As I sit here next to the wood stove sipping my nettle tea, I wonder why anyone would ever heat their home with anything other than wood.
Cutting firewood from your own woodlot is work, that is true, but it is the kind of work that makes your body strong and your mind happy. When we got here almost a month ago, we had just five or six armloads of wood, there was no snow on the ground yet, but temperatures were dropping quickly. We knew that if we didn’t get wood, and get it fast, that we were going to be in trouble so we spent the first several days cutting firewood almost exclusively. Armed with a small bow saw, a curved pruning saw, an axe, a maul and a wedge, we went to work. We started by scouting the property, looking for trees that were already dead and dry, but not rotten. This mostly consisted of standing dead trees and the half fallen crowns of dead trees, making our prospects doable but a bit sketchy, as these sort of trees can be a bit more unpredictable when cutting.
After making sure that we could cut safely without being impaled by a falling widow maker or whipped by a spring pole, we got to work. With our hand saws, we trimmed off the branches from the fallen crowns, picked up any large sticks and branches that we could and dragged them back to the house. While I would normally leave this sort of brush in the woods for wildlife to use as shelter before decomposing into food for fungi, insects, and eventually soil, I knew that we would need smaller kindling to start our fires. Besides, there is more than plenty of course woody debris in this birch and ash dominated forest, since neither have a long lifespan, especially with the emerald ash borer moving in.
Once we cleared our workspace, we went back to start hacking away at the larger logs. With me working with the little arborist style saw and Zak with the bow saw, we cut what we could until all of the logs were too big for my saw to get through. Then we started taking turns cutting a log each before switching with the bow saw so as not to get too tired. Once the logs got up to about 5 inches, it just got too crazy so we decided to wait on those until we could use a chainsaw. We gathered just short of a cord of wood in two days using this method (although we did have to burn much of it). We also cut several standing dead trees with an axe so that they would be on the ground when we wanted to buck them up.
My dad, seeing this as a perfect excuse for a vacation, came up for a couple of days, bringing us another cord of nice, dry oak and his chainsaw. In a full day with the chainsaw, we cut about two more cords of wood. Since I have professional training in operating a chainsaw, I did most of the work with it and let the boys haul it out and split it.
After a couple more days of splitting and stacking, I’d say we had about four or five chords of firewood ready to go. Granted, we did get an extra cord from my dad. but that would have only taken another day or so to do with the chainsaw. Even without the chainsaw for part of it, we averaged a bit less than a cord a day without killing ourselves working either.
While this is not enough to last us an entire winter, I think that we will only be here until February or March at the latest, depending on where Zak gets his next job. Our stock has not gone down, though, because Zak goes out every morning to cut by hand to replace what we used the day before. It has been in the single digits and we have a fairly large house compared to the size of our wood stove so it takes him about 2 hours every day to do this, although he says he doesn’t mind because he considers it to be his daily workout. I guess you don’t need a gym membership when you cut your own firewood by hand.
I stay up a bit later than him every night to stoke the fire one last time before we go to bed and let it go out for the night. I sleep in a bit while he goes out to cut and then get up to clean out the ashes and start the fire every morning. He usually comes in just in time to give me a big armload of firewood so I can get the kettle on the stove for our morning tea with breakfast.
We are hoping to have my dad back up after christmas to use the chainsaw again for a couple of days to really stock up. Zak has also gotten so interested in cutting by hand that he is looking into purchasing a crosscut. With the snow over eight inches deep now, I think we may have to build a sled to haul it all out. Hopefully, we should be warm and toasty for a couple of months to come!
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