The Farm Report: Wood

      46 Comments on The Farm Report: Wood

In a previous post, I mentioned that our local electric company sent crews around to cut all trees and foliage 20 feet back from the electrical lines that cross our property, which left the mess you see in the picture below.

When we learned they’d be coming back to chip up the wood and haul it away, Chareva asked if they’d bring us some loads of wood chips for her gardens, and they agreed.  They not only brought three loads, they were kind enough to dump the chips near the garden and out of the way of my disc-golf fairways.  (Okay, Jimmy Moore and I each sailed one errant shot into the pile this weekend, but that’s our problem.)

The wood chips made Chareva happy.  I was happy when the crews came back to clear the mess in the first picture above and, as a bonus, ripped out the big thorn bushes I’ve hated since day one.  They offered to clean up this area completely, but I told them I’d rather keep all the sticks and broken branches for kindling.  So we spent some time on Sunday filling up plastic bins.

The branches and sticks are still green, so we rolled them into the big barn where they’ll sit for a year or so and dry out.

The sticks and broken branches near our creek, on the other hand, are already bone-dry, so we collected two barrels’ worth of those for the coming winter.  (We believe the piles of sticks and branches near the creek come courtesy of the great Nashville flood that occurred two years ago.  The previous owner wasn’t a fan of cleaning up.)

So we’re good on kindling … but what about logs?  Glad you asked.  Since we knew the crews were cutting down trees in the area, we asked if they could bring us a load.  They were only too happy to accommodate us.

We’ll be picking up a chainsaw and a log-splitter soon and turning that big pile into firewood, which will also go in the big barn for year or so to dry out.  We bought some firewood for the coming winter, but will also harvest some dry logs near the creek.  The tree you see in the picture below is also dead and dry, so we’ll be cutting that down soon for firewood.


We’ve become a bit obsessed with supplying ourselves with wood for a couple of reasons.  One is that we now have a wood-burning stove and we’d like to make use of it.  The other is that we already experienced a brief power outage last winter that left us without heat, and seeing what happened in New York after Superstorm Sandy was a reminder that @#$% happens.  With enough wood, our wood-burning stove and fireplace would enable us to cook our food and stay warm even if the power goes out and stays out for awhile.


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46 thoughts on “The Farm Report: Wood

  1. Lynda

    You guys sure are living the life now!! How amazing for your girls to grow up in this environment 🙂

    I don’t know if they fully appreciate it at this age, but I hope someday they look back on their childhood fondly.

  2. cTo

    I live in a big city and pay an arm and a leg for boxes of cut firewood from the grocery store for my fireplace, resulting in me treating it more as a luxury and special-occasion thing. I’m literally eyeing your piles and piles of dead wood and drooling.

    I drooled a bit when I came home from work and saw that wood pile. The crews were so accommodating. The foreman said he didn’t want to mess up my disc golf course and asked where a huge pile of wood wouldn’t be in the way. It would take a really bad shot to land in that spot next to the barn.

  3. Lynda

    You guys sure are living the life now!! How amazing for your girls to grow up in this environment 🙂

    I don’t know if they fully appreciate it at this age, but I hope someday they look back on their childhood fondly.

  4. cTo

    I live in a big city and pay an arm and a leg for boxes of cut firewood from the grocery store for my fireplace, resulting in me treating it more as a luxury and special-occasion thing. I’m literally eyeing your piles and piles of dead wood and drooling.

    I drooled a bit when I came home from work and saw that wood pile. The crews were so accommodating. The foreman said he didn’t want to mess up my disc golf course and asked where a huge pile of wood wouldn’t be in the way. It would take a really bad shot to land in that spot next to the barn.

  5. Marilyn

    I don’t know about green branches, etc., but the best way to get a barn fire is to put up hay that’s a little too green. So keep things ventilated and not packed in too tight, just to be on the safe side.

    Good advice, thanks.

  6. TonyNZ

    The reason that green hay can catch fire is because of natural lactobacillus that can ferment the grass when conditions are moist enough, generating heat that can set fire to drier hay exposed to oxygen in the same loft.

    It is an uncontrolled version of this process that we use to store surplus grass grown in the spring to feed in the autumn/winter when grass growth is slower.

    Nevertheless, a little extra care probably isn’t a bad thing.

    Also, firewood is a renewable resource…wouldn’t that make Al Gore proud.

    Lastly, if fat makes you fat, then what the hell have your family been eating. No sane non-vision-impaired person could call them anything but lean.

    Ha, if fat makes us fat, my girls must be hiding their meals in their napkins instead of eating them.

  7. Dave M

    That electric crew really hooked you up! FYI, that firewood would dry out just fine sitting outside in the weather. The sap will probably evaporate out faster if it sits out in the sun. Just put a tarp over it a few months before you’ll need it so it has a chance to dry all the rain-moisture out of it. That would eliminate any chance of adding fuel to a barn fire.

    True, but I’m not sure that pile is 100% stable. I want it cut up and moved into the barn before my rambunctious girls decide to play King of Hill on it.

  8. Marilyn

    I don’t know about green branches, etc., but the best way to get a barn fire is to put up hay that’s a little too green. So keep things ventilated and not packed in too tight, just to be on the safe side.

    Good advice, thanks.

  9. Lobstah

    I love wood, and have heated with it for many years. We’ve had a brief respit due to a kitchen remodel which meant the Vermont Castings had to go, and we installed a pellet stove. Pros and cons, to be sure, but this year we’re doing a fireplace insert, so I’ve been moving/cutting/splitting for awhile now.
    A few tips…
    Chainsaw: Buy a good one. They aren’t that expensive, and like any tool, a good one is well worth the money. I’ve used Jonsereds for years now, and love them. Bought a new one online (and on sale) for about $240 w/free shipping. Worth every penny.
    BUY CHAPS: If you don’t, sooner or later you’ll regret it, and could be anything from a light nick on the knee cap to something much more serious. Kevlar chaps are about $50, and you shouldn’t even think of starting your saw without putting them on.
    Power outages: We live in Mass. Aug 2011, lost power for 5-6 days. Oct 20011. lost power for 5 days. When we remodeled the kitchen a few years ago we installed a kitchen range with electric oven and gas burners. Life saver for power outages, and it barely sips propane. I bought 2 – 100lb tanks that I can move myself, take and get refilled, and every time we lose power, we’re thrilled that we have the gas cook top. Will never be without one.

    All good advice. My surgically-repaired knee certainly doesn’t need any spontaneous chainsaw surgery.

  10. TonyNZ

    The reason that green hay can catch fire is because of natural lactobacillus that can ferment the grass when conditions are moist enough, generating heat that can set fire to drier hay exposed to oxygen in the same loft.

    It is an uncontrolled version of this process that we use to store surplus grass grown in the spring to feed in the autumn/winter when grass growth is slower.

    Nevertheless, a little extra care probably isn’t a bad thing.

    Also, firewood is a renewable resource…wouldn’t that make Al Gore proud.

    Lastly, if fat makes you fat, then what the hell have your family been eating. No sane non-vision-impaired person could call them anything but lean.

    Ha, if fat makes us fat, my girls must be hiding their meals in their napkins instead of eating them.

  11. Dave M

    That electric crew really hooked you up! FYI, that firewood would dry out just fine sitting outside in the weather. The sap will probably evaporate out faster if it sits out in the sun. Just put a tarp over it a few months before you’ll need it so it has a chance to dry all the rain-moisture out of it. That would eliminate any chance of adding fuel to a barn fire.

    True, but I’m not sure that pile is 100% stable. I want it cut up and moved into the barn before my rambunctious girls decide to play King of Hill on it.

  12. Gary

    I have never heard of firewood “sponteneous combustion”. Ash and hickory can be burned when green. Buy some chainsaw pants for safety and get an old-timer to show you how to sharpen the saw with a file. Good luck Tom and thanks for everything.

    Chainsaw pants are a good idea, and definitely some steel-toed boots.

  13. Kat L.

    Absolutely love that last photo of Chareva and the girls, happiness, love and contentment. Looks like you’re having a good life.

    It sure feels like the good life to me.

  14. jeanne foster

    I am pretty sure you have to let your chips dry out or age before you use them on your garden. Remember wood is highly acidic and your soil is probably already acidic since you live in the woods, so you might need to add something more alkaline to your garden soil to keep the pH balanced.

    We won’t make use of the chips until spring.

  15. KC

    Just think of the great upper body workout you will get if you skip the mechanical log splitter and instead split the logs the old fashioned way, with a sledge hammer and wedges and a splitting maul. That is how I split my wood and always smile thinking about how my city friends pay a gym membership fee to get the same type of workout I get for free splitting my wood.

    With the size of that pile, I’ll go for the mechanical solution.

  16. Marilyn

    Right, TonyNZ! We only had 10-15 head of cattle, so our in-ground silo was small. Silage used to come out of the silo so warm it would steam in the winter months. It just kind of stayed at one temperature and didn’t spoil. The cattle loved it. When I was a kid, silo filling, as well as corn shelling, was always done by all the neighbors working together, helping each person in turn.

    We just got a generator installed outside. It’s hooked in to the natural gas, and computerized to come on when the power goes off. I just saw it in action last week. Within seconds of the power failure, the engine turned over and started up, there was a great WHAM! in the basement when the switches were thrown, and I turned my computer back on. I almost forgot to call the power company and report the problem.

  17. Lobstah

    I love wood, and have heated with it for many years. We’ve had a brief respit due to a kitchen remodel which meant the Vermont Castings had to go, and we installed a pellet stove. Pros and cons, to be sure, but this year we’re doing a fireplace insert, so I’ve been moving/cutting/splitting for awhile now.
    A few tips…
    Chainsaw: Buy a good one. They aren’t that expensive, and like any tool, a good one is well worth the money. I’ve used Jonsereds for years now, and love them. Bought a new one online (and on sale) for about $240 w/free shipping. Worth every penny.
    BUY CHAPS: If you don’t, sooner or later you’ll regret it, and could be anything from a light nick on the knee cap to something much more serious. Kevlar chaps are about $50, and you shouldn’t even think of starting your saw without putting them on.
    Power outages: We live in Mass. Aug 2011, lost power for 5-6 days. Oct 20011. lost power for 5 days. When we remodeled the kitchen a few years ago we installed a kitchen range with electric oven and gas burners. Life saver for power outages, and it barely sips propane. I bought 2 – 100lb tanks that I can move myself, take and get refilled, and every time we lose power, we’re thrilled that we have the gas cook top. Will never be without one.

    All good advice. My surgically-repaired knee certainly doesn’t need any spontaneous chainsaw surgery.

  18. Gary

    I have never heard of firewood “sponteneous combustion”. Ash and hickory can be burned when green. Buy some chainsaw pants for safety and get an old-timer to show you how to sharpen the saw with a file. Good luck Tom and thanks for everything.

    Chainsaw pants are a good idea, and definitely some steel-toed boots.

  19. Kat L.

    Absolutely love that last photo of Chareva and the girls, happiness, love and contentment. Looks like you’re having a good life.

    It sure feels like the good life to me.

  20. Jes

    As someone living on Long Island who spent a week cooking in my fireplace and huddling around it for warmth I heartily approve of your plans. Literally saved our bacon… and hamburger… and steak… you get the idea. For what it’s worth, when the power goes down in an area for awhile it can be hard once the fresh food runs out to get more. The stores were devoid of milk meat and cheese for quite a few days. Chareva might want to explore charcuterie and cheese making if she isn’t already.

    Our neighbor told when the Great Nashville Flood hit, the previous owner of our home couldn’t cross her driveway for days — it was under water. Chareva has a supply of non-perishables stocked in case.

  21. jeanne foster

    I am pretty sure you have to let your chips dry out or age before you use them on your garden. Remember wood is highly acidic and your soil is probably already acidic since you live in the woods, so you might need to add something more alkaline to your garden soil to keep the pH balanced.

    We won’t make use of the chips until spring.

  22. KC

    Just think of the great upper body workout you will get if you skip the mechanical log splitter and instead split the logs the old fashioned way, with a sledge hammer and wedges and a splitting maul. That is how I split my wood and always smile thinking about how my city friends pay a gym membership fee to get the same type of workout I get for free splitting my wood.

    With the size of that pile, I’ll go for the mechanical solution.

  23. Marilyn

    Right, TonyNZ! We only had 10-15 head of cattle, so our in-ground silo was small. Silage used to come out of the silo so warm it would steam in the winter months. It just kind of stayed at one temperature and didn’t spoil. The cattle loved it. When I was a kid, silo filling, as well as corn shelling, was always done by all the neighbors working together, helping each person in turn.

    We just got a generator installed outside. It’s hooked in to the natural gas, and computerized to come on when the power goes off. I just saw it in action last week. Within seconds of the power failure, the engine turned over and started up, there was a great WHAM! in the basement when the switches were thrown, and I turned my computer back on. I almost forgot to call the power company and report the problem.

  24. Marta

    I second the Jonsered chainsaw. 30 years ago I bought my husband one for Christmas. Is is still going strong. I called a couple of the local tree surgeons for their recommendation at the time and they all said the same thing – Jonsered. Buy a professional model, not something from the local big box store. I am not sure if Jonsered is still a stand alone brand, I think they dropped that name and now go under Huskavarna.

    We were told Huskavarna and Stihl are the only ones to get.

  25. Jes

    As someone living on Long Island who spent a week cooking in my fireplace and huddling around it for warmth I heartily approve of your plans. Literally saved our bacon… and hamburger… and steak… you get the idea. For what it’s worth, when the power goes down in an area for awhile it can be hard once the fresh food runs out to get more. The stores were devoid of milk meat and cheese for quite a few days. Chareva might want to explore charcuterie and cheese making if she isn’t already.

    Our neighbor told when the Great Nashville Flood hit, the previous owner of our home couldn’t cross her driveway for days — it was under water. Chareva has a supply of non-perishables stocked in case.

  26. Marta

    I second the Jonsered chainsaw. 30 years ago I bought my husband one for Christmas. Is is still going strong. I called a couple of the local tree surgeons for their recommendation at the time and they all said the same thing – Jonsered. Buy a professional model, not something from the local big box store. I am not sure if Jonsered is still a stand alone brand, I think they dropped that name and now go under Huskavarna.

    We were told Huskavarna and Stihl are the only ones to get.

  27. TonyNZ

    In my experience Stihl is much better than Husqvarna, though I’m sure someone here will have the opposite view.

    You also probably want some face protection if you are chainsawing.

    I’ll be so covered in protection, no one will recognize me.

  28. Kim

    When we used to heat with wood we developed severe “wood-pile-envy”- we’d find ourselves noticing other people’s wood piles as we drove through town- “wow, look at THAT pile”…. PLEASE. PLEASE. PLEASE. be so very careful with the chainsaw and the log splitter…take all precautions and don’t be lax about them.

    I’m going to be way careful. I need my hands and my brain to make a living.

  29. TonyNZ

    In my experience Stihl is much better than Husqvarna, though I’m sure someone here will have the opposite view.

    You also probably want some face protection if you are chainsawing.

    I’ll be so covered in protection, no one will recognize me.

  30. Kim

    When we used to heat with wood we developed severe “wood-pile-envy”- we’d find ourselves noticing other people’s wood piles as we drove through town- “wow, look at THAT pile”…. PLEASE. PLEASE. PLEASE. be so very careful with the chainsaw and the log splitter…take all precautions and don’t be lax about them.

    I’m going to be way careful. I need my hands and my brain to make a living.

  31. Lobstah

    The saw brand question is, of course, a favorite past time among people who cut wood. Huskies are great, and as this post from a forum points out, “Huskies” and “Johnies” factories are located across the street from each other, and share many of the same parts on similar models:

    “Husky and jonesred’s factories are directly across the street from each other. They are almost identical and parts are easily swapped between similar models. Its basically like Chevy and GM, Ford and Mercury.

    I would purchase whatever saw has the best shop close by. Husqvarna makes one hell of a saw and I would much rather grab one of them than a Sthil.
    I run sthils every day and dont get my wrong they are good saws but when I go home and need to cut I grab my Husqvarna.

    Check out the VIDEO. It shows the air injection system that all husqvarna’s use and how it is superior to stihls.

    Now check this VIDEO out, it shows how Husqvarna’s Anti vibration system works when compared to the Stihl.

    EDIT: I couldnt get the videos embedded in the thread. Not sure why so I just linked them…”

    They are all great saws and will certainly suit your occasional usage well. And coming in to a wood-warmed house after working outside for a while, and being able to stand in front of a woodstove where it knocks the cold off quickly is one of life’s simple pleasures 🙂

    I’ll find the videos, thanks.

  32. mrfreddy

    As someone living in Hoboken, NJ, I’m envying that wood burning stove. Now all I need to do is figure out how to install one in our 7th floor condo without anyone noticing… and there’s also the issue of where to store the wood… Hmmm, baby, that shoe closet has got to go!

    Chareva better have a LOT of non-perishables stored. It’s two weeks later and our local supermarkets are still not fully stocked, especially when it comes to meats and seafoods. One big shop-rite was so damaged it may never open again. And we were lucky, Long Island and Rockway have it far worse than us.

    Yup, the smart move is to have an emergency supply that would last a month or so. We don’t get hurricanes here, but we do get tornadoes. A big ‘un could screw up the power grid.

  33. Marilyn

    @Tom: “I’ll be so covered in protection, no one will recognize me.” You’ll be like little kid so bundled up in snowsuit, hat, gloves, boots, that he falls over when he tries to walk. 🙂

    I hope Farkus doesn’t come by at that point.

  34. Lobstah

    The saw brand question is, of course, a favorite past time among people who cut wood. Huskies are great, and as this post from a forum points out, “Huskies” and “Johnies” factories are located across the street from each other, and share many of the same parts on similar models:

    “Husky and jonesred’s factories are directly across the street from each other. They are almost identical and parts are easily swapped between similar models. Its basically like Chevy and GM, Ford and Mercury.

    I would purchase whatever saw has the best shop close by. Husqvarna makes one hell of a saw and I would much rather grab one of them than a Sthil.
    I run sthils every day and dont get my wrong they are good saws but when I go home and need to cut I grab my Husqvarna.

    Check out the VIDEO. It shows the air injection system that all husqvarna’s use and how it is superior to stihls.

    Now check this VIDEO out, it shows how Husqvarna’s Anti vibration system works when compared to the Stihl.

    EDIT: I couldnt get the videos embedded in the thread. Not sure why so I just linked them…”

    They are all great saws and will certainly suit your occasional usage well. And coming in to a wood-warmed house after working outside for a while, and being able to stand in front of a woodstove where it knocks the cold off quickly is one of life’s simple pleasures 🙂

    I’ll find the videos, thanks.

  35. mrfreddy

    As someone living in Hoboken, NJ, I’m envying that wood burning stove. Now all I need to do is figure out how to install one in our 7th floor condo without anyone noticing… and there’s also the issue of where to store the wood… Hmmm, baby, that shoe closet has got to go!

    Chareva better have a LOT of non-perishables stored. It’s two weeks later and our local supermarkets are still not fully stocked, especially when it comes to meats and seafoods. One big shop-rite was so damaged it may never open again. And we were lucky, Long Island and Rockway have it far worse than us.

    Yup, the smart move is to have an emergency supply that would last a month or so. We don’t get hurricanes here, but we do get tornadoes. A big ‘un could screw up the power grid.

  36. Marilyn

    @Tom: “I’ll be so covered in protection, no one will recognize me.” You’ll be like little kid so bundled up in snowsuit, hat, gloves, boots, that he falls over when he tries to walk. 🙂

    I hope Farkus doesn’t come by at that point.

  37. Scott

    As someone else said make sure you compost the wood chips before you put them down, or throw some blood meal down first (the wood chips will rob nitrogen from the soil to decompose). Better yet you could use it in the chicken yard first and the chicken poop will add nitrogen.

    That’s a very good idea. The wood chips aren’t far from the chicken coop.

  38. Scott

    As someone else said make sure you compost the wood chips before you put them down, or throw some blood meal down first (the wood chips will rob nitrogen from the soil to decompose). Better yet you could use it in the chicken yard first and the chicken poop will add nitrogen.

    That’s a very good idea. The wood chips aren’t far from the chicken coop.

  39. Jesrad

    Nice photos 🙂

    “This little Chareva is included for scale”

    Happy birthday !

    Yup, the wood pile needed a size reference.

  40. Jesrad

    “The crews were so accommodating. The foreman said he didn’t want to mess up my disc golf course and asked where a huge pile of wood wouldn’t be in the way.”

    It is positively amazing that there are such nice workers where you live. The contrast with what we have to endure here in France is simply flabbergasting. Utilities have long been public monopolies managed by bureaucracies mostly staffed by communists (yes, the Stalin- and Mao-apologist kind) from 1946 onwards. This tainted their work ethics over the years, to the point where they despise anyone who buys work from them, act like they own the land, and don’t you even dare make a suggestion about how they might, maybe if you pretty please, make even the slightest change in how they work (or what to do with the logs). They’ll come unannounced, not care about what you want, take their time while on your land, leave logs wherever is the least effort for them, and depart with leaving truck tire marks all over the place 🙁

    It’s one of the charms of living in this part of the country. There’s a friendly, neighborly attitude among most people I didn’t see much in L.A.

  41. Jesrad

    Nice photos 🙂

    “This little Chareva is included for scale”

    Happy birthday !

    Yup, the wood pile needed a size reference.

  42. Jesrad

    “The crews were so accommodating. The foreman said he didn’t want to mess up my disc golf course and asked where a huge pile of wood wouldn’t be in the way.”

    It is positively amazing that there are such nice workers where you live. The contrast with what we have to endure here in France is simply flabbergasting. Utilities have long been public monopolies managed by bureaucracies mostly staffed by communists (yes, the Stalin- and Mao-apologist kind) from 1946 onwards. This tainted their work ethics over the years, to the point where they despise anyone who buys work from them, act like they own the land, and don’t you even dare make a suggestion about how they might, maybe if you pretty please, make even the slightest change in how they work (or what to do with the logs). They’ll come unannounced, not care about what you want, take their time while on your land, leave logs wherever is the least effort for them, and depart with leaving truck tire marks all over the place 🙁

    It’s one of the charms of living in this part of the country. There’s a friendly, neighborly attitude among most people I didn’t see much in L.A.

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