Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Wood for the winter

Sorry for the blog silence on my end. The end of November heralded numerous writing deadlines I had hanging over me. When December 1 hit and the pressure was off, I engaged in some heavy-duty literary laziness. I didn't even delete the 75 spam comments I had piled up on the blog until this morning.

But we haven't been entirely idle over the last week. We did, among much else, a lot of firewood.

Normally we purchase a logging truck of pulp logs about every three years for firewood. We finished up the last of the logs in the spring, but rather than order another shipment, we decided to harvest some dead trees off our property instead. Lots cheaper and it needs to get done anyway.

Don's handy with dropping trees, but he called in a professional logger to deal with one massive pine in the bull pen. One bad cut and it would smash the barn. Don knows his limitations.

This logger is the fellow who normally delivers our logging trucks of logs, so we knew him already. Nice guy who knows his stuff. Since he was here anyway, we had him take down three other trees... well as several dead trees just across the fence on our neighbor's property (with their permission, of course -- they also wanted the firewood).

The first thing we did was shoo the cows down into the pasture for the day. Can't risk them getting crushed.

The next thing was for Don to remove this section of fence. It was the only logical place for the trees to fall, so he took it down so it could be rebuilt later.

He also removed the railroad tie post.

The tallest tree in the exact middle of the photo is the tree coming down. There are a couple smaller dead trees to the right which will be cut.

The logger got right to work with confidence. As trees go, this one was a piece of cake for him.


Big tree.

Don watched while the logger got started on the other two trees. Though the one he's working on is a lot smaller, it's leaning in such a way that would send it straight into the barn if not cut precisely right.

Half the job is using a chainsaw; the other half is the judicious use of wedges to get the tree to fall properly. (Everyone knows why they're fluorescent colors, right? It's so they're easy to spot on the forest floor when loggers are out in the woods.)

The logger was very careful and took his time.

Then the tree finally came down, it fell precisely where the logger wanted it.

Here are the three downed trees from the bull pen. The logger also took down a large fir a few yards away. Can you see why we won't need to buy firewood this year? The biggest tree is pine, the others are fir. Pine has a poor BTU rating for firewood, but it burns and it's free, so we'll use it. (And don't worry, we scrub our stovepipe free of creosote every month or so.)

When the cows were let back up from the field, they found their landscape altered.

The next day, Don started limbing the trees.

Meanwhile I split more rounds that had been cut earlier.

Don got through limbing one tree, cut it into lengths, and started yarding the logs in the driveway.

Then he cut them into rounds. (He's using an electric chainsaw, in case you're wondering about the cord.)

We split and stacked and split and stacked until the side porch was brim-full of wood.

A brief snowfall decorated the rounds and made them look very pretty.

Then we split and stack and split and stacked some more, until the front porch was as full as it could be.

This makes something of a wall right outside our front door, but it's a nice sight, in my opinion.

Mr. Darcy seems to find it cozy.

Some people have expressed concern about rodents and moisture when the wood is stacked so close the house. All I can say is, in 15 years of stacking firewood this way, we've never had an iota of trouble. If we kept it stacked like this over the summer, then maybe; but over winter? Nah. And we'll use it up before spring.

After this, we put the log splitter away. We have many more logs still to cut up, but this is all the firewood we'll need through most of the winter, so we'll wait on the others.


  1. That sure is a nice stash of firewood, but don't they attract a lot of bugs/rodents up that close to the house? And why are the wedges fluorescent?

    1. I went back in and answered those questions in the post (smile).

      - Patrice

  2. Kinda pushing the season getting the wood made this late aren't you? Here in the U.P. we have snow. I got mine in 2 weeks ago and just on time. In regards to the colored wedges I do that with my chains also. I lay them on the ground in a coil and spray them with florescent orange paint on just one side. I haven't lost a chain in the woods or snow since I started doing that many years ago. Also if I am involved in any sort of community project there is no doubt as to which chains are mine. In regards to cleaning the chimneys, on the advice of a fire department guy, I started using Rutland Creosote Remover once a week and it really works great. It reduces the creosote to a sand-like texture that brushes out easily once a month. I recommend it highly.---ken

  3. Hello Patrice!
    That wood stacked is awesome, and it warms the heart knowing that it will warm the hearth! That's money in your pocket!

  4. We have painted our tampers, pry bars and numerous other tools florescent orange - for that very reason. Chains we haven't done, but it is a good idea.

    My folks had a woodburner in the family room at their last house in the woods in SE Minnesota. Dad cut trees off of his lot and got dead falls on 40 acres of woods behind it that the neighbor owned. He and my brother, (when he was around) split it by hand. (They lived there when in their 50's.) Dad always said he got his "money's worth". It warms you once when you cut it and stack it and once when you burn it. That house was 2300 square ft on the main floor (it had a basement and tuck under two car garage). The winter of 1981-82 they spent $80 on heating oil. They would get the fire going in the morning, mom would put in wood after work and dad would add it again at bed time. At about 4:00 am every morning, when Dad's new Lab puppy would sound off because he needed to go potty, dad would let him out and put another log on.

    Cleaning the chimney was a once a month affair, and before "drawstring" garbage bags. They would let the fire go out. While dad was shoveling ash out of the stove, mom would stitch elastic in the top of a heavy garbage bag. They would take down the chimney pipe inside, mom would put the bag on the pipe end sticking out of the ceiling. Dad would get on the roof with the brush and scrub it down good. Mom would bundle it up in the bag and hike it to the ash pile in the woods while dad put away the brush. They would put the chimney together and light it off.

    The smell of a wood fire, the clanking of stove grates and the warmth of the stove during a snowstorm are some of most homey, wonderful and comforting things I know... Natokadn

  5. Are the trees that are already dead considered seasoned?

  6. Promotes a good feeling to get dangerous trees away from your buildings. Did the same this summer, only it was still alive. Went up 25 ft in the tree and tied a cable, hooked to a tractor and had friend keep pressure on the line as I cut. Had 100 ft of cable and 40 ft of chain to keep the tractor out of danger.
    Will be nice and dry by next year.
    Hope you folks are doing well, with this cold spell, and snow by the weekend.

  7. Logging, working up your own firewood. Grandma would call that 'honest work'. One really has to admire the skills of loggers like your friend.
    Montana Guy

  8. Nice Job! Now can I invite you guys to come take care of mine? Ha ha, Right? Merry Christmas....