Friday, October 21, 2022

Putting up the firewood

For the past few weeks, we've been enjoying the last lingering days of late summer. Temps have been in the 70s, sunny, and dry. Alas, nothing lasts forever. We're having a dramatic shift in weather, starting today.

This means we've been pushing to get pre-winter chores done before things get seriously wintery. One of those chores was firewood.

Last fall, we put up about six cords, which is what we liked having on hand each winter at our old home.

As it turns out we didn't go through nearly as much firewood as we thought we would. Our current home is much smaller, plus we have a forced-air system that allows us to heat the place when temps are cool but not freezing. In short, we had plenty of firewood left over to put toward this upcoming winter.

However, we had extra firewood on hand anyway. Let me explain.

When we first moved into the house (Dec. 20, 2020 – I'll never forget the date!), we walked through the vast empty barn and noted a few things left behind by the sellers.

If you look to the left, you'll see a pile of firewood, evidently from a tree they'd cut down at some point. There was actually a fair bit of wood in that pile, perhaps two cords. We weren't pressed for firewood, so we just left the pile there.

However during the summer, we attempted to create some order out of chaos in the barn.

Now that we've been here almost two years, it's quite clear we can get rid of a lot of this stuff, and we have plans (now put on hold until spring) to hold a huge yard sale. But we were frustrated because we had no "staging area" where we could separate sale items as we organized. That pile of firewood was located in what would otherwise be the perfect staging area, so it was time to move the pile. In mid-August, that's what we did.

The most efficient way to move the wood was to haul it through the back door of the barn and load it bit by bit into our pickup truck. This back barn door opens onto a small grassy clearing that will one day be the feedlot for cows; but for now it's a lot of dry grass. We set up a sprinkler and gave it a thorough watering. We didn't want to take a chance of sparking a fire in the dry grass from the underside of the pickup.

Then Don backed the pickup as close as he could to the barn door (it's on a slope)...

...and I got to work pitching wood.

When the truck was full, Don drove it around to the front of the house.

We offloaded the wood in a random pile in front of the firewood area, then drove the truck back again and repeated the cycle. It took a few days (mostly working in the cooler mornings) to empty all the firewood, but it was very satisfying to have that corner of the barn emptied and ready to sort sale items.

The pile of unsplit firewood stayed in the driveway until a couple weeks ago, when I got busy splitting it.

Now let's go back again, to last October when we finished putting up last year's the firewood. To protect it from weather, we built a sort of cage around it using the horse panels we'd purchased shortly after moving in (those panels were a lucky "screamin' good deal" we found).

We erected the horse panels in a perimeter around the wood, with an idea of tarping over this makeshift frame.

We even "roofed" it with the panels.

Then, however, we made the mistake of tarping the wood, not the structure. (Don't ask why. It seemed logical at the time.)

For obvious reasons, this turned out not to be the best course of action. As we removed firewood over the course of the winter, the tarp sagged under rain and snow, and we spent months fighting that tarp whenever we needed firewood.

This year, since the structure around the woodpile was still in place, we worked smarter, not harder. We piled firewood up to the peak of the frame. (By the way, it's not too clear in the photo, but one of the front panels is an open "gate" through which we can access the wood.)

The last load was piled on the back porch for immediate use.

Don laid some of the old boards (from repairing the deck last year) across the top of the frame, for extra support.

Then we spread out the tarp...

...and pulled it over the frame.

We stretched the tarp tight, then zip-tied the front of the tarp to the frame.

Don did an excellent job of tying down the sides as well. The horse-panel frame gives us lots of places to anchor the tarp.

We also had one last cattle panel just hanging around, so we placed it on top and tied it from the corners diagonally to the corners of the frame, just to keep the wind from billowing the tarp up.

The result is a snug, if temporary, shelter for the woodpile. It will keep the wood dry for the winter, and we won't be fighting our way under a wet and sagging tarp during inclement weather whenever we need firewood.

Obviously we'll need a proper woodshed at some point, but that will be a project for next year. In the meantime, it's a nice feeling to have more than enough firewood to get us through the cold months.


  1. That woodpile structure is a thing of beauty. Thank you for sharing!

  2. It is so comforting and gives me such a sense of security owning a wood stove and plenty of wood. I heat my home, cook on it, always have hot water in a kettle ready for tea on it, I don't need TV as it is my entertainment (the programs never entertain me as much as those beautiful flames). It is such a Blessing!

  3. That's a very nice firewood enclosure--tarps don't last more than a season or two, but those can be replaced. It's very good to lift the wood off the ground like you have done. Wood with ground contact here starts to go downhill within just a couple of months.

  4. We heated with wood ever since we moved to our retirement home. we did cheat by setting the thermostat at 65 so the furnace would turn on in the early morning sometimes. Last year was the first time we did not. I have about 1 1/2 years wood put up but at 77 almost 78 we just do not have the mobility to do the work anymore. Hard to carry wood when you are using a cane!

    1. Find a kid. A new family that recently moved in has a 12 year old boy that is itching to earn a few bucks. If I needed help, I would contact him, it would be worth every penny.

  5. We have been splitting and stacking wood off and on these past few weeks. Love seeing the stacks grow knowing it will heat us again when temps drop. A feeling of contentment from our preparations.

  6. Those pics are providing me with some great memories and immense satisfaction seeing a job very well done. I love looking at me warm and fuzzies.

  7. Tomorrow is supposed to be our last nice day, here, too. I'll be putting more of the garden to rest for the winter. Then I'll be cutting wood in the cooler, but hopefully still dry, days ahead. Enjoy the nice weather while it lasts!

  8. For SJF we have found that a 5 gallon bucket with a sturdy handle works wonderfully for carrying firewood.