This is a collection of firewood related posts that I’ve written since Laura and I moved to Maine in 2013. These posts were scattered around this blog, so I decided to combine them all into one post to make life easier. They’re not in any particular order, but they sure are a lot of fun to read!
Up until this morning, I’ve been on a firewood collecting spree (it snowed last night and is very wet out there right now). I’m attempting to pull at least a cord out of the woods this Winter. I think I can get it too because the more I search through the woods, the more I find dead and funky looking, misplaced trees.
What do I mean by misplaced? Well, let me give you an example. The previous occupants of the house we live in removed all the pines in the front part of the rear woods to allow for the maples to grow. They did a good job too because now we’ve got some pretty serious sized maple trees. For years, they used those trees for their sap and eventual syrup. If I ever find the wherewithal, I’d like to do the same. Even if it’s just boiling off the sap in a pot on a wood stove.
Anyway, among those maples are ash trees, white birch and a few cherry. I’d like to take those three out so more maples can grow. Also, there are a few dead trees mixed among the rest that need to be removed. Needless to say, I’ll be busy for a while.
I went outside yesterday in a hunt for some firewood. I walked down one side of the property and found a few dead elm trees, so I pulled them out and cut them up into firewood sized pieces.
Right after that, I found a semi-dead white birch with no top towards the back and removed that as well. I didn’t get a chance to cut that one up, so I left it in lengths and added them to my already existing pile of white birch.
I found a fairly large dead maple tree a few days ago that’s situated right next to the pond in the back yard. I immediately targeted that tree for removal and began doing what I had to do yesterday. The only problem is, there are two sections of the tree and the smaller section’s top got tangled in the larger section’s. The most I was able to remove from that tree is three firewood sized logs and the remainder is just hanging there. My chainsaw isn’t large enough to take the rest of the tree down, so I’ll have to wait to get a bigger saw. I have my eye on a nice Husqvarna Model 450. They go for around $350. It’ll be a little while.
After I was finished battling the maple tree, I thought I would take a break and play on the pond a bit. It’s now frozen over and I’d say the ice is about 3 inches thick. Clear as day too. I know I keep saying that so I thought I’d offer a little proof this time. Check out these pics.
There are a few sections of woods in the back that are a bit gnarly. Broken pines and fallen trees. One of the areas I’m working on is the overall beautification effort. So, while I’m back there surveying for firewood, I take a detour to cut down a few stumps or logs laying irregularly. Through the years, these will decay and kind of clean the place up.
Also, if the dead fallen trees are hardwood, I’ll take a look to see if they’re any good. If they are, I’ll cut them up to pull out of the woods to burn.
The primary reason I went out yesterday was to take down a cherry tree and to clean up its vicinity. Leaning against the cherry was some dead hardwood and a large pine that had uprooted years ago. Let’s just say it wasn’t one of the prettiest parts of the thick. And by removing the fallen trees and the cherry, I’d be opening the area up so the small pines could grow. They seem to do a lot of that around here. I got some good lengths of cherry out of the deal.
I think my ultimate goal is to make the ATV path wider so I can fit my truck through it. Pulling these lengths of firewood all that distance is going to turn into a massive chore. If I could make a nice wide path, I can drive the truck, turn it around and fill it up on the way back. That would make my life a lot easier. I’ve even got the truck and trailer parked in the back in anticipation.
Splitting Wood With Rockforge Axe
I had a chance to try out my new Rockforge axe this afternoon. I picked it up at the Home Depot last time I was down there. The reason I got it is because I already had a very small pile of wood that needed splitting along with a few good lengths in the woods. I don’t like becoming overwhelmed, so I needed to get the pile split and stacked in my wood shed.
I initially wanted to buy the Fiskars 36″ axe as it has very good reviews on Amazon. The only problem I noticed was that every time I saw it for sale on either Amazon or Home Depot, it went up in price. I think the axe started somewhere around $30 to eventually find its way up to $53 when I was actually in the store. Seeing that, I walked over and grabbed a Rockforge.
The axe splits well. I finished the small pile I had in about 15 minutes. Nothing really to write home about. I’ve used a variety of axes in my lifetime and I’d say this one is just as good as any other I’ve used. There are some reviews out there that seem to be written by semi-fanatical axe users. They analyze every single thing about the product, including the initials imprinted in the metal. Fortunately, I’m not as fanatical as some – all I want to do is get my wood split, which is what I did.
The pile above is about a third of what I did. I finished splitting and stacking it all, so I think I’m ready to start dragging the rest out of the woods. That, and then cutting it into firewood sized pieces will add nicely to my growing pile in the wood shed.
I just want to write a quick note about splitting this firewood. After I finished up a few pieces, I picked one up and smelled it. Wow. I was nearly brought to my knees while having flashbacks of all the wonderful times I’ve spent doing this sort of thing. The best is mid-Autumn. Nothing like chilling out by myself, taking care of some freshly cut firewood. I’d even go so far as to say, “This is what it’s all about.”
First Maine Christmas Tree & More Firewood
Remember that time I told you that I found a potential Christmas tree in the woods? The tree I found that day was the top part of a larger tree. The “Christmasy” part of it snapped off the lower part during a windy night. Well, as it turns out, the same thing happened to another tree, only this time, it’s a heck of a lot closer to the house. It’s virtually in the front lawn.
When I discovered this beauty a few days ago, I told myself that I’m going to pull that sucker out of the woods and surprise Laura with it. Since it was nice and sunny this afternoon, I figured there was no sense in waiting any longer.
You should have seen her face when she rounded the bend. I asked her to take a picture of me in the front of the house and when she saw what I was up to – let’s just say I’ve never seen such astonishment and joy. Actually, her words were, “It’s so skinny.” Well that makes two of us. We’re keeping it.
After Laura snapped the picture, she walked around and got a few more. Here’s one of the back of the house. It’s the garage on the left, then the extra room we haven’t found a use for yet and then the rest of the house. Yes, that’s my truck and trailer parked back there on the lawn. It’s out of the way of falling White Pine trees. I just don’t trust those things.
Before this whole thing started, I went out to the garage to get my trusted Stihl MS250 chainsaw ready for the day. I sharpened and tightened the chain and filled it with bar oil and fuel.
After that, I found myself back in the woods pulling out a few lengths of Cherry. I then took down a dead Maple that’s been staring at me for a while. Full of nails that Maple was. Apparently, the kids who lived here before, built a tree house up against it. My chain paid the price today. I stacked the Cherry and the Maple on top of the White Birch I already had.
Then I cut, split and stacked. Little did I know Laura was taking pictures of me the whole time. Well, part of the time.
All of this to grow my pile of wood in the wood shed. And just to let you know, I went back out later and finished up. The pile’s even bigger now. If I continue with the path I’m on, I’ll have over a cord in no time. How much is a cord? A cord of firewood is well stacked woodpile 4 feet high, 8 feet long, and 4 feet deep; or any other arrangement of linear measurements that yields the same volume.
Down Come the Birch and the Maple
Today was one of those days that just might pass you by. It’s a day where you wake up, do some stuff, do some more stuff and then realize that it’s dark outside. Then, you eat and go back to bed. Winter has many of those days and if we aren’t careful, we’ll end up staying inside much more than we should. I think it’s because of the short amount of sunlight. Although, that’s supposed to be getting longer now.
Around 3PM, I realized that I hadn’t gone outside yet. Since I get bothered if I don’t get my fill of adventure, I suited up and went to do a little shoveling at the end of the driveway. I ended up not doing much shoveling because the snow was too hard and icy. I figured I’d just drive over it a few times with the truck next time it’s started. That’s so much easier than laboring in the ice, especially since it’s been snowing almost every day here lately.
As I was walking back to the house – shovel in hand, I took a detour and headed back toward the pond. I wanted to see if it had the same layer of ice/snow that the rest of the area had. I wanted to see if I could shovel a portion of it and slide around a bit, kind of pretending that I had ice skates on.
Lo and behold, the pond was in great shape. It only had a few inches of fluffy snow on it that I easily shoveled off in a few short minutes. Well, I actually shoveled a portion of it. I ran back in the house and asked Laura to come out to get some pictures of the event. I saw her walking out a few minutes later. By that time though, I had the chainsaw in my hand and I had already cut down that ugly, bent birch tree. Check out the Autumn picture of it here. It’s the first picture. Obviously not the other ones.
Pretty strange change of events huh? “Hey Pumpkin, can you come out and get some pictures of me shoveling the pond?” And by the time she gets out there, I’m cutting a tree down. Let me explain. When I realized how thick the ice was, I saw an opportunity to drop the Birch tree I’ve been looking at for weeks on it. If I did it on the ice, I wouldn’t have to deal with dragging it out of the water with the truck, come Spring. I think that makes sense. All I’d have to do is cut up the wood on the ice and then walk the logs off.
Having the pond frozen like that made things so much easier.
When I was finished getting all the Birch wood off the ice, I started looking at that maple tree I never finished cutting down. You can see those pictures over here. Since I had Laura there watching, I figured I would quickly knock the Maple tree over and try to get as much of it off the ice before it got dark. I did that and removed about half the wood before my chainsaw chain somehow tightened up on the bar. When that happens, I have to stop and make some adjustments. Today, I figured that it was a good time to call it a day. I was already sweating way too much and was rather uncomfortable. You can see the size of the wood in this next picture though.
I’m thinking that the wood I got from today’s adventure will finish up my cord. Can you believe that? Just from poking around the property, doing some cutting and splitting, I was able to fill the shed with about a cord of wood. That’s pretty good. Now we just need a stove and to get it hooked up. I’ll do this over the Summer. Tomorrow though, I’m going to finish gathering and splitting today’s wood. I’ll stack it up in the shed and take a picture of it. You can be the judge of how much it is. Maybe my calculations are off. Until then.
Finishing the Wood and a Backup Heat Source
I was hoping to move and split the wood this morning, but other issues took precedence. All I was able to do this morning was to move the good wood off the pond. I wanted to get it all (the dead stuff at the top of the tree), but that had to wait for this afternoon, after I got back from running around all over the place. Around 3PM, I was able to finish getting everything I wanted off the ice and then relocated the entire pile to its new home in front of the wood shed. If I get especially ambitious after tonight’s snowstorm, I’ll head out there, grab the axe and start splitting. But I’m fine with waiting until Spring to tackle that. I’m not sure I’m going to want to dig it out from under all that snow.
The whole thing is, I needed to get this stuff off the pond before it got covered with the snow. If I waited, the project would become exponentially more difficult. And if I decided to wait until Spring rolled around, I’m not sure I’d want to be walking on that ice. And fishing pieces of wood out of water just isn’t my thing. I’ll do it, but I wouldn’t be happy about it. Better to sweat a bit today and finish up what I wanted to than to wait for things to get worse.
This morning was all about running around town in an attempt to find a kerosene heater. I’m nervous about the heat situation up here. I need a heat source and then a backup and then a backup. After tonight’s storm, the temperatures are supposed to drop to -18 on Wednesday. This is after 30MPH winds on Monday. Some how, some way, I have a feeling we’re going to lose power just when things are at their coldest. I don’t feel like being “left out in the cold,” if you get what I’m saying.
I’ll write a separate post about what I’ve done to soothe my mind (heat-wise) later tonight or tomorrow. For now, check out the kerosene heater I picked up today.
Scavenging For Firewood
Lately, as Laura and I drive around, we’ve been noticing many people doing a lot of firewood cutting and splitting. Every time I see this, I gulp just a bit. I ask myself if people are really starting to squirrel away for next Winter. Unfortunately, I believe the answer is yes. In order to have your firewood seasoned properly to burn one Winter, you should have had that very firewood cut and split the Winter before. I have a feeling I’m going to be behind the curve for a while. Good thing I already have my one cord sitting in the shed waiting for me. Yeah right – that’ll last about a week.
Before I spend one penny on purchasing firewood from a local dealer, I intend to pick our property dry. We’ve got tons of standing firewood (dead trees) and trees that have been taken down and left to rot by our house’s previous owners. Some wood isn’t salvageable, but surprisingly enough, much of it is. I actually just found an Ash tree that’s been laying in the woods for a year or two yesterday. It’s still good and I plan on cutting it up and dragging it out just as soon as I sharpen the blade on my chainsaw.
As a matter of fact, just yesterday, I pulled two large pieces of Ash out from the edge of the pond, cut it up, split it and stacked it on my old wood pellet pallets. The whole endeavor took about an hour. Not bad for such a small amount of labor.
And I thought I’d mention, my new Carhartt logger boots are holding up very nicely. It’s comforting to have all this ankle support.
I’m not sure I’ve ever taken a picture of the house from behind the pond. I figured that I’d do that today, since I was back there. This is also right where that big Ash tree is laying.
Last Autumn, I took down a dead Cherry tree and some Poplar. I never got a chance to take it out of the woods because it snowed. And snowed and then snowed some more. Believe me, I thought I’d brave the snow and drag the logs up to the shed, but that idea quickly faded after I was knee deep. It just wasn’t possible. But I wanted to see how the wood held up over the Winter, so I walked back to where I left it. Yup, still there.
And while I was back there, I wanted to see the entrance to the Emerald Forest just one more time. I can’t get enough of it. It’s where the moss starts getting deep and walking doesn’t make a sound. It’s so soft. I’ll be taking pictures of moss for another post, so stay tuned.
Splitting & Stacking Firewood on Pallets
Today was a tough day. I cut and split a lot of wood this afternoon and my back is now sore. I can hardly bend over, but I think it’ll be better in a few days.
I was talking to Sam and his mom this morning when I told them that I’ve been seeing a lot of people taking care of next season’s firewood. She agreed and told me that their family does all theirs before Summer and before the black flies show up. Ohhh yeah. The black flies. And here I was, thinking that people are just preparing, like good boy scouts, when in actuality, they’re avoiding the black flies. I wasn’t aware of that, so I got to moving my butt.
I already have a cord in the back shed. I was going to move that up to the garage, but I decided I’ll just wheelbarrow that up to the house in October and November, when there’s no snow on the ground (hopefully). Once that’s gone, I’ll move to my stock in the garage, which I began today.
Remember when I started stacking that firewood in the back yard? I had that small pile and since I took that photo, I cut and split the lengths I had sitting in front of the shed. That gave me this:
Today, I loaded that wood, along with the pallets it was stacked on, into the back of my truck. My goal was to stack it in a mostly empty garage.
The garage is closer to the house, which is going to make it easier to bring the wood inside, come Winter.
I put the pallets down in the far corner and began stacking the firewood upon them.
After I was finished with that little project, I decided to move forward with taking down a few trees that have been staring me in the eye all Winter. One tree was a dead Elm and the other was a live White Birch that I thought was dead. My bad. It was tucked back in the woods though and you can’t even tell that it’s not there anymore.
I took both trees down, cut and split them right in the front yard. It took about an hour. Here’s what I got from that:
It’s not a huge pile, but that combined with the other small pile, combined with the wood in the shed, combined with the other small pile I cut and split in the woods today make a pretty big pile. I’d say at least a cord and a half.
Here’s what it looked like after loading it in the back of my truck and after I backed the truck into the garage:
Pretty good. I unloaded the wood and stacked it on the pallets.
I have to say, White Birch is the ultra primo when it comes to firewood. It cuts like butter and splits so easily. As I was splitting it, I felt like I was almost cheating. I completed the project very quickly. I also have to say, I sure am going to appreciate every moment of this coming Winter’s heat we get out of this wood. To cut the tree, cut the firewood and then split and stack it – yeah, I’ll be appreciating that heat.
How Much Firewood is Really Necessary?
I figured I would find the most private place on earth to confess my most private confession. What better place to tell no one but myself something so embarrassing? I guess here is as good as any.
I’m addicted to firewood. I can’t stop thinking about it. I love it and I covet it.
When Laura and I drive into Madison for cat food or groceries or building supplies, we exchange simple pieces of banter between the two of us. She tells me about something or other and I tell her the same. I don’t know how I do it – stay focused, I mean – because all throughout our conversations and all throughout the drive, I’m thinking of firewood. And I don’t know why.
While driving down the road, I look at the piles that are growing on people’s pieces of property. I scout out trees that I’d like to get my hands on to cut down, cut up and split. I think about which direction would be the best for them to fall. Where would I put my notch? Wires in the way? Would anyone notice? How much wood would it be? What kind is it? How long would it take to season? What’s wrong with me? All we were supposed to do was to buy some cat food and during that process, I end up wanting to cut down every tree on the planet. Just to fill up my garage so I have enough wood to last me for the rest of my life.
It’s not going to get any better either, because Maine’s full of trees. Look at a map, look at pictures – I’m telling you, we’ve got a whole lot of trees here and my insatiable appetite will be just that – insatiable. A man on a firewood mission will never be satisfied.
I was watching – get ready for this – videos on splitting firewood last night. Yes, I watch a multitude of videos having to do with cutting down trees and splitting up wood. I watch videos about people stacking their firewood. I even watched one in fast-motion. The person stacked a whole cord of wood in just under a minute. The technology behind the internet will never cease to amaze me.
Anyway, one of the comments below the video said – after a different comment asked why the person needed so much firewood – “People who ask why you need so much firewood just don’t get it.” That was perfect. Because it isn’t so much that you need it, it’s more about the fact that you want it. And I’m ashamed to say that I look at my firewood every single day. I lift it up and I feel the weight to see if it’s any different than it was the day before. And all the while, I wonder – sometimes out loud – if I’ve got a mental disorder.
And I’ve come to the conclusion that I do, because no sane man wanders around every single day to each and every pile of wood he’s got, to smell it. But I’ll tell you one thing – we’re going to be warm this Winter. So all this crazy talk does have a purpose, I suppose. I think of us this January 15, not shivering, but lounging around, putting another log on the fire, because that’s the way it’s supposed to be. God, I can’t wait for Winter.
My Current Firewood Collection
I think I’m almost finished collecting my firewood for this year. I’d love to go out back and take down the three final Ash trees, but I may wait until next year for that. Ash seasons in just a few weeks, so if I take care of those trees in early Spring, 2015, then I’ll easily be able to burn the wood come Winter. And, I’ll be getting another growing season out of those trees, which will plump them up a bit. Not much, but a bit.
I have no idea how much wood I have. It’s over a cord. I know that much. For those of you who don’t know how much wood is in a cord, simply imagine a piece of 4’x8′ plywood laying flat on the ground. Stack firewood on top of that until you reach four feet high. So, the actual dimensions of a cord are 8 feet wide by 4 feet deep by 4 feet high. Or, if you’re cutting your wood 18 inches long, just make a single row of wood 24 feet long and 4 feet high. A cord is a lot of wood and I’m not sure people really understand how much wood it is. If you split your own firewood or purchase it from someone else, just stack a pile and measure it. That’s the only way to truly know how much wood you have. A pickup truck ain’t a cord and a dump truck ain’t a cord. 4’x4’x8′ is a cord. This guy says it best. He’s also quite adamant about the whole thing, which I find rather entertaining.
Perfect Cord of Wood
I have one mammoth row of firewood in the garage. I just measured it and it’s 27 feet long. The rear of the row is just over 6 feet high and the front dips down to 4 feet high. On average, the row stands at a cool 5 feet high. Speaking cord language, I don’t know how much firewood that is, but I’m sure it’s more than the 24 feet by 4 feet that a full cord dictates. That’s how I know I’ve got more than a cord. Cord – I can’t say that word enough.
I’ve also got a smaller row in front of my big row and I even have a sweet two pallets worth of wood drying up outside. That’s made up of semi-dried Cherry, Ash, Poplar and some very green Maple. I’m keeping this pile outside as an experiment to see which wood dries and seasons better and faster – the stuff that’s in the garage or the stuff that’s outside. Either way, by September, I’ll bring the wood that’s outside into the garage. That’ll be its final resting place before I bring it into the log cabin room for burning.
Some friends up the road were kind enough to offer me some kindling wood. They did so just in time too because I was getting nervous about the whole kindling aspect of building a fire. One can never have too much kindling, although I may have recently become the first man on earth who has. What you see below is two truck loads of freshly cut Cedar shingle ends. The family up the road makes Cedar shingles, so what they gave me is the waste. Once dried, which really only takes a few days, this should make some kick-ass kindling wood.
They were also gracious enough to offer me what they call, “Cookies.” These are the end cuts of the Cedar logs. They are very nicely dried as they sit and would make excellent fire starters as well.
I want to mention for a moment that I’m reveling in my glory up here. Cutting and splitting firewood has been a great pastime of mine for many years. Living without a wood stove has been challenging, but now that I’ve got one, I’ve also got something to keep my mind occupied and my hands busy. Word to that.
Stacking Maple & Ash Firewood
Do you remember that post I wrote where I showed you what the beginnings of next year’s store of firewood looks like? Well, I figured I’d show you how much more wood I gathered from the rear four acres of our property. Basically, I finished up the row, which equals a bit over a cord. The row is 27 feet long, by 16 inches wide, by about 5 feet high. A cord is 24 feet long, by 16 inches wide, by 4 feet high. As you can see, I’m rolling in firewood. Although, let’s remember what a wise man (me) once said, “One can never have enough firewood.” And, “A true man loves firewood like no other object.” And, “A boy becomes a man when he sleeps on a bed of firewood…” Okay, I’ll stop.
Anyway, I took down a few more maple trees and some ash trees and this is what I’ve come up with:
Of course, this is only half the pile. The other half can be seen here. Not bad, but not good either.
I need to get at least two more rows before the snow starts falling. What I’m finding is that while the wood I collected this past spring is fairly dry, it’s not as dry as I’d like. I had a feeling this would happen. For firewood to really generate energy, it needs to dry for about two years. Six to eight months isn’t going to cut it if you want the most bang for the buck. I know people up the road who are getting green wood delivered now. They are crazy people and are people who will burn way too much wood, simply in an effort to keep what wood they do have burning, lit.
The wood I collect this autumn will be satisfactory for next winter. What I’d like to do is get next year’s firewood all set up and then start working on next next winter. Then, I’d be in good shape. And for all those out there who say that wood seasons over winter, I say you’re crazy. Wood needs summer heat to dry. Even though the humidity is very low during the winter months, that low humidity does nothing to season wood. It’s the summer that gets the ball rolling. I should know – I had some wood in the back shed over the winter and when I checked on it come spring, it was almost dripping wet. Cross ventilation and everything. Weird.
So, the time to squirrel is now because as they say, “A boy squirrel who doesn’t have a bed made of firewood will never become a man squirrel who loves wood like no other object.” BAM!
Firewood Prices – Maine vs. Lower New York
Just for giggles, I did a Google search to see what firewood prices are down where I come from – lower New York. I nearly choked when I saw what people are charging for wood in my home town.
Let me first preface this by telling you what firewood costs in my neck of the woods up here in Maine. And this is funny because just last night I was talking to someone (who didn’t believe that I actually hump the logs out of the woods on my back, by the way) and telling them there is absolutely no money in wood in my area. I go outside and put in some serious labor taking trees down, cutting them up into three piece sections, pulling them up on my shoulder and walking them out of the thick. After that, I throw the logs in a pile, cut them up and finally split them with an axe, not a splitter. Now, that’s really not all too difficult. It’s the walk to the garage that usually gets to me. It burns my legs out pulling my cart, by hand, across an acre with at least 100 pounds of wet firewood in tow. It can get exhausting. I figure that after a half day’s labor, I net about $35 worth of firewood. I can’t imagine describing what I do to someone as anything other than a hobby.
But yeah, back to the price of firewood up here – in Madison, I’ve seen signs offering a cord for $210, delivered. That’s why I say, there’s no money in firewood.
Now, in contrast to what I just shared with you, there is money to be made by selling firewood in lower New York and Connecticut. Check this out (and this comes from two websites):
Cord of firewood, seasoned – $420
Delivery – $52
Stacked – $54 per hour
Face cord of firewood – $350
Half face cord of firewood – $220
And just to let you know, a face cord is 1/3 the volume of a cord. So it’s 8’x4’x16″. A half face cord is half that, or 1/6 the volume of a cord. It’s a little more than a hoop full of wood, to put things in perspective. We’ve all seen a hoop of firewood. It’s a bit more than twice my wood rack. Can you imagine filling up, let’s say, two hoops (to be safe) of wood for someone and walking away with $220 cash? You’d be an fool not to, if you had the means.
Now, let’s do a little math here. A half face cord is 1/6 of a full cord. If you sold six half face cords per day to various people, you’d make $1320. Not bad for a cord of wood.
As I was reading one of the company’s Google+ pages, I came across a negative review. Someone was complaining about how the company couldn’t deliver as well as they would have liked. And get this – there was a snow storm coming that night. I guess these are the types of people who pay $220 per half face cord of firewood. People who wait for the impending doom of a snow storm to find the energy to order firewood. Poor soul had to buy those little bundles of logs out in front of a grocery store instead – sort of like a grocery bag of wood. Man, I’m doing something wrong. If I could sell the wood I’ve collected since last year for these prices, I think I’d eat two bowls of rice and beans tonight instead of just one. I’d walk my little hand cart all the way to New Jersey for that kind of money.
Wood Pellets vs. Firewood – Where to Put Your Money
I’ve been going back and forth with this question for some time now – which would I rather have, a pellet stove or a wood stove? I think it’s taken some chilly weather to answer what I’ve been looking for.
Last night, the temps dropped down to 34 degrees. Tonight, it’s supposed to go down to the 30s again and tomorrow night, 26 degrees with 1-3 inches of snow expected.
I guess things are right on track. A few days ago, Laura and I were talking to Don up the road and he told us that for years and years, everyone around here went snowmobiling on Thanksgiving. It’s only until recently that they’ve not had enough snow for that. Last year was a supposed fluke because the year before that, there was very little snow.
It got cold last year though – very cold. And because of that, heat has become a central part of my life. And like I mentioned above, I’ve been debating the question of where I want to put my money – to buy wood pellets for the pellet stove or to keep on collecting firewood. Eventually, I’ll have to buy firewood. What we have on the land here can only go so far.
I just picked up a ton of Tractor Supply brand wood pellets for $215 in Skowhegan, Maine. I think I mentioned somewhere on this blog that I had to haggle down for that price. They wanted around $250. In this area, I’ve seen cords of wood, delivered, going for $210. Somewhere out there, someone claimed that a ton of pellets is the equivalent of a cord of wood. Of course, that’s an impossible claim, not knowing what type of wood pellets you’re looking at and not knowing what species of wood your going to burn. But let’s ignore that.
We have both an Englander pellet stove and an Englander wood burning stove. For the past few chilly days, we’ve gone between them, seeing what gets the job done. In my mind, I keep track of how much wood we’re burning and how many bags of pellets we’re filling the pellet stove with.
Here’s what I’ve got to say about the whole thing: If someone out there could make a wood burning stove heat a home as consistently and as easily as a pellet stove can, we’d have the perfect solution. Until then, and even with the advantages of the pellet stove, I have to say that the wood stove takes it. It simply throws out more heat. And I’d also venture to say that it does so with less wood.
If it’s 35 degrees outside and above, the pellet stove is a really great item to have. You can pretty much set it and forget it. It’ll run all day and all you’ll be out is a bag and a half of pellets and a few cents on your electric bill. The problem is, and this is what we’ve been running into (especially in the midst of last winter), pellet stoves often can’t keep up as the main source of heat for a house. Wood stoves can. Especially wood stoves like our giant Englander.
Since this morning, we’ve been running the pellet stove. The temperature in the living room has maintained a constant 58 degrees. It’s almost as if the stove wasn’t doing anything. This is what happened to us last season as well. If we didn’t have the pellet stove running 24 hours a day, it would really struggle to get the house temperature up to where it should be. About an hour and a half ago, I lit a nice fire in the wood stove and shut the pellet stove down. Now, the wood stove is in a room off the main house, so all I’ve got to move the warm air is a small fan mounted in a doorway. Within an hour, the whole house temperature is up five degrees and I feel like I’m at the beach. This experience makes me wonder about spending any more money on pellets when I can just spend the same on cord wood.
Do you have either a pellet stove or a wood stove? What’s your experience? Which do you prefer? I’d really love to know because right now, for me, it’s the wood stove – hands down.
How Much Firewood Have You Burned So Far?
My friends, December is virtually upon us. I have to tell you, there aren’t many things I’ve obsessed about in my life as much as I’ve obsessed about firewood, wood pellets and heat. I’m not sure if it’s the fact that I’m getting older, but whatever it is, I feel myself getting more anxious as the years roll by.
Pellet inventory doesn’t bother me nearly as much as firewood inventory does. If we run low on pellets, all I need to do is run out and buy more. Someone has to have them. Even during those years when no one could find any pellets, there was a store out there that still carried them. They may have cost more and if you needed to buy them, you’d have to do the walk of shame to the register to ask for them, but still, you could get them. Now that they’re more plentiful, it’s really not even a concern. Taking the truck out and burning all that diesel bothers me more than the fact that I’ve got to buy the actual pellets.
Now, firewood is a different story. If we run out of firewood, we’re screwed. Firewood needs to season. You don’t just run out and pick up a cord of firewood. If we need more wood, I’ll be relegated to the depths of theft. I’ll be forced to pilfer some firewood from some unsuspecting soul, caught, beat with a wooden rake and left to hang out to dry from a branch of one of our areas mighty rock maples. It’s not a prospect I’m looking for.
The challenge with firewood is trying to determine how much you’ll need for the season. Now, I’m of the frame of mind that the more you have, the better. If you don’t use all your wood this season, simply keep it put and burn it next season. It sounds so simple. The problems arise when you move to an area one year, work your ass of to collect as much wood as you can find and then start burning it the next year, only to be reminded that some of the wood you collected is old and somewhat punky – resulting in a fast burn. The space you used to store the wood looks nice and full, but is it? Will a lot of old wood burn for the duration you’re looking for or will you go through it like you’re burning matches? Oh, the woes.
Of course, I’m talking about me here. I did collect a lot of wood and I knew I’d have to face a few challenges come winter, but the fact that I was aware doesn’t mean that I have to like it. It’s times like this when I envy those who collected with care and are now all stocked up with big pieces of seasoned oak or maple.
There is a silver lining to all this though – I stacked the crap wood toward the front, so it’s almost gone. Still, we burned 7 feet into one 27 foot long row. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad.
Luckily, we have (had) two 27 foot long rows.
I’ve made a few efforts to do the math in my mind regarding how long our wood will get us through. I haven’t come to a resolution yet , especially since the temperature fluctuates so much. To be honest with you though, we’re still one day away from December 1st and winter hasn’t even arrived. I figure I’ll be happy if our wood store can get us through until the end of February, with some special stock reserved for maple syrup boiling season. After that, pellets will have to do and when spring rolls around, I’ll head back outside to collect in earnest. This time though, I’m going after the good stuff. I’ve got my eye on one white birch, a nice fat rock maple and three good tall ash trees. Anything beyond that is gravy because I’ll be adding that wood to my already existing three cord of fresh maple, ash and cherry. I may even purchase two cord of firewood from a local dealer so I can sleep better at night, although I do enjoy the obsessing – to a point.
So, I have a question for you – how much firewood have to burned so far this season? How much do you have total and how large is the chunk you’ve taken out of it? I’m very curious if I burn fast, slow or just right. Please leave a comment below.
One last thing; I know I write a lot about firewood and that you may not be as interested in the topic as much as I am, but many of you might be. If you are, please check out these links. I read through things like this as I’m gathering ideas on what to write and how to go about it. Take a look…
Firewood For Life – A great resource for everything firewood. This blog covers how to clean out your ashes, where to find great firewood in Vermont and whether or not you should burn green wood.
Firewood 101 with Cheryl Barden – I read through this great post a few mornings ago and got some nice ideas from it. It’s pretty well written, so you might want to give it a once over. The author covers important topics, such as how to choose your firewood (something I alluded to in this very post), splitting and stacking your firewood.
Why It’s Hard to Find Firewood This Year – A quite interesting post about a quandary in Vermont. A quandary that some clever investigating found the answer to. Also, there’s a great video in this post that I thought I’d share with you. It’s about a firewood dealer located in the northern tip of Vermont and how he operates his business.
The Wood Guy
Firewood Box vs. Firewood Rack
If there’s one truism out there in regards to the process of burning firewood, it’s that things are going to be messy. I think many people don’t realize this fact before they purchase and install their wood stoves, but quickly learn their first season. As a matter of fact, I’ve heard on a number of occasions, after an individual abandons wood for another source of heat, that the mess was one of the primary factors that turned them off. I’m sure the collection of wood and the labor that goes along with storing and transporting it is right up their too. But the mess is what I hear about the most. The wood chips and little chunks of bark that leave a trail from the firewood rack all the way to the stove. No matter how much you sweep or vacuum, the issue seems to persist.
Firewood Crumbs Left On Floor
Over this past summer, as I was in a frenzy trying to gather as much wood as I could, I found the time to build myself a firewood rack. It’s a pretty good rack too. A few months into season number one, it’s still holding strong. I must say that I’m fairly gentle with it, but there have been times that I just dumped my arm full of logs on top of the existing logs. The rack frame hasn’t budged and what I built back in September pretty much looks like what is sitting here today.
I gathered the lumber to make the rack from our good friend up the road. He’s got a wood mill and sometimes it’s easier to drive a mile for some nice cedar boards than it is to drive fourteen miles for similar boards that cost twice as much. Anyway, as I was picking through Chad’s lumber, he asked me what I was building. I told him that I intended to make a firewood rack, to which he replied, “Why not build a box?” Since I had no idea what a firewood box was, and told him so, he brought me into his house, where he showed me his. Basically, a box is a box. It’s about two and a half feet tall by the same dimension wide. It’s made from three quarter inch plywood and, according to Chad, is better than a rack because it keeps all the wood crumbs from getting all over the place. When you dump your wood in, the crumbs shake off and fall to the bottom of the box.
Since I already had a rack on my mind, I ignored what Chad told me, paid for the wood and went on my merry way. The thing is, I want a box now. Firewood is very messy. We’ve got little chunks of wood from here all the way to Timbuktu.
I’ll go through exactly what happens and how the mess comes about. It’s not so bad bringing the wood inside. I carry about five or six pieces in my arm and leave very little trace of where the wood came from. I do notice though that before I pick the wood up from the outside pile, it’s got crumbs on it. It’s not all too easy to shake each piece off as I’m stacking them on my arm because things are getting heavier and heavier. As I make my way through the door and up the stairs to the log cabin room, everything is still fine, although I do take notice of all those little wood chunks I just brought inside. The issue arises when I let go of the wood to place it in the rack. One chunk here and another crumb there. After about two minutes, I’ve got myself a mess. Taking the wood from the rack and carrying it to the stove – same problem. I trail wood all along the path. I amuse myself as I carry piece after piece as still as possible, just so nothing falls off onto the floor.
I believe a firewood box would cure my problem. Since there’s nothing wrong with my trip from the garage to the upstairs room, I’m not concerned with it. If I could dump the dirty wood into a nice big box and let the residual wood pieces fall to the bottom of the box only to shovel into the stove at a later date, I’d be happy. Also, if I could give a minor shake and a tap to each log before I carry it over to the stove, all the better.
If you burn wood, what are your thoughts on this? How do you deal with the mess?
Maine Firewood in February
I figured I’d give a short firewood and snow update for the latter part of the winter up here in Maine. And if you’re interested in doing so, please comment at the bottom of this post with your own update for your part of the country. We’ve all had an interesting winter so far and I’m curious to hear about yours.
December and January were fairly boring. I think it was later on in January when it finally began snowing. It was like…nothing…and then, everything all at once. We had three or four substantial snow falls that earned us over two feet of snow. Over the past few days though, it seems like it compacted some. If I had to guess what’s on the ground right now, I’d say around 18 inches. Either way, the snowmobile riders are happy and Laura and I plan on going on our hike up in the hills when the temperatures rise a bit. Currently, they are between 5 degrees and 15 degrees during the day and anywhere from -18 degrees to 5 degrees at night. Last year, I freaked out at those temperatures but now, I’m becoming numb to them. As long as I’m not shivering while trying to work on the computer, I’m good. The wood stove is taking care of that.
Snow in Front of Garage
This photo looks more dramatic than reality. I have a big pile of wood that’s covered with the snow in front of the garage. That’s not all snow.
Driveway Cleared by Snow Thrower
This is a pretty good picture of how well of a job the snow thrower does. You can see that everything is nice and neat, just the way I like it. No damage caused by plows and no piles of snow to look at. If we had a longer driveway, I wouldn’t be snow blowing it, but for this size, a snow blower is the best answer.
Okay, over to the firewood. So far, this winter, I’d say we burned a good two full rows of wood. I’m sure you all remember my many posts on how much wood I have, but if you don’t, check this out. You can see some pictures.
If I didn’t cut and split wood this autumn, we’d be screwed. I had a full two rows and like I just mentioned above, we burned two rows (a row is slightly over a cord). I’ve tapped heavily into next year’s supply, which means that I’m going to have to double down in the spring and really get enough for next winter. Now, I do want to say that this year’s wood was mostly junk and burned very quickly. If I had real wood, I’m sure that it would have lasted longer. But with next year’s supply just sitting there doing nothing, I’ll use it.
Partially Empty Row of Firewood
Next Year’s Row of Firewood
I figure that from here on out, we’ll need two tons of pellets and four cord of firewood. That is, unless I decide to install another wood stove in the living room. If that’s the case, we’ll need six cord of wood, straight up. Wood is better. It gives off more heat for the buck.
Laura and I joinded Sam’s Club a few days ago. We drove down to Augusta to fill up on some larger packaging of the foods we already eat. I was getting a bit tired of purchasing such small canisters of bread crumbs and such small bags of flour. At Sam’s, we get 25 pounds of this and 15 pounds of that. It’s sort of a hike to get there, but I figure it’ll only be a once a month thing.
Anyway, on the way to Sam’s last week, Laura snapped a few photographs of some scenery. I think it snowed the day before, so things were still in somewhat good shape. Enjoy – and don’t forget to tell me how much snow you have and how much firewood you burned!
House in Snow Covered Field
Snow Covered Road and Field
Old Bulldozer in Snow Covered Field
Stocked Up With Firewood & Pellets
I’d say we’re ready for winter. We’ve been squirreling away since April and, if I don’t say so myself, we’ve done a damn good job.
I remember last year – I went a little nuts scouring the entire property for every little bit of wood, whether it be dead or alive. What I ended up with was a pile that looked like a lot, but was, in fact, a bunch of junk. Dead wood feels heavy and valuable when it’s soaked with water while laying on the forest floor, but once it dries out in the garage, it makes perfect kindling. I wouldn’t say it’s a good burning firewood. I did have some quality birch and maple, but beyond that, nothing to write home about.
This year is different. My first thought was to have six cord of tree lengths delivered and to cut and split them myself. I may still do that in the future, but I’m uncertain of the log truck being able to make the turn into our driveway. To just “get it done” this spring, I called Logland over in Madison, Maine and had them deliver four cord for $210 a piece. Not a bad price. This was in April when the ground was still thawing. The delivery guy sank right into the driveway and had to dump where he was. He put the truck in 4-wheel drive and made it out of the hole. I thought he was going to tip over as he was dumping because the truck was on such a tilt.
Anyway, that four cord in addition to the one and a half I had left over from last year (good stuff) makes five and a half cord for this year. Also, at the end of the season last year, I went out and grabbed a ton of pellets. Then, this spring, I grabbed another one. And just yesterday, Laura and I drove over to Athens, Maine and picked up what I hope to be the last one.
Five and a half cord of firewood and three tons of pellets should do it. If if doesn’t, we have problems.
By the way, the junk you see sitting in front of this pile is the baseboard heating pipes that I cut out of the house before my parents came to visit in July. Have I expressed my lack of enthusiasm for oil heat on this blog yet? Well, as you can see by the cut pipes, I don’t like it much.
The species of wood that Logland delivered is Ash, Yellow Birch, Maple and some type of Hornbeam (Ironwood). It’s good stuff and after having it dry out over the past six months in the garage, it burns nicely. We’ve already had a few cool nights that prompted me to get a fire crackling. Of course, I heated myself right out of the room, but the logs burned wonderfully.
Last summer some time, Sam from up the road dropped off a pile of white pine trimmings for me to use as kindling. After having it sit there for a few months, I decided to head out and cut it up. I did that and now we’ve got about a half cord of dried white pine. I use this for cool (not cold) nights, just to take the edge off. Since I clean our chimney a few times a season, I think it’s a good idea. It’s cheap (free) and it does the trick. And what’s nice is that some of the pieces are a good size.
So that’s that. We’re ready. Are you? What’s your situation?
Nothing Beats Firewood for Heating a Home
There are two different types of people in this world; squirrels and grasshoppers. I happen to be a squirrel. I like to store things. Things that I consider an investment into the comfort of my future. At times, I’ve obsessed about this future a bit too much, but I think I’ve finally hit the sweet spot. A place I can sit back and take a break.
Where I live, I’m met some grasshoppers. These are the types of folks who call the firewood dealer on a cold night in November to ask if he could deliver a cord or two. Of course, he’ll get to it the next day or the day after that, but it will be cold and wet, just like the customer’s comfort level for the next few months. It’s all about preparation – today and well into the years to come.
It took three years, but I’m caught up. I have two full year’s worth of firewood. One year’s worth has been sitting since April of 2015 and the other year’s worth has been sitting since April of 2016. If I had to guess, I’d say I have about seven cords overall. This is prefect because it’s enough to give me an entire year and a half of drying. Or seasoning. Whichever you want to call it.
On the pellet front, we have three tons. We had almost one ton leftover from last year and then Laura and I ran out to grab two more from the manufacturer. We received an offer over the summer telling us that if we got there with the truck before the end of August, they’ll give us each ton for only $200. That’s $15 off each ton from their regular price and at least $75 off each one from a regular retailer. It didn’t take me long to get over there to do what I had to do. By the way, if you’ve never seen a real pellet plant, you should definitely check out this post. I took pictures and everything.
The reason I titled this post the way I did is because I wanted to impress upon anyone who is considering the purchase of a heating device that a wood burning stove is the way to go. Hands down, you can’t get heat from something else like you can from a wood stove. I’ve lived at more addresses than I care to talk about and I have the experience to back up my claim. Pellet stoves are cute and great for chilly spring or fall nights, but they can’t handle the seriousness of mid-January. They are automatic and all that, but, unfortunately, they can’t keep up. And heaven forbid the power goes out. If the pellet stove is your only source of heat, you’ll likely freeze. And nobody likes to freeze.
I often get asked if it’s expensive to live in Maine. I have many answers for this. First, I ask what area the questioner is referring to. What part of Maine? I’m sure the coast is much more expensive than the western area where Laura and I live. Second, I ask what size house the person is interested in living in. We found ourselves a house up here that’s about 1,300 feet and it cost almost half of what our first house in New York cost, and than one was only 1,100 feet.
Regarding heating and cooling, we don’t cool. We don’t have an air conditioner because we don’t need one. Sure, there are some hot days during July, but we power through them. It gets humid, but it’s not worse than any other place I’ve ever lived. So, without any cooling to pay for, our monthly electric bill has averaged just $57 over the past six months. Every time I receive it in my email, I shake my head and run to tell Laura about it. I wonder how long I’ll do that and how long it’ll take until I’m used to it and think it’s expensive. When I lived in Connecticut, I could have the electric completely off and it would still cost me $75 a month.
We use about two tons of pellets and two cord of wood to heat our house per year. Each of those things is $200. So, if you add that up, our heating cost comes to $800. I’ll round that up to $1000, just in case. That’s not bad. No oil to pay for. No A/C to pay for. Not much to think about. It’s all upfront costs and everything’s paid for. That’s what I’m talking about when I talk about being a squirrel. It’s more fun this way because it frees me up to write blog posts and go for walks.
Do you live in the country? What are your experiences with cooling and heating costs? I’ve heard some wild numbers from friends around the country. Some that make my jaw drop. If you’d care to share, please write something in the comment section below. Thanks!
Squirreling That Firewood Away
“It really seems to me that in the midst of great tragedy, there is always the horrible possibility that something terribly funny will happen.”
Philip K. Dick – an American writer known for his work in science fiction.
I can’t remember the exact moment I became a squirreller, but I can tell you that the idea has really taken off in my mind as of late. I’m wondering if the concept became attractive after Laura and I moved to Maine. Maine offered an entirely new collection of challenges that we hadn’t yet faced. From the large amounts of snow to the power outages to every day living. It’s fair to say that it’s better to be prepared up here than not. In all honesty, if you’ve been residing in Maine for more than a handful of years and you still haven’t gotten the system down, there’s something wrong with you. To live in Maine, you’ll need stored food, stored money, and stored firewood. And the reason you’ll need the firewood is because you’ll need to fill your wood stove with something. Maybe a wood burning stove isn’t necessary if you’re living in southern Maine, but in western Maine where we live, it’s nice to stay warm while the electricity is off for days on end. It’s so much better than freezing. Especially when the power goes out in the middle of January.
For the past few years, I’ve been purchasing firewood from a local vendor. The average price has been $210 per cord, delivered. This is a great deal and I’m so happy to have such a professional outfit so close by. I call to make my order and they come to deliver what I requested. Since I bought the land next to our house though (last year), I’ve been eager to get back there to cut some wood of my own. The trees consist primarily of softwoods, but there are some hardwoods thrown in for good measure as well. We’ve got Eastern White Pine, Black and White Spruce, Balsam Fir, Cedar, Hemlock, White Birch, Yellow Birch, Red Oak, Red Maple, Elm, Ash, and Cherry. It’s an interesting mix that I’m hoping will provide a good wood fuel foundation for the winters to come.
I’ve always heard that you shouldn’t burn softwoods in your fireplace or wood stove. Apparently, these types of woods clutter up chimneys with soot and creosote because of what folks refer to as pitch. While I agree with this sentiment for the average person, I have to admit that I absolutely love burning the stuff. It’s perfect for those cooler evenings in the fall and spring that I don’t want to commit hardwoods to. I like to light a fire, let it burn for a few hours and then let it die out. Softwoods definitely do clog up the screen of the chimney cap, which requires me to get on top of the house to maintain, but I already clean our chimneys twice a season anyway. It’s not a big deal for me. I’ve got ladders and easy access. Plus, I’ve got tons of pine on the land out back to burn, so it would be a total waste not to.
For the past few weeks, I’ve been doing a lot of work outside. I began by cleaning up and thinning out some trees up front, near the road. Five years ago, I went a little crazy and planted 150 small Norway Spruce pine trees all over the place and they’re beginning to get large. I’ve been eyeing them and I have to tell you, I’m not liking what I’m imagining will happen in ten year’s time. Too many trees and not enough lawn. Because of this, I conjured up the idea of thinning out the bordering woods and transplanting some of the trees in there. I figure that if I can get enough sunshine to the areas in which I plant, the trees will continue to grow as they have been. I’ve already transplanted about 20 trees and things are looking good. The best part is, I’ve been cutting up the small trees and branches that I’ve been removing. I think you know where I’ve been storing that cut up wood. That’s right – in the garage/wood shed for next year’s firewood.
This is a nice action shot that Laura took as I was cutting last week. The camera was set to a shutter speed of 1/2000th of a second to get those wood chips frozen in the air like that.
The saw I’m using is a Stihl MS 250. I’ve owned it for about 15 years and it’s been great. Very reliable and does what I need it to do.
Here’s some more action for you. This time, you get to see the beautiful Carhartt work gloves that Laura bought me for Christmas. I think you can also see a bit of my arm. It’s flexed and quite muscular. Anyway, moving on…
This thinning was last week’s project. I’ve since moved on to the woods in the back and side of the house. We own a total of approximately 13 acres of wonderful forest, so I’ve been excited to get back there to cut trails and firewood. Over the past week, I’ve spent about four hours per day doing just that. I’m having the time of my life too. These days remind me so much of when I was younger. I used to cut a lot of trees and wood with my father. He loves firewood just as much as I do, although he lives down in North Carolina now, so he doesn’t need it to stay warm anymore. I know he still has a strong affection for firewood though, so don’t let him ever tell you differently. It’s in the Gaulard blood.
I modeled for the above photo. Can you tell?
Perhaps I should begin by showing you a few of the trails I’ve cut recently. I already had a lot of work done last season, but I’ve done a lot this season too. These photos are going to be ultra boring if you’ve never been here, but I think I just want to get them up here on the blog so I can ponder over them in the future. After all, I do spend a lot of time on this website looking around at things I’ve done.
I just cut this brand new trail two days ago. I had a friend over who helped me cut up and collect some nice firewood and while he was here, we also partially cut this trail. I finished it up by myself.
This is continuing on with the same trail. It’s a very interesting area because as I was cutting, I followed some old logging tracks. This land has been logged before. If I had to guess when, I’d say about 30 to 40 years ago. I can still see many large old stumps around.
I cut this neat little trail last season. I don’t know why. It’s short and cute though. And yes, we still have snow on the ground. I just took this photo this morning.
This next trail photo is of one that was actually here before we arrived. I cleaned it up a bit though. Take a look at all those White Pine needles and moss. It’s so nice to walk on.
And finally, this is a turnaround area I cut for the ATV. It can be a challenge changing direction at times, so I built this when Ian and I were making the bridge through the swamp.
My goal was to find trees that had fallen down and to cut them up. I spotted a few very nice Cherry and Ash that fit that bill perfectly. I also wanted to cut some trails so I could easily navigate the forest with the ATV and trailer. I wasn’t about to go back there with a wheelbarrow to haul the wood out. While I could certainly do that, I wouldn’t finish until Christmas. Plus, I purchased the ATV just for this. You don’t really live in Maine until you own an ATV and you haven’t really lived the Maine experience until you haul firewood out of the thick with said ATV and a trailer. It’s an extraordinary amount of fun.
Basically, the way I do it is like this: I cut down a tree and cut it up into firewood length logs right where it falls. Then, I grab each piece of wood and toss it out into the trail so I can easily load the wood into the trailer for hauling back to the garage/wood shed. The reason I cut it up right where the tree falls is so I don’t have to exert myself by dragging or throwing larger pieces of wood and the reason I toss each piece into the trail is so it’s all piled up nicely around the property. I wouldn’t want to have to collect it and load it into the trailer at the same time. It’s better to already be in piles. Right now, I have approximately 20 piles of wood scattered around the forest. Some are large piles and some are small. Some piles include wood that was still live recently and some has been standing and dead for years or lying on the ground for a few years. I filtered through the dead wood by cutting through each piece and inspecting the interior of the log. By this point in my life, I know what to look for. If it’s at all punky and soft, it gets tossed. If it’s hard and burnable, it gets added to the pile. The Cherry trees are notorious for being standing firewood. Cherry can stand for a decade or more and not fall over. All it does is dry out and wait to be cut and burned. I absolutely love burning Cherry wood. It doesn’t offer the BTUs of Oak or Maple, but it sure is fun to cut and look at.
For the next 10 photos, I’ll show you random small piles of firewood that I cut over the past week. Again, I’m doing this more for me than you. I completely understand how boring looking at piles of firewood can be if you’re not into it, but for someone like me who is, it’s actually quite interesting. Above each photo, I’ll offer a caption of what you’re viewing.
This is some live Maple that I just cut two days ago. This tree was right in the middle of the trail. I felt bad taking it down, but it ended up being somewhat dead in the middle anyway, which made me feel better. One thing I’m always shocked at is how small the ultimate pile of wood is. I consistently think the tree will give me more.
These next two photos consist of some dead Cherry firewood. Pieces in these piles were standing as well as lying on the ground. As you can see, the exterior of the wood is soft and punky, but the interior is hard and perfect for burning. I just wish I had a tumbler or something to remove that rotten wood.
This is a perfect example of some prime standing dead Cherry. Notice how the pieces still have their bark, but are dried out at their centers? Perfect. I could cut this type of wood all day long.
This next photo is the reason I bought the quad. I was roaming around the woods last fall when I noticed that an Ash tree had fallen over. It looked fresh and I simply couldn’t stand the fact that it would sit outside rotting as I was paying for someone to deliver firewood to me. It was at that point I put the wheels in motion to do what needed to be done. Within a few weeks, I had an ATV in hand and within a few weeks after that, I had a trailer. Last week, Ian and I cut this tree up and it lies waiting for me to go get it and pull it out for stacking. This is what we call prime firewood.
Maine is full of White Birch trees that are permanently bent over from the weight of snow and slush. While some trees eventually recover their proper upright positions, many don’t. The ones that don’t, if they’re too shaded in the woods, eventually end up dying and turning all punky and rotten. The trick is to catch these trees before they die. We’ve got many on our property, so it’s needless to say that I’ve got quite a few piles that look like those below.
I’m not sure what these little trees are called, but we’ve got lots of them. They bend over in the snow as well, and if they’re in my way, I’ll take them down. They burn just the same as any other type of firewood and they’re perfectly sized, so I’m happy to add them to the mix.
Finally, We’ve got a fairly large Eastern White Pine leader that fell during a recent storm. I took the opportunity to cut it up into firewood length logs. I’ll haul this back up to the house, split it, and use it for kindling and to top off an already burning fire.
I brought four or five trailer-loads of wood up to the garage yesterday and was surprised at how much room it consumed. I plan on stacking five rows deep of firewood and I’m already half way there. Granted, I had a lot of leftover wood from this past season, so I wasn’t starting from scratch. I’m hoping to top these piles off and have a bit left over. That would make me happy, especially because I won’t be storing exclusively hardwoods. The softwood is taking up space and I can’t rely on that wood when the temperatures drop down below zero. For that, I need my Oak, Ash, and Maple. I’ll have plenty of that though, so I’m not concerned.
In other news, I’m growing a beard. This photo was taken on April 18. As I sit here and write, it’s April 26. You can imagine how much longer it’s gotten, although, I do feel like it’s stopped growing in recent days. I’m going to see how long I can get it before it looks weird. Maybe I’ll go all the way and become a bearded Mainer. I can then enter it in beard competitions. That would be awesome.
By the way, this is me sunning our indoor cat. He likes to smell the air outside and to bask in the sunshine. We try to offer him that experience every so often.
Enjoy the weather and take care of yourselves!
PS – Here are a few photos Laura captured while I was loading the trailer with firewood. Of course, I had to model for one of these photos again. I enjoy doing that.
Firewood Update for February 2017
Ah, another day, another snow storm. Actually, I think lower New England and New York are getting it worse than us. They’re supposed to get well over a foot while we in western Maine are stuck at around eight inches. No matter, we just accumulated about three inches yesterday and are supposed to see around sixteen more throughout the week. It’s turning into a very active February. That makes my heart sing. It’s certainly better than last year’s lazy winter.
I thought I’d head out to the garage with my camera for a quick firewood update. I know how much everyone loves these types of posts.
So far, I’d say we burned about a cord and a half of firewood this season. That’s not bad. The strange thing is, we actually burn the most in March and April during my syrup making endeavors. That’s a real chore because I have to open all the windows in my room here so I don’t sweat too bad. I sweat, but the cooler air helps – that’s for sure.
I wanted to quickly show you my firewood carrying bag. I don’t think I ever posted a picture of this.
This one is called a Cougar and it’s the biggest one I could find. I had last year’s wood cut at eighteen inches and it was plenty big for that. This year, I went with sixteen, so things are just dandy. Bringing wood inside from the garage is made so much easier when I use this tote. Back in the early days, I only had my arms. That got old very fast.
Here’s a photo of one side of the garage. This is where I stacked this year’s wood. I have three cord on the other side drying for next season.
Don’t be fooled by these piles. The two on the right were small to begin with. After I filled up the other side of the garage and even the center, I still had more wood. I decided to temporarily stack it in these two piles and then just recently figured I’d go ahead and burn it. It’s the two piles on the left that matter. Each of those two long piles holds about a cord and a half, so with half of them gone, that’s about a cord and a half burned.
After I took some photos of the garage and the wood, I figured I’d walk around a bit for some more. Here’s one of the front of our house during today’s snow storm.
It’s so cool. Laura and I are planning a short ride in the truck in about an hour or so. I’m going to get her to drive me up the road and back. I like to watch her drive the truck because, deep down, she gets a kick out of it. I’m not sure how someone couldn’t. We throw it in 4-wheel drive and drive over anything we want. Talk about fun.
I took a few shots of our stream that runs along the property line. It’s totally frozen. No action there. I did, however, like the look of the bridge that crosses it in the snow. Things look very short.
Here’s a closer view.
Here are a few nature shots for you. The first one is of a birch tree that’s got some pretty snow on it and the second one is of a few small hemlock trees. Both photos were taken at the side of the frozen stream.
I do love those hemlocks. I wish our property was covered with them.
Finally, here’s a photo of our Christmas tree. We took this down about a week ago and I stuck it in the snow out back near the bird feeders. Now, the little birds sit on the branches and eat the food after they’ve stolen it. Fun times.
Now that I think about it, it would have been sorta cool if we left the lights on it. We could have lit it up at night. Perhaps next year.
Pruning Trees for the Firewood
I’ll admit it. I’m slightly addicted to collecting firewood. I know I have enough. As a matter of fact, I’ve got a garage full of it right now, waiting to be burned this winter and next. That doesn’t stop me from collecting even more though. After all, like I said, I’m addicted. Plus, it’s just so much fun. The creative ways I come up with for finding this stuff.
Anyway, the front of our property has been a bit messy for a few years now. We’ve got some large sugar maple trees that had quite a few lower hanging branches. Those branches were growing right into some pine trees that are situated right next to them. In addition to the branches on the larger trees, we had about a dozen smaller trees that were all clustered together that didn’t look good at all. I made it a mission to prune the lower branches from the larger trees and then simply cut down all but two of the smaller clustered trees. I accomplished this mission over a few days. It was nice. The weather was good and the leaves were falling all around me as I worked. You really can’t ask for much more than that.
This is a view from the end of our driveway. Those are the big sugar maples I was telling you about.
This is a closer view. I’m not sure if you can see them clearly, but those two smaller maples are the only two that are left from the mess that was there.
And finally, here’s a view from the other direction. Take a close look at the trees. You can see where I cut the branches from.
After I cut down each tree or removed each branch, I’d attempt to save as much good wood as I could. I cut the smaller branches from the thicker parts and then cut the ends off as they got too thin. I threw all that smaller stuff in the woods and then piled all the larger stuff on the driveway. Check out how much I was able to save.
Not bad. I bet my father is proud. I remember back when my friend Gary and I used to drive around in his car when we were teenagers. We’d stop to fill the tank with gas and he’d make sure to get every last drop from the pump. He’d say, “Those are miles man, miles!” Saving wood like this reminds me of that gas. This is firewood man, firewood!
Check this out. I just got back inside from cutting up all these lengths of wood. Look at what I did.
I don’t know, I’d say that’s a few good days and nights worth of firewood. Hey, it’s better than tossing it in the woods as waste. At least I’ve got some extra wood now that will serve us well. Thanks for reading!