“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.