to do.”

Those cuts, which will take effect on November 1, are due to the expiration of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding, which passed in 2009 and included a temporary increase for help with food through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).  The temporary boost increased the monthly SNAP benefit by 14 percent. Continue reading

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Moose harvest lagging at mid-season

Barry Adams of Lyndonville hunting with his father, Dave, shot this 442-pound cow in Wheelock Monday morning.  Photo courtesy of Cedric Alexander

Barry Adams of Lyndonville hunting with his father, Dave, shot this 442-pound cow in Wheelock Monday morning. Photo courtesy of Cedric Alexander

by Paul Lefebvre

BARTON — Halfway through the 2013 season and the moose harvest is running about 40 percent behind last year’s figures at this time, according to biologist Cedric Alexander of the state’s Fish and Wildlife Department.

Early estimates suggest that 115 moose had been taken as of Monday night, said Mr. Alexander, the department’s moose biologist who was at the Barton reporting station Tuesday.

Mr. Alexander attributed the trailing harvest to a reduction in permits — about 30 fewer than were issued a year ago.

A hunter not included in the mid-season report was Chris Manges of West Burke, who shot a 622-pound cow Tuesday in Craftsbury.

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Roger Pion shown competent for trial

Attorney David Sleigh (left) represents Roger Pion in Orleans Superior Court.  Photo by Joseph Gresser

Attorney David Sleigh (left) represents Roger Pion in Orleans Superior Court. Photo by Joseph Gresser

by Bethany M. Dunbar

NEWPORT — A new examination of Roger Pion’s mental health shows that he is currently competent to stand trial, attorneys and Judge Howard Van Benthuysen heard in the criminal division of Orleans Superior Court Tuesday.

His new lawyer, Chandler Matson, asked for some time to prepare for a trial.  He is the third attorney on the case and said he does not have all the records yet.  He said he is 60 to 70 percent up to speed.

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Passenger train might come to Island Pond

Kato's Railroad

copyright the Chronicle, October 9, 2013

by Paul Lefebvre

ISLAND POND — For two private developers who would like to start a nighttime rail passenger service between Montreal and Portland, slow is beautiful.

The working name for the project is train-hotel, and in a special meeting here Tuesday with Brighton Selectmen, Francois Rebello of Montreal and Richard Bennett of Biddeford, Maine, laid out a business proposal that would warm the heart of nearly everyone in a town that the railroad put on the map.

Essentially, the pair want to put evening passenger trains on three different routes, all linking Montreal to New York.  Initially, the trains would run for three months, starting in the summer.

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What drives the price of firewood?

These are some of the logs from David Poirier’s woodpile in Barton, familiar to drivers along the Barton-Orleans Road.  Photo by Natalie Hormilla

These are some of the logs from David Poirier’s woodpile in Barton, familiar to drivers along the Barton-Orleans Road. Photo by Natalie Hormilla

by Natalie Hormilla

The price of a cord of green firewood is running about $185 this year, about the same as last year. It’s a price that’s mostly determined locally — at least compared to other home heating fuels, like oil or propane. It reflects the cost of pulpwood and fuel, and the weather, to name some of the factors that figure into the annual cost of cordwood.

And it’s a price that hasn’t fluctuated much for long stretches of time, although there was a dramatic leap around the turn of the millennium.

Back in 1970 or 1971, when he first started logging, David Poirier of Barton charged $50 a cord. Today he’s asking $185, but for years the price did little more than creep up.

Michael Moore of Brownington is selling firewood for $170 a cord this year, the same as last.

Mr. Moore said he’s been logging, or at least involved in it, since he was four years old. “I used to ride the horse, the skid horse,” he said.

While a number of factors affect the price of firewood, one in particular is weighty:

“The pulp wood market — it’s what the mills are paying for the wood,” Mr. Moore said. “The pulpwood market is what drives the price. You’re not going to buy firewood that’s cheaper than pulpwood. It can make a difference of $10 a cord on firewood, very easily.”

Mr. Poirier agrees.

Mr. Poirier logs with his son and partner, Jeff, and they cut about 600 cords of wood per year. He said mills can determine the price that they’re willing to pay, notify the loggers they work with through the mail, and therefore control the price of firewood through supply and demand.

“When the demand is there to make wood products, they’ll raise the price,” he said. “It might be for three months, but if it’s worth $150, and they decide they need a bunch of stuff, they’ll raise it to $175. They pretty much determine all that stuff.

“They’ll raise their prices so they can get more of it. It gives more incentive to the loggers to say the hell with the firewood.”

Mr. Poirier also pointed out that the pulpwood market is a year-round market for loggers, and therefore an important part of their business.

“Pulp is what you make toilet paper out of, writing paper, anything that you do that you write on, is all made of pulpwood, whether it’s hardwood or softwood,” Mr. Poirier said.

The pulpwood market can change quickly, too. “A big outfit might need 100 tractor-trailer loads of Scott paper towels, but then the market might change and they say they only need 20,” he said.

Those changes have an immediate effect on the price of firewood.

“Say your wood at the mill just drops like heck,” Mr. Poirier said. “Course that’s going to affect the price of your firewood. If you don’t drop the price of your firewood there’s people out there that will do it just to cut you out of the picture. Just like the stock market, you keep an eye on it very closely.”

The price of firewood is relatively stable, he said.

“It usually doesn’t fluctuate too much. Last year, we were selling for $190 and we actually went down to $185, because there are a lot of cutthroats out there. We should be getting $200 now, but there are so many people out there doing it for easy money, and people see that.”

“I’d say, it doesn’t usually fluctuate more than five bucks a year,” he said. “Sometimes ten, but that’s rare.”

Mr. Poirier and Mr. Moore both said that the price of gas and oil affect the price of firewood.

“Everything we run is fuel related, and fuel is $3.50 a gallon right now,” Mr. Poirier said. “The more you pay for fuel and repairs and all this, it all fluctuates like that. So the cost of fuel means it costs more money to produce the cord of wood.”

Mr. Poirier said that when he first started logging over four decades ago, fuel was only a quarter a gallon.

“So that makes a big difference,” he said. “Hydraulic oil over the last ten years has doubled in price.”

“It’s expensive, period,” he said, about the cost of producing a cord of wood. “All your expenses to get it out, whether it be fuel or whatever.”

Mr. Moore also cited the rising cost of fuel, and the equipment itself, as drivers of the cost of firewood.

In 1980 he sold green, cut and split wood, delivered, for between $50 and $55.

“In 1980, I could buy the best saw around for $200,” he said. “Now it’d be $2,000, or $1,500 anyway. We were buying chainsaw gas for 50 cents a gallon and diesel fuel for 40 cents a gallon,” he said.

He also pointed out that just about everything under the sun is more expensive over time.

firewood price chart chronicle classifiedsHe also said that delivery, and where the logger and customer are located, add to the cost. He said it’s hard to compete with people who are closer to their customers, so that makes a difference in price — by up to about $5 a cord, he said.

“Who’s near you and who ain’t?”

Mr. Moore also touched upon a bigger-picture factor that he believes affects the cost of firewood.

“Next big thing is probably the state of Vermont,” he said. He said the state owns hundreds of thousands of acres that don’t get cut. “The wood is going by because it’s not getting cut.”

Mr. Moore believes this has had a big effect on the cost of firewood.

“Because all the wood is in competition with the lack of wood. Because the more you shrink the supply, the more you drive the price up.”

“The supply is limited by the amount of wood the state isn’t cutting in certain areas,” he said.

“We had a dramatic change in the price here during and after the Champion Lands buyout,” he said. “Because it was a huge mark of land, and it went off the grid.”

The Champion lands buyout, completed in 1999, is Vermont’s largest conservation project in history, according to the Vermont Land Trust. The former Champion Lands consist of 132,000 acres of forestland, located mostly in Essex County. The land was owned by Champion International Paper Company before being transferred over to a mix of public and private entities including the Fish and Wildlife Department and the Agency of Natural Resources.

The firewood market is particularly important in the state of Vermont.

About 15 percent of Vermont homes use wood as their primary source of heat, said Matt Cota, executive director of the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association.

There are still more homes that use wood to supplement a heating system that mostly runs on other fuels, like oil or propane.

“If you look at the U.S. census data, wood is a minor player in every other state,” he said. “In Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine, it’s in double digits. But everywhere else it’s in low single digits.”

Another factor in the price of firewood is that about 50 percent of homes in Vermont use oil as their primary source of heat, Mr. Cota said.

“When oil prices go up, there’s more demand for cut and split wood,” he said. “The higher the price of oil goes up, the higher the price of wood goes up. If the oil price is okay, people might not go out and buy that extra cord of wood. A lot of people in Vermont supplement with wood, even if they use oil.”

The use of oil as a primary source of heat is mostly unique to this area, Mr. Cota said.

“Of all the oil heat consumed in the United States, almost all of it is consumed in New England, New York and New Jersey. Over 80 percent of oil heat is used in the nine Northeastern states. It’s gas and electricity elsewhere.”

Mark Collette, alternative heating specialist with Blanchard Oil Company of Orleans, has seen the effect of the price of oil on the firewood market.

“In ’08 or ’07, when $4 oil was thrown in our faces, and people were looking at a $10,000 a year oil bill, it was a banner year for boilers,” he said, referring to wood-fired hot water heating systems.

Mr. Collette said that newer, more efficient wood stoves can also cut down on a person’s need for firewood. He said that if a person replaced a “non-EPA, old technology, pre-1985” stove with a more efficient model, they could use between 25 and 40 percent less wood to heat the same home.

Mr. Collette said that convenience factors in, when people decide whether to heat their homes with wood or other types of fuel.

“The convenience is what you pay for, and that’s the big deal with oil and propane — it’s convenience, and you pay for it,” he said. “The time it takes, the physical demands of cord wood are significant, depending on one’s potential.”

“People forget — short term memories — what it used to be like,” he said. “It’s like $3.50 or $3.60 for oil per gallon, and propane varies widely on consumption.”

Mr. Cota said the same thing.

“On a BTU basis, oil costs more than wood, but there’s also something nice about turning the thermostat and leaving it — the comfort and simplicity. With wood you got to wrestle either the bag of pellets or the chunk wood. It’s part of the Vermont tradition, but it’s hard work. It can be very satisfying, but it’s hard work.”

Weather also factors in to the price of firewood, Mr. Cota said.

“Wood prices go up or down according to weather. Is there a supply? Can they get out into the forest to get it cut and split and dried before it’s cold?”

“There could be a supply and demand issue if the weather is bad,” he said. He remembers a summer sometime in the last five years that was really wet, so the wood was hard to deal with.

“The amount of wood taken off land to cut for the winter was less. Then there’s great summers.”

Mr. Poirier said he couldn’t put away any seasoned wood this summer, due to the wet conditions.

Much like the loggers, Mr. Cota said that the wood market is driven more by what’s happening in the area, as opposed to the cost of other fuels.

“Oil price is determined on a global level. Wood is local,” he said. “The price of oil in, wherever, you name it, affects the price of oil in Vermont.”

Mr. Poirier pointed out that while wood is cheaper than oil, propane is cheap, too. “But the trouble with that is that’s not a real controllable market,” he said.

“Anything you have as far as gases, we don’t control that — government controls that stuff. Wood is controllable, but not the same way.”

“I think people get a lot more for their dollar from a cord of wood compared to oil,” said Gary Lyman of Glover.

Mr. Lyman cuts about 50 cords of wood a year from his property.

“Like eight cord will heat most homes,” he said.

He multiplied that number by the cost of a cord of his wood this year, which is $200, to show what it would cost to heat an average home with wood.

“I bet they would use more than that on fuel oil,” he said.

Mr. Lyman described himself as a farmer and a half-ass logger, who only cuts wood for firewood customers. Still, the pulpwood market affects his price, too.

“I go with what everyone else gets,” he said, on how he determines his price. “So of course it affects me.”

He said his price is maybe $10 higher than last year. He couldn’t remember how much he charged when he first started cutting wood about 45 years ago.

“I’m sure way back we gave it away, you know, it was really cheap. I can’t remember how cheap, but not much. Just in the last ten, 15 years, it’s got up to worth doing.”

When asked if he thought the price of wood is determined more locally than globally, he referred to recent conversation with family.

“A relative in the Burlington area said it’s $250 and higher, a relative in Connecticut says it’s the same as it is here. So you figure it out, because I can’t.”

contact Natalie Hormilla at natalie@bartonchronicle.com

For more free articles from the Chronicle like this one, see our Editor’s Picks pages.  For all the Chronicle’s stories, pick up a print copy or subscribe, either for print or digital editions.

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Police standoff with armed suspect in Newport

BREAKING NEWS  9-25-2013

NEWPORT — Derick J. Niles, 36, of Newport pled innocent in Orleans Superior Court Wednesday to misdemeanor charges of reckless endangerment and disorderly conduct after a police standoff at his home.  Bail was set at $100,000 by Judge Howard VanBenthuysen and Mr. Niles was lodged at Northern State Correctional Facility in Newport.

Early Wednesday morning, the Newport City Police Department issued an advisory warning residents of Highland Avenue between Pleasant Street and West Main Street to remain inside and to lock their doors, just before 7 a.m..  A bulletin issued at 8:18 a.m. further advised residents of the area to evacuate on account of an armed suspect.

For a full court story, and a separate story about this suspect and the incident, please see the next edition of the Chronicle on October 2.

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