"I don't make hell for nobody. I'm only the instrument of a laughing providence. Sometimes I don't like it myself, but I couldn't help it if I was born smart."

1st Sgt. Milton Anthony Warden.
"From here to Eternity"

Paul Valery

"You are in love with intelligence, until it frightens you. For your ideas are terrifying and your hearts are faint. Your acts of pity and cruelty are absurd, committed with no calm, as if they were irresistible. Finally, you fear blood more and more. Blood and time."

The Wisdom of the Ages

"When a young man, I read somewhere the following: God the Almighty said, 'All that is too complex is unnecessary, and it is simple that is needed',"

Mikhail Kalashnikov

Militor!

Militor!
When you're serious about off-roading.
"Here lies the bravest soldier I've seen since my mirror got grease on it."

Zapp Brannigan

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Woodlot Management Optimized For National Security

Don't laugh. It's surprisingly important.

First of all, what's a woodlot?
It's bunch of ground with trees growing all over it, trees that are going to be used for something - someday.
Doesn't seem that would be something needing a whole lot of keeping-track-of, does it?
Oh but it was. Through simple inattention, you could have seriously screwed-up during the Tudor period. or later or, for that matter, any time post-king Arthur. Britain had logged off a majority of woodland even before it became a strategic issue whereupon the Crown was compelled to step in.
At this time, Mother England was having to play catch-up in the colonizing game - and maintain an ability to project power abroad all while continuing to protect the home island. It was clear; England needed a navy, or at least more of a navy.

To this end, the shapely and personable gentleman pictured was forced to make a law mandating that his loyal, property-owning subjects should - if they've got coppice on their place:

 Put a damned fence around it - and leave twelve standards per acre!
 
So, what was the problem, wild coppices escaping, frightening children and menacing old ladies? Outside coppices wanting to infiltrate, what?
Was a coppice something valuable that thieves might "rustle"?
What the hell is a coppice?

A coppice is the mass of suckers that grow out of the stump of a felled hardwood - and that are being paid attention to.
All those new stems that grow from the stump ("stool") do so with the added bennie of a mature root system so they grow quickly. They also grow up straight and tall since they're packed together and in competition with one another.
Various trees produced suckers that were left to grow to the appropriate size for whatever the end use might be whether withies, wattle or fence rails. Wood coppiced for firewood may have been left alone for thirty years waiting for it to get big enough but withies are good every few years. The trick was to time everything so that you could cuts a years worth of wood to work with, depending on where you cut, every year.
Sounds like a good system so why would Cranky Hank up topside have been all up in every one's business about their woodlots?

Actually, the fencing Henry mentioned makes sense when you learn the oh-so-mundane reason for it but we'll get to that.
The real question that all (three, Hi Mom!) of you have been asking is this: What the hell was Henry talking about when he demanded "twelve standards per acre"?
Next slide please...
'Tween decks on USS Constitution. Those large white-painted units dominating the right side of the picture are called "knees". In this case, they form a solid brace between the upper and lower decks as well as the hull. These date from the recent refurbishment and are made of laminated white oak.
Back in Henry's day, the ships were smaller so the knees would naturally have been smaller as well,  like the one pictured next.

Laminating wasn't an option back in the day, hide-based glue in a moist environment and all that. They had to grow trees that would yield shapes like that - with the grain structure following the curves.
This next picture is from an early nineteenth century treatise but still the standard was being pointed out was impressive. A tree that would yield a saw log between thirty-five and sixty feet long and at least a foot square.
Then up above, like an afterthought, is the knee. The knee chunk can be between nine and twelve feet long with square cross-sections in the ten to sixteen inch range.
You don't grow this type of stick from a coppice.
You need a full-sized tree for this - AKA a "standard".
See, Henry, remember Henry, was in the the process of pissing off the world - at least the Catholic world which is to say, Holland, Spain and France, all of whom had ass-kicking fleets.
So, Henry was needing to build a fleet - and keep building it because the Spanish,the Dutch  and the French would keep putting all that finely worked English oak on the bottom - as Henry hoped to do likewise with their ships.
That requires a lot of random crooks of wood.
Okay, we'll let Hank off about the "standards". When your entire island was logged off hundreds of years prior there's nothing else for it. You have to plan ahead

But coppice? What could this lowly collection of sticks possibly have been worth that Henry would pass a law to make sure everyone kept their shit consolidated regarding it?

Charcoal.
The oldest industrial fuel, until coke was discovered in the 18th century, what it took to make things hot.
You couldn't melt metals without it, you couldn't forge without it. It was the shit but if you didn't have your loyal subjects properly tuned-up on the subject you could find your charcoal burners short of raw material and the smelters and forges laid-off - until the charcoal coppice grew back.
The other reason for the charcoal mania involved one specific form of charcoal, willow.
Willow is best but grape-vine will work. Other woods work, just not as well.
Although charcoal is the smaller ingredient in gunpowder it, being the fuel component, dictates how well it works. Since charcoal retains the same cellular structure as the original wood, when it fractures down, it offers maximum surface area for the oxygenating agent to work its magic.
Next, we'll look at that "oxygenating agent" and see how the gubmint could really get up in your shit.

Oh, recall the fence that Henry was so adamant about; you ever notice that the trees where cattle are pastured - and where limbs grow low enough to notice - have all the foliage cut-off in a dead-level line maybe four or five feet off the ground.
Seems cows like to munch on that new, tender growth that grows down where they can reach - AKA - the coppice zone.
Just put up a fence so His Royal Highness doesn't lose sleep worrying that the nation's supply of potential thatching broaches, barrel hoops, hurdles and other sticks might be eaten in their infancy. Oh, it safeguarded the nation's charcoal as well.

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