Thursday, October 21, 2021

Putting up firewood

One of the things we're still working on here at our new home is finding "sources" for various things. One of the best "sources" we've found is an older widowed woman who lives nearby. She's lived here for decades and knows everyone.

So when the issue of firewood came up, she knew just who to recommend. Based on her suggestion, we got hold of a young man who cuts firewood for a living. She said he was honest and trustworthy. Boy was she right.

Because we didn't need the wood to be split or stacked (something he does for our widowed neighbor) – but were happy to accept it in rounds – we got an excellent deal. We requested four cords.

He brought the first load in early August. We told him we weren't in a hurry, so he said he would bring us a load whenever he had spare time, and he assured us we'd get our money's worth.

He was true to his word and brought a load every week or so.

He brought more and more rounds, tossing them into two ever-increasing mounds (one small, one huge) until we had four cords' worth.

We started splitting in late August. Don towed the log splitter around from the barn to the driveway...

...and I sat down and split the first load.

We also had to figure out how best to stack it. Our idea was to stack it on pallets and then build a frame over it, covered with a tarp. But one of the issues was how to support the sides without having wood spill out? Most people put up T-posts or other side supports.

Then we noticed our widowed neighbor's wood pile, stacked by the same young man who delivered our wood. Well, look at that. He used half-logs to build a "wall" at either side of the stack for support. Clever idea!

So we selected the spot where we wanted to make the woodpile...

...and brought over some pallets.

Then we built our own end wall, four feet high.

Thereafter we split whenever time and temperatures permitted. We weren't in a hurry, and split wood whenever we felt like it. Below is a rather messy workstation, but it's productive.

Same with stacking. We stacked whenever we felt like it.

Because Don was busy working on other, more complicated projects (such as installing the wood cookstove), firewood by default became my task. After some effort, I finished splitting the smaller mound of rounds. At one point I stepped back and realized the amount of split wood far exceeded the amount of stacked wood, so on a cool late August day, I spent several hours whittling away at the mound.

In this task, I was greatly aided by one of our better purchases, a gorilla cart. Let me pause while I give this baby a plug. It holds a lot of weight, turns easily on its big wheels, and takes a lot of abuse without complaint.

Look at the size difference between the gorilla cart and our biggest wheelbarrow.

Plus the gorilla cart has a "dump truck" feature.

Anyway, enough product endorsement. Back to work.

Eventually the pile was stacked and we were out of pallets. No more stacking until we could scrounge more pallets.

Meanwhile it was time to tackle splitting the larger mountain of rounds.

For weeks I whittled away at that mountain. It seemed bottomless.

The issue of pallets rose its ugly head when I literally ran out of room to chuck more split wood.

We were finally able to locate some, and I stacked what I'd split so far.

I got into a rhythm and a method of keeping this workstation fairly organized. Split wood was chucked to one side.

Kindling was tossed in another pile.

I threw bark into the wheelbarrow I'd parked right next to the splitter.

I used a hand truck to transport the rounds from the log pile to my splitting station. The distance was only about 20 feet or so, but let me tell you, this hand truck was a lifesaver. I could split for far longer without becoming exhausted if I didn't have to muscle or roll the massive rounds or halves to the splitter. (In years past, you see, this was the girls' job. Without them to do the grunt work, we have to work smarter, not harder.)

Smaller logs of the correct size, I split in half and tossed into the gorilla cart for building the other end wall of the woodpile.

But for all the splitting I did – day after day, week after week – that mountain of rounds never seemed to go down.

Once in a while I came across an interesting sight, such as this quiet toad who hid himself under a piece of bark.

Or this giant (and dead) buprestid beetle, nearly three inches long.

Every so often I stopped and cleaned up my workstation. I raked up the smaller pieces of bark, consolidated the small kindling pieces, and otherwise did a reset.

We saved all the bark and put it in a pile. Eventually we'll spread this out, run over it with the tractor a few times, and make bark mulch. Waste not, want not.

(I should make it clear we don't deliberately remove the bark, but it often just falls off the dry logs in chunks.)

Progress...

By early October, I was finally near the bottom of that bottomless mountain of logs.

The pile of bark had grown.

The happy day finally came when the end was in sight...

...and I was able to split the last of the logs. (You can see some of the kindling piled in the background.)

We then finished stacking it in the woodpile.

We had some overflow which we'll stack on the deck for convenience. But we did a happy dance! The firewood is finally all split!

One thing became abundantly clear as we completed the woodpile: the young man who brought us the firewood brought us way more than we asked for. We requested four cords. He brought us just about six. We will reimburse him for the extra wood. This is how he makes his living, and we have no interest in cheating him out of his livelihood.

Ironically, we have no idea how much firewood we'll need over a winter. In our last place, we liked to have six cords going into the cold season. We heated almost exclusively with wood, though we supplemented once in a while with a propane wall heater. Here in our new place, we have forced-air heat as a supplement, which is particularly useful on those chilly days when it's not quite cold enough to light the woodstove, but a little temperature boost would be nice.

But as last winter demonstrated (when we lost power and had no means of heating our home), a non-electric heat source is critical in North Idaho. This woodpile and our cookstove gives us enormous peace of mind.

Our next step is to shelter the woodpile for the winter. Look for a future blog post on that.

22 comments:

  1. We've been in the PNW now 34 years. My husband has always cut, haled, split and stacked fire wood every year. We keep an old blue Rubbermaid trash can by the splitting are. We rake up the kindling and fill the can. We too make use of the bark. It is comforting to have it all done. Good work Don.

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    1. Ah, thanks Becky.

      Most people don't realize how stressful it is to have to constantly supervise your wife while she splits, hauls and stacks all that wood. There were a couple of times where I nearly burned my lips on scalding coffee while carefully supervising her efforts. But I was always there for her. Even in the pouring rain I spent precious minutes on the covered deck near where she was working; shouting out helpful tips and gently correcting her when her stack-lines weren't quite as straight as they could have been. It was brutal work to be sure, but I felt I owed it to her. After all, she brought me the coffee.

      Don

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    2. Hahahahaha you are a gem brother, hehehehe

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    3. Someone has a sense of humor, finally...

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    4. LOL! You're too funny, Don. Great reply.

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  2. That looks like a lot of work! But, I like the way you work, not killing yourself all at once.

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  3. We got most of our wood split and stacked in our woodshed back by the end of August. Good thing - we are having our second snow in the Mat-Su Valley, Alaska. It is not cold, per se, but winter came early. We have Toyo oil heaters and a full heating oil tank, but the cost of oil is too dear this year not to burn lots of wood instead. Wishing everyone a mild winter everywhere!

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  4. I finally got my propane tank filled. We had heated 80% of our requirement with wood but we have gotten to old to keep that up. We have our 6 ricks of wood which would run us for one year stored and mostly under roof but are saving it incase we need it. I miss the kind of heat the wood stove gives off but will admit that just adjusting the thermostat is sure nice! The propane was $650 this year, The last wood was $80 a rick split and stacked so the propane was slightly more expensive.

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  5. Been doing the same over the last couple months. Too cheap and still have some youth left in me to split it with a maul. Who needs a gym... A good source of rounds is chipdrop.com. It matches up tree trimmers with folks who need wood and they drop it at your house. All that wood feeds a Woodstock soapstone stove and a wood fired hot all winter.

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    1. Same here 72 and my DH still uses his maul. Once in a while when a round is to knotty and is tough he will use the power splitter, but not often.

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    2. He does split the madrone when it is green, if you let it dry it is extremely hard to split.

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  6. Awsome! You and my charming wifie would get along just fine; she's the "queen" of wood splitting for us. We took down a very old Big Leaf last year, and just finished splitting. PNW splitters apparently aren't used to obstinate wood, and if this would have been oak from our old place in Sonoma, we would have burned out several of the local rental splitters.

    But, we finally got one that was up to the task and the last of the Big Leaf is now tucked dry into the woodshed. Looking forward to sme cozy fires this winter. Have plenty of 20' lengths of DF as backup "just in case".

    Way to go!

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  7. Are the western pines as resinous as the ones I deal with in the southeast? I split lobolly and slash pine when I take one down, but I and the splitter are a little sticky at the end of a session. I get a lot of mileage out of bark, as well--it burns very nicely for me.

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  8. It's a beautiful sight, Patrice! I love, love this post for many reasons but especially since you specifically mentioned you'll pay the young man for the two cords. Also, I wanted to mention that I LOVE the Gorilla cart we have so much that I'm thinking of buying another one. They are infinitely handy. The handle on our can be switched to pulling it by hand or we can attach it to the back of the riding lawn mower - perfect for hauling all the tools we need for a project on the other side of the farm! The dump feature make it nice for hauling smaller amounts of manure to the pile, too. I know we can put two Gorilla carts to nearly constant use. Good for you and Don for having all your firewood ready to go. We haven't even started ours yet - yikes!

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  9. You maybe interested in investing in recycled IBC totes... basically a plastic tank on a pallet with a metal cage around it... remove tank, cut cage as needed, place firewood in cage... then you can move a pallet cage worth of firewood by tractor whenever needed.. https://youtu.be/WmeJ3ZQkrws

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  10. What kind of wood do you burn? Must be softwood I'm guessing if you split it and burn it this year. Up north here it's pretty well unheard of to burn softwood.

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    1. It's red fir. And yes, we clean our chimney quite often. We're old hands at this.

      - Patrice

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  11. If it is softwood do you need to clean your chimney quite often.

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