Ashes, Ashes All Melt Down

Wood Ash

One bucket of wood ash – that’s about a month’s worth of wood in the little wood stove in our tiny cottage. Our old, huge, Sam Daniels wood stove in the basement of the old farm house produced about a bucket a week of ash. We do burn less wood in the tiny cottage but not that much less. I think that more of the ash goes up the chimney than in the old wood furnace. This is evidenced by the ash and melt patterns on the snow leeward of the cottage.

Ashes are valuable. The wood ash spread on our fields helps to neutralize the acid rain and raise the pH of our soil. That encourages the growth of legumes that like a more neutral medium than we have. This is a constant struggle given the acid rain. Fortunately for the wild blueberries, and those of us who love them, I don’t have enough ash to raise the pH above their comfort zone.

Ash does another very valuable job for us – warming the spring and melting the snow. When we spread ash on the surface of the snow it changes the albedo so the snow absorbs more solar energy and melts faster. This can open our east facing pastures several weeks earlier than they would otherwise be snow free.

My outdoor temperature reading might be a little low because the snow bank is half way up the east side of the house. My outdoor thermometer is on that wall. I dug it back out but I think the air around it is being cooled by the snow bank. It certainly feels warmer than 32°F and we do have liquid water on the ground.

Outdoors: 32°F/31°F Partially Sunny
Farm House: 56°F/48°F Jolie weaned Tuesday, Winnie farrowed Sunday, Torn weaned Thursday
Tiny Cottage: 68°F/53°F Olevia back Monday

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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4 Responses to Ashes, Ashes All Melt Down

  1. Quatrefoil says:

    It occurs to me that if you have pig fat and wood ash that you have the ingredients of home made soap. I’ve never tried making it, but I have used soap (called ‘Wilbur’) from some friends who did – it was really nice soap.

  2. pablo says:

    That ash is a light gray color. Does it really make that much difference to cause faster snow melt?

  3. Despite the fact that it is not pure black the ash makes a huge difference. Ben spread part of a bucket over one area of 3′ deep packed snow and within a week, of only partly sunny days, that area was completely melted away while the unashed area next to it which got the same sun was almost unmelted.

    I originally discovered the trick from watching what happened in the gardens where I spread ash to elevate the pH.

  4. Brian says:

    How do you Know that the melting is due to solar radaition and not some reaction to the ash, much like salt melts snow and Ice?

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