Archives for category: firewood

Finally, this trail is open.

The weather got a little cold for planting, and with the most important anti-erosion measures in place, Rick suggested that we work on the trails.

Our property is criss-crossed with old logging trails, a number of which had become impassable because of fallen trees. With the emphasis on building, we’ve not done much trail maintenance in the past few years. As a result, our zone of “Kubota” access area has been getting smaller and smaller.

We use the Kubota extensively in gathering wood. It delivers us to the site, carries our tools, lifts logs (using chains and the front-end loader) and drags them into safe, accessible work areas, pushes rotten logs to the side to clear the trail, and then pulls our loaded, ragged, little trailer back out of the bush to our woodpile, for splitting and stacking. These two seniors would be hard pressed to heat with wood, without the assistance of our trusty tractor.

Rick’s motivation for trail clearance isn’t just about clearing nice paths. We’ve had high winds of late, and there are a few big trees, newly down, (one in particular) that he is itching to cut and gather. But I’m open to the task–because I like nice paths. In the process, we’re harvesting any burnable wood that has fallen across the trails–though gathering is not our first objective.

Most wood left on the forest floor begins to rot quickly. Beech turns to mush in just a year or two, as does Basswood (Linden.) Maple lasts a little longer. Ash, especially if kept up off of the dirt, can last for years. The champion of the forest is ironwood (hop hornbeam), some of which we’re still collecting from the last time loggers were on the property in 2004. If wood is spongy or mushy, we push it aside. Sometimes we’ll cut it, just enough so that it lies flat on the forest floor–just to accelerate its return to the soil. Sound wood is harvested down to about three inches across. Twigs and branch ends are cleared from the paths, often using it for filling in the divots left when a tree falls. This fills in the lumpiness, and creates habitat for critters.

Though trail clearance is our first objective, in the past two days, we’ve cut enough for next year’s heating requirements, just from trees that had fallen on the trails! And we haven’t yet touched the big ash trees that have Rick salivating. And, further up the slopes, there are some “widow-makers” that we won’t touch until nature brings them down. Regardless how tempting, safety is our first concern.

This is the tree Rick wants.

And here’s a widow-maker! We won’t touch that.

The temperatures have been in the mid-thirties, but we’ve hardly noticed, even stripping down during the heaving work. We are wearing “Michigan lingerie,” the orange vests that mark you has “human” during hunting season. It’d be a shame to get shot right on your own property. Every year in Michigan, somebody gets shot by hunters with more enthusiasm than sense. Let orange be your safety flag.

I had intended to post a full set of photos with this, documenting all of the aspects of wood gathering and trail clearing. But once the work started, the camera stayed in the tool bucket. What can I say?

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As a teen, at my parents’ home, my least favorite task was to have to get wood from the woodpile, at night. In the snow. In the dark. We’ve set it up here so that this is never the case.

Sure, the woodpile is out back, at stone’s throw from the house. But by the basement door we put in a wood ‘crib,’ enough to hold two or three week’s worth of fuel, depending on the temperature. And, just inside the basement door is a woodbox, that we fill everyday, so that the wood for the day is dry, and warm.

A couple of times each month I refill the woodcrib. I use a sled–the kind they make for ice-fishing, unless there’s no snow, in which case, I use a wheel barrow. It takes eleven or twelve full wheelbarrow loads to fill the crib–but only five or six sled loads. I prefer the sled.

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You cannot turn your back on that sled though. If the ground is uneven, it’ll do what sleds do. Just before the holidays, the sled got away from me and whacked me square in the knee–knocking me over. I hobbled for a couple of weeks after that. That was my stupid-tax–it was my fault. I need to be more careful about observing how the sled is positioned on any slope–especially if I’m going to get out in front of it.

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Just enough of a slope to cause trouble!

Unlike my sister, further north, we don’t burn 24/7. We start a fire when the temperature falls below 62, usually mid-day, and keep it going until we go to bed. Any more than that and the house would be too hot. In my parents’ house, the fire burned non-stop from October to April. I’m not sure if our difference in burn time is because of latitude, or the fact that we stuffed every nook and cranny of this house with insulation.

All the wood we burn comes from deadfall here on the property. It’s free, unless you count the hours we spend cutting, hauling and splitting. It’s heavy work, but it’s outdoors  in the woods and lovely. It’s one of our favorite tasks.

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And ready for next time–sled or wheel barrow.

I was the one who insisted that we heat with wood. Not only had I grown up with it, but I learned a lesson in a rental once, that made me insist on having some measure of control when it came to heat. We lost power at the farm where I rented–and it was out for nearly a week. The furnace, though propane fueled, required electric power to operate. It was a very long, cold, week. After that, even though it was a rental, I installed a small wood stove. I never again wanted to be at the mercy of a public utility.

We have back-up heat, propane stoves and some electric baseboard units–enough to keep the house from freezing if we go out of town in the winter. But for day to day use, we burn wood.

We’re having a winter storm today. Not much of a storm really, there was some wind last night and by tomorrow morning we expect to add a foot of fresh snow. It’s beautiful. We won’t shovel until tomorrow–no point in doing it twice. In the meantime, it’s toasty inside by the fire.

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Spring? A.V. Walters–

Don’t get me wrong, I love winter. But we’re nearly halfway through April. We’re having a blizzard. There’s no point in posting a picture–it’s all just white. In less than a week, 100 or so trees will arrive for planting. They ship on a schedule rooted in season. Sigh.

I’m ready for sunshine, and the smell of fresh dirt, and bees, and watching the tiny new leaves on the trees.

I’m eternally grateful for a snug new home, and a lovely fire in the wood stove. But Spring! Is it too much to hope for?

New (to Us) Trailer

A.V. Walters

trailer

There are probably a hundred things that we could have done today—some maybe more important than what we actually tackled. But, there is a special lure to a new toy, though. You just gotta try it out.

We’ve had cut wood sitting in the forest for some weeks now. Not that it matters; the firewood could sit there until fall. The problem was that, though we’ve cut the trails, we did not have a trailer to haul the wood out. I’ve been perusing craigslist for weeks. Trailers are not cheap! Who knew?

It needed to be small, to handle our steep terrain and tight turns. It did not need to be road-worthy. By that I mean that we didn’t need lights or brakes. We will never use this trailer off the property. And, we’re not likely to gather firewood in the dark.

I mentioned sometime back that I’m a bit of a scrounge. Indeed, I may be the Queen of Scrounge. Finally, last week we found the perfect trailer. It’s really junky! For some reason, that makes me love it all the more. The old metal frame is rusty, but it’s sound. The wood is a mess, but that can be replaced. This is probably an old military trailer. I guess we’ll refurbish it—though I kind of like it just as it is. Rick is just as enthused, in a more subdued kind of way.

Today was our first free day where we didn’t have to be doing something else. Rick was itching to try out the trailer. So, we decided to bring in some of the cut wood. Our funny little trailer worked like a champ. We brought in five trailer loads (plus what we could fit in the tractor’s loader.) Naturally, it turned out to be the hottest day so far this year—well into the eighties. It’s not ideal weather for the heavy lifting in this task. Still, off we went. We’re as happy as clams, though a little tired.

Now that so much wood has been brought down to the home site, I guess we’ll have to split and stack it. There’s more up there, but we’ve run out of room at the splitting station. Everything in it’s time…and then, we can go play in the hills again.