Tag Archives: mountain pine beetle

Something is Missing from the Green New Deal

The Green New Deal is the shiny new thing in the 116th Congress.  This an unalloyed good thing.  We need to be talking about the big ideas that can move this country forward instead of always arguing about small ball politics.

However, I fear that something is missing from every discussion about the contents of the Green New Deal.  Trees.  Rather, forests.  Forests?  You know, those mass groupings of trees.

What about forests?

Forests are the unsung hero of our fight against climate change.  Decidedly analog, forests do not get any of the hype afforded to electric vehicles, solar panels, wind turbines, or even god damned nuclear fusion.  Why?  It is probably because people’s eyes glaze over when someone talks about forests and stereotypes of treehugging hippies run through their minds.

However, before we can deploy enough renewable energy or replace enough automobiles with EVs forests can help us combat the coming climate apocalypse.  Trees absorb carbon dioxide and capture it in their wood fibers.  Trees help to slow down the rainfall preventing erosion, top soil runoff, and even filter rainwater as it falls from the sky through the canopy to the ground.  Trees help to cool the surrounding area.  Trees provide habitat for animals.  Unless you are the most Trumpian right wing reactionary there is no denying the enviable service record of trees.

The key is not to just save the forests that we currently have, but to recover the forests that we have lost.  I propose a nationwide effort to recover as many acres of forest covered land as possible.  There are literally tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions, of acres of land that were once covered with forests that could become verdant again.

In the region known as Appalachia it is estimated that more than 1.5 million acres of mountain top land has been reduced to bare earth and rubble by coal mining over the last fifty years.  Reforestation of these degraded lands is an opportunity to provide much needed jobs in the region, improve the environment, and build a legacy for future generations.  All by planting some trees.

In 2018 California saw almost 1.9 million acres burned in wildfires.  Reforestation of these lands is an opportunity to reduce the ecological impact of wildfires in that state and ameliorate some of the secondary impacts like mudslides in subsequent years.

In Colorado, as a result of the invasive mountain pine beetle, one in 14 trees in the state is dead and almost three quarters of the state’s lodgepole pine stands are impacted.  In the end the infestation and resulting tree die off may leave an area the size of Rhode Island deforested.  Reforestation is an opportunity to reverse some of this damage and restore Colorado’s forests to their majestic beauty.

These are just a few examples, but I could have chosen examples in the Pacific Northwest or northern Minnesota or Arizona.  Almost every state in the United States could benefit from reforestation.

Here is the best part.  Reforestation does not require any new technology or industries to be created.  Reforestation does not require any new government agencies to be created.  We possess the knowledge, organizations, and infrastructure to implement a nationwide reforestation plan.  We just lack the money.

Ahhhh, money.  How much money exactly?  Who knows?  How much land do you want to cover in trees?  Piedmont Land and Timber, a timber management company in Georgia, publishes a very concise breakdown of the costs to reforest an acre:

  • Herbicide application: $125/acre
  • Controlled burn: $60/acre
  • Planting @ 500 seedlings per acre: $74/acre
  • Landowner cost: $45/acre

The total to plant an acre of trees, albeit for timber production, is ~$300 according to a private company.  The largest part of that expense is the application of herbicides which could be eliminated in many cases where the goal is not to develop a stand for logging at a later date.  Regardless, I will use $300 per acre as a baseline for cost.

Let’s use the lands degraded by coal mining in Appalachia as a model.  So, we are working with ~1.5 million acres over several years.  Total cost, assuming $300 per acre, would be $450 million.  Over five years the annual cost would be $90 million.  That is about the cost of a single F-35A fighter plane per year.  Imagine what restoring 1.5 million acres of land would look like from an environmental standpoint.

The money is large when it is looked at in isolation, but it is paltry when compared with so many things in Washington D.C.  Just consider our current president’s pet border wall.  Each mile is estimated to cost $25 million dollars.  We could trade four miles of border wall per year for a restoration of Appalachian forests.  I am willing to make that trade.

Will anyone in Washington D.C. speak for the trees?

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Building a Keezer Collar

The keezer has been wired in order to control temperature.   The next step is to prep the freezer for Cornelius kegs.

The freezer that I am repurposing has a large hump for the compressor.  I have no clue why it needs such a big hump because the compressor area is actually quite empty.  My guess is that this freezer body design was a holdover as a smaller, more efficient compressor was cut into production.  The freezer was free, so I cannot really complain.

In order to fit two Cornelius kegs I needed to raise the lid of the freezer enough to accommodate a second keg sitting on the freezer hump.  This required a rise in height of approximately 6 inches.  I wanted a little flexibility, so I went with a collar constructed from 8” dimensional lumber.  As you know from high school shop class—for those of us lucky enough to have had shop class—dimensional lumber is not actually its stated size.  A 1×8 or 2×8 actually measures only 7 ¼ inches.  No big deal, because that height would easily accommodate my kegs.

The first stab that I took at building the keezer collar used a couple of scrap 2x8s that a friend gave me from a house he was building in the neighborhood.  The wood was pockmarked with the tracks from mountain pine beetles and they were hesitant to use them in a load bearing application.  I did not think that a lid from a 5.1 cubic foot freezer would be a problem.  Plus the wood had cool blue coloring from the mountain pine beetle infestation:

Janky Collar

The blue color is caused by a staining from the fungus carried by the mountain pine beetle infestation.  My thought was to stain the wood a natural color and let the color show through.  Unfortunately, as I cut the wood I noticed that not everything was true and there was a slight warping to the wood.  Once everything was screwed and glued together I thought that it might work with a little sanding and TLC.  However, the result was going to be too “janky” for my taste.

Plan B was to use dimensional aspen lumber to match the aspen and poplar trim that I have throughout my house.  I thought about using red oak to match some of my furniture I constructed, but the cost was going to be pretty high and the application was not about the wood.

The collar was cut and assembled in about an hour of work in the shop:

Unfinished Collar

As you can see from the construction I had to build a lip on the top of the collar to provide a good sealing surface for the freezer’s lid.  I used a 1×2 mounted along the inside edge to build this lip.  Instead of screws, which I used in the aborted 2×8 collar, I utilized regular, old yellow wood glue and brads nailed below the surface of the wood to secure the joints.

Instead of miter joints I utilized butt joints.  While a miter joint might have looked nicer—although in the finished product you will see that the stain hides the difference in grain—I wanted the additional strength provided by a well secured butt joint.  A miter joint only increases strength when there is a corresponding increase in the surface area to be glued, as in a picture frame mitered at 45 degree angles, and is commonly done for the aforementioned appearance improvement.  In a non-shear load application a glued and nailed butt joint will be more than strong enough.  Plus, the construction was much simpler because it did not exceed the capacity of my miter saw.

The collar was stained with several coats of dark brown American Chestnut:

Finished Collar

Aspen is not a heavily grained wood, but I like that a little bit of the grain peeks through the stain color.  I put several coats on to even out the splotchy nature of the wood and to give it a real rich look.  Set off against the white of the freezer it looks sharp.

To accommodate the tap shanks I drilled two 1 inch holes approximately 2 ½ inches off the center of the face and approximately 3 ½ inches from the top.  There was no science to the location of the shank holes outside of my eyeballing what “felt right.”  It’s probably going to reveal itself as an error in the future and I will be forced to make some more sawdust with version 3 of the collar.

Next up is installing the collar and setting up the dispensing equipment.  Brew on!