We never cut live trees. No reason to. We cut only trees that are dead and standing, or down but elevated. Logs that are lying directly on the ground rot very quickly and are no good as firewood. But logs that are propped on other logs or rocks retain their integrity, dry thoroughly, and make excellent firewood.
In our case, there's a piece of property about half a mile away that was partially logged a few years ago. We received permission from the property owner to harvest wood from the slash pile.
A slash pile is the leftover unusable wood from a logging operation. This can include tree branches, tree tops, knarly trunk sections, wood with a rotten core, or other things that won't work in a sawmill. The usual procedure for commercial logging operations is to pile it all in a slash pile, wait for wet weather, then burn it. For some reason this pile never got burned, and there's a lot of usable firewood in it.
So I took the truck and Don took the tractor, and we made our way to the slash pile. It was a cloudy day but not particularly cold, a good day for cutting.
Here's the slash pile. A couple years ago we got some of the "surface" pieces cut up, but much of the slash was packed with dirt and debris, and it was hard to get to. Now a lot of the dirt and debris has been washed away with rain, and we realize there's a LOT more wood here than we originally thought. Much of the slash pile spills down the slope and is hard to see until you're actually climbing on the pile itself.
I noticed these little fluorescent-orange fungi on the ground. Okay all you mushroom experts out there, what kind are these?
Since Don's the expert on the tractor, I was the "choker." This means I take the chain, scramble down the pile, and fasten it to whatever log I choose to get yanked out. It's hard work, and between the two jobs (choking or operating the tractor) my task was the more physically demanding.
It's a giant game up pickup sticks. Without the power of the tractor, harvesting this wood would be impossible.
Don swung each log piece clear, then yarded them in one spot to be cut up.
After about an hour and a half of this I was exhausted, so we stopped pulling logs and turned to cutting instead. This is where we switch the levels of difficulty - Don's wielding the chainsaw, I'm tossing log pieces. His job is much harder.
As he moved around the pile, cutting, I removed the log sections and heaved them into a pile. Gradually we whittled the log pile down.
Here's a tip: when cutting logs that are resting directly on the ground, don't cut all the way through because you don't want the chain coming in contact with the ground. Besides dulling the chain, you don't want to take a chance it could hit a rock and kick back, causing horrible injury. Instead, cut about 3/4 of the way through the log...
...turn the log...
...and finish cutting it from the bottom up.
After about two hours' work, this is what we had:
The wood we had yarded was greatly diminshed, but not gone. We'll come back another day to yard and cut some more.
But we got about 3/4 or more of a cord cut. This is the first load. We offloaded the truck at home and came back for the rest of the cut wood.
As Don points out, cutting your own wood does NOT warm you twice. Properly done, cutting your own wood warms you at least five or six times.
Something to think about next time you adjust a thermostat to get heat this winter.