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Harvesting Firewood

16057 Views 47 Replies 26 Participants Last post by  Magus
I just put in a wood fireplace and have been harvesting wood from relative's properties. I am reforesting my 5 acres with localy appropriate trees (Ponderosa Pines) that thrive here. I have learned to use a chain saw (own) and hydraulic splitter (rented). I built a covered crib to hold 4 cords and will expand it to 8 this summer. I do have central heat (gas) but have turned it off and am going cold turkey to wood and am enjoying it.

My question is what tools should I use if my chain saw were unusable and a power splitter is unavailable? In other words, long term off the grid self-sufficiency.

Ponderosa Pine is realatively soft, is typically 50-75 ft tall and 18 inches diameter. The bottom 2/3rds of the tree is typically without branches.


I have read about cross cut saws and sharpening them. But what hand tools would make it easiest to fell a dozen trees a year, and split them, AND MAINTAIN THE TOOLS IN THE LONG TERM? I want to buy the tools best for the job with enough spare parts and tools to maintain them indefinitely.

My stove takes 24inch logs.

Thanks!
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I ue maybe 10 cords a year in my outdoor wood furnace. There is no way on this earth I'd be able to cut and split that much wood by hand so we bought a 35 ton splitter a couple years ago. It's really nice to have around. I use a Stihl MS290 chainsaw (FarmBoss) but we have a couple axes and sometimes if I'm bored I'll split a couple logs with a sledge hammer and wedge, but not very often at all. I may use 30-40 gallons of petroleum a year to heat my house now between bar oil, 2 cycle oil, hi test for the saw and regular gas for the splitter. WAY less than the ~1200 gallons of heating oil the old furnace used.
Bump

We use anything from twigs to logs and everything in between and gather during the warm months
You said it. In a nod to UncleJoe's post, I got hooked up with a fairly large scale tree service whose lot was covered with pine logs they had no idea what to do with. They ended up delivering them to me for free just to be rid of it, then THANKED ME FOR TAKING THE WOOD. I just stood there laughing. That first day they brought a tandem dump load, a big single axle dump load, and 2 F550's full of logs. Now every once in a while they just show up and dump some. Brings a smile to my face, and it helps out the tree service, too.
You never told me that! Glad to here it's working out for you.
You said it. In a nod to UncleJoe's post, I got hooked up with a fairly large scale tree service whose lot was covered with pine logs they had no idea what to do with. They ended up delivering them to me for free just to be rid of it, then THANKED ME FOR TAKING THE WOOD. I just stood there laughing. That first day they brought a tandem dump load, a big single axle dump load, and 2 F550's full of logs. Now every once in a while they just show up and dump some. Brings a smile to my face, and it helps out the tree service, too.
Man you can't beat that, I mean free delivery and all, I would be calling other tress service companies and telling them you have a free dumping location and specify what you will and won't take.

You can never have too much of a good thing, well maybe but not when it comes to fire wood. What you can use then trade or sell.
The only drawback is it's at least 90%pine. Not great for burning in anything other than an outside furnace, but believe me, I've thought about hiring one of those mobile sawmillers to come over for a weekend.

Thought I'd mentioned that, Joe, sorry. This guy is in the suburbs of Pittsburgh and he seems like a city boy. I say that as in I don't think he'd have an outside furnace. His employees split and sell the best stuff as a sideline (cool of him to let them do that) and I get the rest. I don't think the owner burns any.
I've thought about hiring one of those mobile sawmillers to come over for a weekend.
I'd give you the number of the guy that does mine but you may be outside his travel range. :D
Was reading an old, out of print book (off line) about how the native peoples went about felling trees without modern tools. The book was relating the process of using pine pitch or sap to place a line of fire on wood (at the base of a tree) and then allow the weight of the tree and the fire to bring the tree down. A summary of this type of off-grid wood working can be found in this article: http://www.gwbhs.com/Articles/NATIVE AMERICAN CANOES.pdf

In addition, there are a number of plans (online and elsewhere) to build a wood spliter that uses gravity (non-electrical) to split wood. Gravity is free and a lot less work than chopping--unless you need the exercise.
Heating Value of Common Wood Species

how do you guys know what trees to burn/cut down?
BTW, take a look at the chart found at:

Heating Value of Common Wood Species

The chart details the amount of BTUs per chord of different woods.
There is no farmer or rancher that won't let you cut trees out of his fence rows!
Great source of fire wood on the cheap.

Also look for overgrown right of ways, most people will PAY YOU to take the overhanging limbs and trees off right of ways.

Cross cut saws sound great, but they are a PAIN to work with, I've done it, and it SUCKS.
Electric chain saws when you are cutting logs at your place, gas powered when you are working in the field. The time savings are incredible!

Keep the saws SHARP! Let them do the work.
If you use a dull saw, you might as well be cutting with a buck saw, it will wear you out!

Pay attention to trees you are cutting, look for things like fence wire or nails grown into them.
Keep them out of the dirt!

If you have to 'Grub' with a saw, and you will at some point, make sure you use one of the 'Carbide' tipped chains, they last SO MUCH LONGER and don't go dull when you hit something like a nail or wire or get into the dirt with it.

Look into a 'Bush Axe' (curved blade that catches limbs, vines, ect. that an axe won't cut, and chain saws like to yank around and wad up instead of cutting cleanly)
I use a bush axe to clean away things like brier thickets, vines, small limbs, ect.

Anything under about 4" and the brush axe is faster than most chain saws and will hook/cut where most other cutting tools won't.

I don't cut/split wood like I used to, but I do cut up/stack everything we cut for something else, no sense in wasting it since we are already there and have the tools out!
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There is no farmer or rancher that won't let you cut trees out of his fence rows! Great source of fire wood on the cheap. Also look for overgrown right of ways, most people will PAY YOU to take the overhanging limbs and trees off right of ways.
Not so fast. I'm a farmer and I don't want anyone cutting any wood on my land without my permission. I sell timber, firewood and pulp. This is part of what I farm along with livestock. I have a couple of neighbors that I allow to cut some marked trees for firewood each year but THEY PAY for the wood. Wood is a resource. Don't go thinking you can go onto someone's land and take it or that they'll be happy to have you do it.

Not only that but we have a lot of trees along our fence lines that act as shade trees for the livestock, provide fruit and nuts, etc. I would be majorly pissed to have someone cutting them. I planted many of those trees.
I wouldn't let anyone cut wood here anymore and most of my neighbors will not either as there is a liability today. years ago before lawyers got into the act, it was different, today if you do someone a favor and they hurt themselves, guess who get sued?
Hybrid Poplar

Has anyone ever heard of hybrid poplars? I have been reading up on them and thinking of growing an acre for heating only. This way you would never have the need to split them. They grow extremely fast so they are not good for structural wood or anything but they burn clean and grow fast. Not high on the BTU's but better than cutting my oaks for firewood and for the growth rate the BTU shortfall would be covered by not having to split it and the amount you can grow. I can use the oak for structural lumber or woodworking when they are cut on the band mill. Any thoughts?
We consider them to be trash wood. There is so little energy in them they are not really worth the effort. Go with maple, oak or other hardwoods for heating. It doesn't take much land to be able to simply use the dead wood. Have a well insulated home with a high thermal mass.

Cheers,

-Walter Jeffries
Sugar Mountain Farm
Pastured Pigs, Sheep & Kids
in the mountains of Vermont
Read about our on-farm butcher shop project:
http://SugarMtnFarm.com/butchershop

Check out our Kickstarting the Butcher Shop project at:
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/sugarmtnfarm/building-a-butcher-shop-on-sugarmountainfarm
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We consider them to be trash wood. There is so little energy in them they are not really worth the effort.
Agreed. It burns like paper and doesn't produce much heat.
We burn wood as our main source of heat and use about 6-7 cord of mixed hardwoods per average season. That would probably triple using just hybrid poplar and you wouldn't be able to keep a fire going overnight unless you plan on getting up every couple hours to feed it. Another thing to consider; do you have a dry place to store 20 cord of wood? That's a 12'x12'x24' stack of wood.
6 to 7 cord a season... Ouch! Our drafty old farm house was like that. With a huge amount of work and a lot of money I got it down to 3 to 4 cord a year. Then I gave up on it. It was never possible to keep comfortable.

So we built a new house that is smaller, about the space we were actually living in. The new cottage is made of 100,000 lbs of masonry so it has a high thermal mass (and won't burn down). We heat this cottage, which is just up hill of the old house, with less than 0.75 cord of wood a year and it stays comfortable. That's just a couple of deadwood trees a year. Wood is our only active heat - we also gain passive solar heat through the windows that gets stored in the masonry. I've been logging daily temperature readings in the cottage for five years. Even unheated (during construction) it floats well above freezing (40's) in our very cold northern Vermont mountain climate.

I wish I had done this decades ago instead of fighting with the old house. I spent many tens of thousands of dollars trying to 'fix' the old house. I spent $7,000 building the new house. The new house is also easy to clean and virtually maintenance free. It's a world of difference.

You can see our cottage at:

http://SugarMtnFarm.com/cottage

I designed it so we can expand it if we want and so that we can eventually berm it into the hillside. What is really amazing is it performs this well and I have not yet put the roof insulation on. We just have 1/2" of foil-bubble-bubble-foil on top of the roof. With proper insulation the cottage might need no heating. However, we enjoy burning wood - great for drying cloths in the winter, etc. We farm so things get wet.

Cheers,

-Walter Jeffries
Sugar Mountain Farm
Pastured Pigs, Sheep & Kids
in the mountains of Vermont
Read about our on-farm butcher shop project:
http://SugarMtnFarm.com/butchershop

Check out our Kickstarting the Butcher Shop project at:
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/sugarmtnfarm/building-a-butcher-shop-on-sugarmountainfarm
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Fire wood

I have 34 acres of land, 20-25 of which is wooded with red oak, white oak, maple and a few hickory. I don't want to cut these down just for fire wood so I think if i select cut them (cut the mature ones only before the heart rots out) that should yield quite a bit for burning as well in the tops and limbs alone. That would leave the logs for me run through the mill for some good ole hardwood lumber! Think I may still use some poplar but mix it in with some hard wood and only use it during the day sparingly, there are some poplars on my property too but only 3 or 4, might as well burn the tops of them too since they will be available, I think the best use may be in the wood shop though in ole pot belly cast iron stove! Leave the hardwoods for the house for the hot long fires!
With 20-25 acres of hardwood, you should easily have a perpetual amount of wood just from dead-fall. Selective cutting of mature trees is also a good idea as it clears the canopy so you can get new growth.
I hired a forestry consultant years ago to look over my woods. Well worth the investment. He advised on how much to cut down and actually selected the trees that should be kept vs. culled. I don't recall the exact number but I think he said you should have no more then about 12 mature trees per acre. With that number, I had a huge amount of trees to remove (years worth of firewood).
As for having it logged, if you have your own mill, you will do OK. If you're having someone else log it, check the price they're offering per board-foot and compare to its value in firewood. I had them review my woods and in essence, they were offering about $100 per mature tree. I could sell as firewood for more then that.
I'd put the poplar in the bonfire. Would not burn it in any wood stove.
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ZoomZoom;126762 I don't recall the exact number but I think he said you should have no more then about 12 mature trees per acre. With that number said:
wow only 12, that seems pretty thin compared to what is there now! There must be at least 60-80 per acre at least, more in some spots! But there are some younger 15-20 year old oaks that obviously need some room to grow and I fully intend to give it to them! First order of business is to thin the old growth considerably! I will probably fill 2 barns with fire wood from doing that, going to use the logs to make some pole barns first to store the fire wood in, having the bandsaw mill the lumber will make them dang near free, still got to buy nails and something for the roof (tin) but cheap in the grand scheme of things! One good 20 X 40 pole barn to store lumber in the dry as well as the tractor and a 20 x 20 barn for fire wood! will probably fill both quickly though with as many trees as i need to cut! The local forestry service will come for free and assess here locally so I am going to have them come over and get their opinion just to see how far off my plans are from what they recommend! I will back home on my land later this month or early next month, gonna have them come out then and I will let you know what they come up with!
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