Is Firewood a Part of Your Emergency Preparedness? Fuel is critical to survival. Even if you have a modern home with insulation you will still be cold in without something generating heat. This is true in most winter climates of our nation. Understanding firewood as a long term survival fuel is critical. If you find …
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Most of us are planning on heating and cooking with wood when the power goes out or the grid goes down. But to make it through winter requires somewhere between four and six chords of firewood. At today’s prices, that’s a hefty investment. But I don’t have a single dollar invested in my stockpile of firewood, other than for gasoline.
Yet there are a number of strategies you can use for building your firewood stockpile that won’t cost you any more than they’ve cost me:
Clearing the Streets After a Storm
It’s not uncommon for severe storms to cause tree branches to come crashing down. While trees are resilient, there is a limit, especially with old trees or trees that have branches with a large horizontal reach. A severe storm can leave people’s front yards and even the streets littered with dead branches.
Cleaning up that mess can take days and cost the city a small fortune. So why not do a little community service work? Go out about the neighborhood, cutting up those trees and hauling them off. Nobody needs to know that you’re hauling them to your own backyard, where you’re turning them into firewood. Besides, I doubt if anyone would care.
You can actually do this with almost no waste, if you plan it out right. The larger branches can be fuel, smaller ones can be turned into kindling and the leaves and twigs can either go into your composting operation or can be mixed with chopped-up newspapers and molded to turn them into fuel, as well.
Just check with your city maintenance department before you do this. You’re much less likely to run into trouble with the city if you let them know what you’re doing, before you start. Some union members may complain about you, so having management aware that you’re a civic-minded citizen can help them defend you.
Trimming Your Trees
Speaking of tree branches falling, I’m sure you’ve had that happen in your own yard. I’ve got at least one chord of wood in my pile that has come from my own trees. One died and I had to cut it down, another is old and has had some branches break off in storms, and the old oak had some dead branches that had to be removed.
Of course, if you prune your trees, you’re going to be removing some branches, too. Just because you feel that your trees don’t need those branches, doesn’t mean that they’re a waste. Good wood is good wood, no matter where it comes from.
Trimming Other Peoples’ Trees
Since you’ve already equipped yourself to cut down and cut up your own tree branches, why not extend your reach to others? Keep your eyes open for people who have dead trees or trees that are breaking due to age and weight. Offer to cut those dead limbs off or remove the tree. That will greatly expand your wood pile and only cost you a Saturday afternoon here and there.
I personally draw the line here on not pruning peoples’ trees for them. While I’m willing to offer a free service that helps me, too, I’m not really into being taken advantage of. Besides, I really don’t feel that I’m knowledgeable enough about pruning that I can do it correctly. I really don’t want to be liable for any mistakes I make.
If you’re not finding enough dead trees and tree limbs to cut down, put up a notice on your local grocery store’s bulletin board. Lots of people do that for all kinds of services, so it wouldn’t seem unusual. Just be specific on your flyer of what it is that you are offering.
Taking this idea to the extreme, find a builder who is starting a new housing development and needs to clear land. They generally have to pay someone to do that. Get your buddies together and offer to clear the trees for free some weekend, stocking yourself and your survival group up with firewood all at the same time.
Watching for Woodpiles Awaiting the Trash Man
There are actually a couple of ways of doing the same thing, without as much work. That is to look for trees that someone else has cut down and are awaiting removal by the city’s truck. A lot of towns have regular pickup of leaves and tree branches, with people leaving them on the curb for pickup. All you need to do is drive by with your truck or trailer and grab the branches that you want. Just ask the people first so they don’t think you’re a thief.
You even can work out a similar sort of deal with someone who has a tree trimming or pruning business. They usually have to take the limbs they cut to the dump or to a municipal mulching center. You can actually save them some cost by asking them to dump off branches in your driveway, especially the larger ones.
Pallet wood is excellent firewood because it is often oak — a good, slow-burning hardwood. The trick is finding the pallets. Most companies sell their used pallets to businesses that specialize in recycling pallets. That makes it hard to get pallets from larger companies. But you can get them from smaller companies that don’t have an agreement with a pallet recycler.
Another possibility is to go to the pallet recyclers themselves. They want the good pallets because they can sell those to companies that need them. But in order to get the good ones, they have to be willing to pick up the bad ones, too. So, they usually have a huge pile of broken-up pallets that they are stuck with. Check with them; they’ll often let you take whatever you want from that pile for free. It saves them from having to deal with them.
What ideas would you add on getting free firewood? Share your tips in the section below:
Maple trees or shrubs can be found on several continents around the world, but these useful plants have a special place in the hearts and lives of those of us in the United States and Canada. We love them for many purposes: shade, ornamentals, lumber, firewood and syrup.
Homesteaders use maples and other hardwood trees for most of the above purposes as well as for projects more specific to farming and independent living — saplings for bean poles and poultry perches and other craftwork, leaves for banking buildings, and more. Sometimes it is important to differentiate between species. But even when the particular species does not matter, it is always nice to have some knowledge about any maple trees surrounding the homestead.
Of the many types of maple tree in North America, one of the best known and most loved is the sugar maple. Known as a rock maple, hard maple, or its Latin nomenclature Acer saccharum, this tree can be found growing naturally in most of the northeastern U.S. and eastern Canada.
The sugar maple is prized for its sap, which is harvested in early spring and boiled down into maple syrup or further processed into maple cream or candy. This tree is most people’s first choice for maple syrup, even though other varieties of maples—as well as other genera of hardwood trees—can be and often are tapped for syrup and confections. The sap of the sugar maple generally takes the least time and energy to boil down, requiring 40 quarts of sap to render one quart of finished syrup. The sap-to-syrup ratio for other trees can be as high as 80:1, making the sugar maple a more economical and practical choice. The taste of sugar maple sap is often considered superior, as well, and it is the most plentiful maple species in some areas.
In addition to syrup production, the sugar maple is often harvested for its wood value. It is prized for flooring and furniture stock, particularly “bird’s eye” or curly-patterned varieties, and is commonly used for firewood and occasionally for pulp.
Sugar maples also make lovely landscaping trees. These medium-sized trees with widespread roots make excellent shade trees, provide wildlife habitat, and display stunning multicolored fall foliage.
Another common maple species is the red maple, or Acer rubrum. Known also as the swamp, water or soft maple, this tree can be found across most of eastern North America. It is frequently tapped for syrup, sometimes intentionally and sometimes by accident. Some red maples offer a sap ratio that is similar to sugar maples and just as tasty, and it can be challenging to tell the trees apart without leaves or buds present for clues. The subtle differences in the bark are challenging for most people to discern.
As the nicknames suggest, red maples do not mind wet feet and are often found in swampy areas. They display brilliant foliage twice a season — once in the spring with stunning red flowers, some of the earliest in my region of New England — and again in fall with gorgeous scarlet and orange leaves.
Their fiber is softer than that of sugar maples, making them less prized for their wood overall but still often used for firewood and pulp. A good all-around homestead tree, red maples also make wonderful ornamentals and animal habitat.
Silver maple, or Acer saccharinum, is known by many other names, including creek, soft, water, white and silverleaf maple. This large tree is native to most of the central and eastern United States, and often cultivated far beyond that, making it an extremely common maple species. The silver maple can be easily identified by its distinctive leaves, which look more like a five-toed chicken foot than the classic maple leaf of the Canadian flag. This tree is often found along riverbanks and at the edges of wetlands.
The silver maple’s fiber is relatively soft and less durable than harder species, making it less sought-after for wood, but is a mainstay for landscaping in public parks and private yards. As with most maple species, it can be tapped for syrup as availability requires. It sports soft yellow foliage in fall and delicate clusters of spring flowers in shades of yellow or pink.
Acer pensylvanicum, commonly known as the striped maple or moosewood, can be found from the eastern provinces of Canada to the upper elevations of northern Georgia. This is a smaller variety of maple, sometimes no larger than a shrub, which thrives in the understory. It prefers hillsides and rocky slopes and is usually found in forests of predominantly hardwood but does sometimes mix with conifers.
The white and green stripes of the striped maple bark distinguish it from other maple species. Its goose-foot-shaped leaves turn pale yellow in autumn, and its spring flowers are bright yellow.
The striped maple’s primary value is aesthetic, but it adds broad dimension and wildlife support to natural forests and managed areas. It grows quickly and can be considered a nuisance tree when allowed to grow out of control.
The mountain maple, or Acer spicatum, is also a small bushy species found in northern regions of the eastern United States and Canada. Like the striped maple, this type of maple grows in dense thickets on wet slopes. It is of little value to humans, but provides superb cover and forage for a wide variety of forest wildlife.
The Acer negundo, also known as ashleaf maple or boxelder, is another smaller species of maple. It can be found across much of the eastern two-thirds of the continent and in pockets everywhere in North America. Fast-growing and short-lived, the boxelder can thrive in a variety of conditions and takes hold so quickly that it is considered invasive in some areas. Boxelder leaves look more like that of an ash tree than a maple — obovate and small-toothed — hence the name.
Boxelders can be tapped for syrup and are often planted as ornamentals, but are of marginal value for other uses. The wood is light and soft, and can be harvested for pulp.
Acer macrophyllum is aptly described by its common names, bigleaf maple and Oregon maple. This large tree with leaves that can span nearly a foot across is found along the Pacific northwest coast, from Alaska to California and as far inland as Idaho.
The bigleaf maple has many uses. Its dense wood is prized for furniture stock as well as for smaller fine-woodworking products such as guitar bodies, piano frames, gun stocks and veneer. It provides great browse for animals, particularly in the sapling stage, and grows into a beautiful shade tree. Its sap-to-syrup ratio is similar to that of the sugar maple, making it feasible for syruping, but does taste somewhat different from its east coast counterpart.
Bigleaf maple foliage turns to brilliant golds and yellows in fall, and boasts showy yellow flowers in spring.
The Norway maple, or Acer platanoides, is not native to North America, and is generally considered to be invasive. Often planted in yards, parks and along sidewalks for its aesthetic and shade qualities, it has escaped into the forest across much of the United States.
Once in the wild, the Norway maple crowds out native plants. It is fast-growing in a wide variety of conditions, has shallow roots that suck moisture away from other plants, and its dense canopy prevents understory vegetation from thriving.
Probably the most distinctive and attractive feature of the Norway maple is its purple leaves. However, the leaf color does not carry over to offspring, resulting in an overabundance of aggressive plain green maple trees with which native flora cannot compete.
Norway maples have very little practical value beyond ornamentation, but can be used for firewood in lieu of better quality choices.
Whether you value trees for syrup, beauty, firewood, lumber, shade or animal habitat, there is sure to be a maple species that is just right for your needs. The maple tree has served homesteaders, suburban residents, forest workers, and nature enthusiasts for generations, and will continue for years to come.
Which is your favorite type of maple tree? Share your thoughts on maples in the section below:
A True Homesteader! Host: Bobby “MHP Gardner There is a lot of interest in being self-sufficient these days. People are looking for information on how to grow and store their own food, provide their own meats, go off-grid with solar setups… get out of the system so to speak. We see a lot of these … Continue reading A True Homesteader!
But, burning wood takes a little preparation. You need to make sure your stove is ready to burn safely throughout the winter months. You’ll have to put up a supply of firewood to see you through the season.
Here are some major mistakes people make when burning wood, and how you can avoid them.
1. Not Inspecting & Cleaning Your Stove
Before you start burning around the clock, make sure your stove and chimney are ready for the season. As part of this inspection, you’ll want to examine your firebrick lining and see if any of it needs replaced. The brick reflects heat, keeping the body of the stove from overheating.
You’ll also want to make sure the chimney is cleaned. You can either get it cleaned professionally, or do it yourself, whichever you are most comfortable with. This will prevent chimney fires, and help your fire burn more efficiently.
If any of your stovepipe leading to the chimney has a sharp turn, you’ll want to give that section extra attention during cleaning. Creosote can build up quickly in a bend. When your stove is cool, disconnect the pipe if you can and take it outside to ensure its thoroughly cleaned.
While you’re checking your stove, be sure to check the seal around the door. You want a tight seal to keep smoke from getting into your house. The braid cord that’s around the door in many stove models may occasionally need replaced.
Once everything is in good working order, you’ll be all set to use your stove all winter long. Neglecting these steps can lead to a chimney or house fire.
2. Not Having Enough Wood
You don’t want to run out of wood in the middle of winter. It’s always best to have too much wood on hand rather than too little. How much you’ll need depends on many factors, such as:
- Whether your family is home all day
- How large your house is
- How efficient your stove is
- How much insulation your house has
- How low the temperatures drop in your area
- The type of wood you’ll be burning
- How hot you like your fires
- How much of the year you’ll burn
I live in a large, old home without much insulation in the rooms we haven’t yet renovated. Most windows are still single-paned. And the kids and I are home all day long.
We burn a lot more wood than my parents who live across the street. Their home is insulated well, has updated windows, and they work out of the house so they just bank their fire before they leave.
Ten cord of wood is what we try to have on hand at the start of winter. We don’t typically burn it all, but if the temperatures drop below zero, we go through wood at an alarming rate. We also don’t just burn in the “winter” months. To keep the house comfortable, we usually burn September through May.
It’s a lot of wood, but I’d much rather end the burning season with a head start on next winter’s supply than be caught short. We did that once when we first moved here, and falling dead trees with three feet of snow on the ground in the freezing weather wasn’t fun.
When you make your estimate for firewood usage, estimate high, especially if it’s your first year. You’ll be able to get a better idea of how much wood you used in the spring. That’ll make future estimates easier.
3. Not Storing Your Wood Properly
Once you have your firewood cut, it’s time to split it and stack it. You want to make sure it’s not going to get wet over the winter, so store it somewhere dry.
It’s best to store your wood off the ground a bit, like on a pallet. That way the air can circulate throughout the pile and keep everything dry.
You can stack your wood in a woodshed, an old barn, a lean-to, or pallets in the yard with a tarp on top. You’ll want to ensure a couple sides of your woodpile are opened to allow air to circulate.
Since wood is flammable and can attract pests, it’s best not to store large quantities of it touching your house or in your basement.
Properly storing your firewood will help protect your supply. That way you always have seasoned wood ready to go when you need it.
If you don’t take care of your woodpile, it’ll get exposed to the elements and won’t dry out.
4. Not Having a Backup Plan
What would happen if your wood supply gets stolen or compromised? What if you underestimated how much you’d need and now you’re out?
If you need to heat your home and you’re out of wood, there are some alternatives to burn in your stove. Some will burn quickly, while others will smolder for quite a while.
You should think through a worst-case scenario before winter hits, and examine some of your options.
- Rolled Jean Logs
Do you have old jeans that no longer fit or are so full of holes you can’t wear them? You can roll each pair into a tight log, tie it with string or twine, and then let it burn.
The tighter you roll it, the longer it’ll take to burn. That’s because you’re keeping the air from circulating through it as quickly.
To make a jean roll, you’ll need a pair of jeans and a couple of feet of string. Here’s the way I found to be the easiest.
Stretch the jeans out in front of you, with the legs closest to your body. Begin rolling one leg. Roll it as tight as you can, jellyroll style.
Once you get to the crotch, take a section of string and tie it around the rolled leg to keep it in place. You’ll want the string to run across the long end of the roll rather than the short end.
Now, repeat with the other leg.
When both legs are secure, grab onto both sections. Slowly begin rolling the leg rolls up into the waist of the pants. It’ll be bulky, so you’ll have to keep pressure on it to keep it tight.
The waist section should completely cover the individual leg rolls and wrap around it a couple of times. Once you’ve reached the top of the jeans, it’s best if you have some help to tie it. That way you can ensure it stays tightly wound.
Wrap string all the way around it and secure tightly. Repeat in three more places. Now your jean logs are ready for the fireplace.
- Rolled Paper Logs
Do you have a large supply of newspapers on hand? What about books, magazines, or a couple of phone books? This paper can all be used to create rolled paper logs to burn.
You’ll need to stack up your paper before you roll it. You want your finished log to be about three inches in diameter, so you might need to experiment with how much you stack to see how thick your finished product turns out.
As with the jeans, you’ll want to roll the paper as tightly as possible. It’ll take a while to get the first couple of logs rolled, but once you get the hang of it, the process will go more quickly.
Once the paper is rolled, use string, twine, or rubber bands to hold it tightly. You don’t want it to unroll on you.
Video first seen on New and Lost Crafts.
- Green Wood
If you have access to green wood, you can cut it down and it’ll burn. Are there any shrubs, bushes, or trees in your yard that you could get to safely?
When going this route, keep in mind that green wood burns differently than seasoned wood. It’s harder to start, and may require a propane torch instead of just a match.
Unseasoned wood also puts more creosote into your chimney, so you’ll want to ensure you check the chimney frequently for any build up. If you notice build up, let your fire go out and clean the chimney before you use it again. You don’t want to start a chimney fire!
- An Emergency Tree
We usually pick out one or two emergency trees at the start of each fire burning season. These are standing dead trees on the property that’ll be accessible by tractor even in the middle of winter. If our wood supply is ever compromised, we know that we can get a couple loads from those trees.
If you have your own wooded land, you might consider leaving an emergency tree too.
- Twisted Straw Sticks
You can take a page out of a Little House book and use the method Laura and Pa did in The Long Winter. When the Ingalls family ran out of wood to burn, they started twisting hay into long sticks.
It was time consuming, but kept the family warm through the long winter. If you have a surplus of hay or straw, you can make your own sticks to burn. You’ll want to ensure the sticks are tightly wound so they burn longer.
- Broken Furniture and Wood Scraps
Do you have any broken wood furniture around your homestead? How about wood scraps from building projects? Both can be burned.
What other wood burning mistakes can you add?
These are four common mistakes that people burning with wood make. Can you add others to the list? How do you best prepare for your wood burning season?
This article has been written by Lisa Tanner for Survivopedia.
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There are times when “You get what you pay for“, doesn’t hold water.
In the case of a 14″ Electric Chainsaw by WORX, you get MORE.
Well into a 2nd. year of hard service, buying this wood cutting powerhouse was money well spent. I had my doubts on a electric chainsaw, surely it can’t hold up too long, but after several good-sized tree-falls, and yards of firewood, the saw is just as sure & efficient as the day I pulled it out of the box.
My yard is full of trees. That means I’m cutting up deadfalls, loping off branches, and harvesting firewood a lot. Over the years I’ve burned out two gas chainsaws, each time cussing them for the aggravation. Unless I was using the gas chainsaw daily, (which I wasn’t) a year of use & storage was enough to turn a $100 investment into a crank pulling, blister-raising, pain in the butt. It got so I had to spend a whole day just getting the chainsaw running, to spend another full day using it.
When the second gas chainsaw died, I had had it. Worse, I had a big Bradford Pear split in half on me, leaving me a backyard FULL of fallen timber to cut up. I needed a chainsaw, & needed it right NOW!
That’s when I decided to take a chance on this WORX 14″ Electric Chain Saw. I figured at half the price of a gas chainsaw, even if I only got a year’s use out of it, at least I’m not out all the aggravation AND cost of a gas powered saw. Besides, with most of the work I needed to do… small branches with some thicker timber up to 20″ thick… I figured I could knock out the small stuff, and even if the saw puked on the bigger stuff, at least most of the cutting got done pretty cheap.
The WORX 14″ saw is just as powerful, just as sharp, just as instant-on reliable as it was when I brought it home. No mixing gas, no priming, no choke, no yanking on a starter rope over & over & over. Lay out an extension cord, plug in & GO.
The WORX has an easy chain adjustment too. A twist of a knob snugs up the chain to proper tension, and just a top off of chain lube is all that’s necessary for a full day of cutting.
It certainly doesn’t beat you up like a gas saw will. The motor is far quieter, the lighter weight of the saw is far less strain on your arms & back. I was totally surprised with the saw’s cutting performance.
If your needs for a chainsaw is for light to medium yard work, mostly small diameter branches with the occasional larger log, the WORX 14″ saw will do you very well, better than what you’d expect. Although tied to a electric power source via a plug in cord, you can kiss bye-bye all the starter rope pulling, spark plug fowling, gas mixture mess & smoky engine exhaust & ear ringing noise of a gas powered saw.
This has turned out to be one of my SMARTER investments.
It might be a bit simplistic to say that a wood-burning stove or fireplace is the only heat alternative in winter. However, for many people affected by the North American Ice Storm of 1998, it was their only heating source for months when power lines across Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and northern New York and Maine succumbed to ice.
Thirty-five people reportedly died as a result of the storm and millions were left scrambling to find ways to generate heat and stay warm.
Alternative such as propane, kerosene heaters and natural gas heaters can be a great backup if the power goes out. The problem during big storms is that stores quickly sell out of propane, kerosene and the heaters they fuel. So unless you had those resources already on hand, your only alternative was a wood-burning option, assuming you had a fireplace or wood-burning stove.
For those without any heating options, massive shelters were opened and supported by 16,000 Canadian troops.
For those with a fireplace or woodstove, the only option was to keep the fires burning until they ran out of firewood. While a sufficient stockpile of firewood could have alleviated the problem, many people typically only used their fireplaces and wood-burning stoves occasionally and stored only a small amount of wood.
To complicate matters, people who did have wood – or lived on wooded properties – were highly protective of the resource. And the wood that was for sale was not cheap. So many who opted to tough it out in their homes used some interesting alternatives. Here’s a few, although it’s important to stress: These should be used only in emergencies. Using them long-term could cause a house fire.
Alternative 1 – Yard and garden trees and shrubs
The first alternative that many people turned to were trees and shrubs in their yards and gardens. It wasn’t an easy task for thoe who didn’t have a chainsaw or the gas to power it, but neighbors cooperated by sharing tools, gas and sometimes labor, especially in exchange for some firewood.
Axes and handsaws were often used as well, and harvesting and stacking wood became a daily chore.
A fundamental limitation was that most of the wood was green and unseasoned, and smaller branches from shrubs burned quickly unless tightly bundled.
Alternative 2 – Rolled paper logs
Some people with sufficient stockpiles of paper created paper logs that were tightly bound into rolls about three to four inches thick. The paper used included newsprint, magazines, books, phone books and any paper trash.
There are paper log-rollers available on the Internet, but most people in the storm simply sat down and rolled their paper logs by hand. Bailing wire was sometimes used to bind the paper logs, but string, rubber bands and anything else that would bind the paper tightly was used, too.
For the record, paper logs last about a fourth as long as a wood log and they don’t burn quite as hot (they mostly smolder), but they maintained the heat in desperate times.
Alternative 3 – Lumber scraps
Many of us have lumber scraps leftover from that knotty-pine basement remodel or hardwood floor installation and we store these for other minor projects. People in the ice storm made good use of these extras.
A limitation is that these kinds of wood tend to burn hot and fast, especially in a fireplace. They also tend to spit and spark quite a bit, so if you’re using this kind of wood in a fireplace, make sure you have the screen tightly closed and move all rugs from the vicinity.
On a side note, a fireplace is far from an ideal wood-burning heat source. Many people stranded in the storm made the best of using a fireplace, but in reality most of the heat produced is lost up the chimney.
Alternative 4 – Damaged furniture
We’ve all got some damaged or old furniture in our garages and basements. Many of those old desks and cabinets found their way to the woodstove or fireplace when the storm hit. This kind of wood also sparks and spits and, depending on the type of wood, can burn very fast.
There also are stories of people tearing up their backyard decks as a wood source. There’s some danger here due to the fact that most decking is chemically treated to resist moisture. If the stove or fireplace is not well-vented, the chemicals can be released into the house. There were no specific reports or complaints about this hazard, although there were many reports of problems with carbon monoxide from poorly ventilated kerosene and propane heaters.
Alternative 5 – Rolled rag-logs
This was one of the most extreme solutions. It involved rolling rags and pieces of fabric along with twigs and bark into tightly-bound logs. Your best bet if you ever have to go this route is to use natural fibers, like cotton or wool. Burning synthetic fibers is as bad as burning plastic.
Alternatives to Avoid
While you might be desperate to stay warm, there are certain things that you shouldn’t burn in your home. These include:
- Charcoal briquettes. They are impregnated with a chemical that produces significant carbon monoxide. Save these for cooking outside.
- As mentioned before, most wood used for decks is chemically treated. Perhaps if the deck wood is old and weathered some of the chemicals are gone, but consider using only at your own risk.
- Any flammable fuel like gasoline, motor oil, kerosene, turpentine, alcohol, etc. These fuels are dangerous and burn very hot and very fast. The limited amount of time that any fuel like this would burn would not be worth the heat nor the risk.
- Burning plastic is toxic, produces copious black smoke and creosote, and will leave a hard, tar-like substance in your stove, fireplace and flue. Forget about plastic.
- Roofing materials. This is another bad choice that burns as poorly and as toxic as plastic. Don’t even think about it. The same goes for rubber.
There are a number of factors that can take down the grid, and this event was a dramatic demonstration of the dangers and the implications. If you’re going to have to depend on wood heat in an emergency, consider alternatives like well-ventilated kerosene and propane stove options. As for me, I keep three cords of wood just in case.
What alternatives would you add to this list? Share your ideas in the section below:
Nobody ever said chopping firewood is easy. If anything, that’s what makes it so satisfying. It takes skill, precision, and endurance to build up enough firewood to last all winter, and being able to accomplish that is rewarding to say the least. Still, it’s a task that should never be more difficult than it needs to be. Any tip or trick you can find is fair game.
One of the simplest things you can do is to find a way to keep the log together as you chop it. Otherwise, every successful chop you make will mean having to bend down to pick up the pieces and adjust the log. It will also help you steady those uneven logs that simply refuse to remain standing on their own.
Probably the most popular way to do this, involves nothing more than one or two car tires.
Alternatively, a chain and a rubber bungee cord can also help you keep the log together.
In that guy’s case, it probably also helped that he had a really high quality wood splitting axe. Nonetheless, both of these methods are pretty useful for making your firewood chopping session a little shorter, and a lot less tedious.
Joshua Krause was born and raised in the Bay Area. He is a writer and researcher focused on principles of self-sufficiency and liberty at Ready Nutrition. You can follow Joshua’s work at our Facebook page or on his personal Twitter.
Joshua’s website is Strange Danger
This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition
To quote one of my favorite movies, “Brace yourself, winter is coming” folks. And if you’ve chosen wood for heating your homestead, you should pay extra-attention to this article.
Wood is an excellent choice for keeping your home cozy and warm during the harsh winter months and is the perfect alternative for cutting your heating costs, because it’s much less expensive than central heating that uses gas or electricity.
Especially when heating large rooms, wood works better than almost anything else. It’s a very cheap, efficient and quick heating method..
What Works and What Doesn’t
Now, that we’ve established that wood is a good alternative to electric or gas for heating, let’s see what makes for good firewood.
The difference between the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to firewood is the moisture content and the density, because in final analysis, all trees are more or less “built” from the same stuff, chemically.
So, you should choose harder woods for your winter supply, which are denser than the softer varieties. Go for oak, ash, locust, black maple and hickory. These woods tend to burn way longer than the others and the coals they produce are hotter.
These qualities are great for the coldest months of the winter, and even for those long, chilly nights of late fall and early spring. Plus it’s efficient, as we’ll soon discuss.
You may be fooled by the abundance and cheapness of the softer woods, such as pine, but these tend to burn pretty quickly, and you’ll have to haul heavy loads day after day, maybe more often than you’d like, wasting time and effort. In the end, you’ll likely spend just as much buying the cheap stuff because you’ll burn twice as much of it.
Storing Your Winter Wood Properly
Regardless of the type of wood you’ve chosen, the biggest problem, especially during the winter, is the storage issue. It’s crucial to choose the proper storage method when it comes to your wood supply, thus protecting your investment and your hard work. You may have spent weeks cutting your firewood for the winter season ahead, but make sure that you don’t skip the final, extremely important step: stacking it.
Wood is highly susceptible to exposure to the elements, especially snow and rain. If your wood supply is stored improperly and it gets wet, that will lead to decay. Also, a pile of wood looks really cozy to various species of animals, snakes and insects looking for shelter, and I bet that’s not what you had in mind for your firewood stack, right?
Firewood that comes in direct contact with the ground is prone to insects and moisture exposure, and these accelerate the wood’s rate of decay, rendering it useless over time. By far, moisture is wood’s biggest enemy, as it also dramatically increases the chances of mold taking over your firewood supply.
All these things considered, it looks like the most challenging aspect of storage is how to keep your logs dry , isn’t it?
Having dry logs will make all the difference in the world when it comes to the efficiency of the wood stove/wood burner/chimney etc. This is a huge factor affecting the amount of heat your wood will produce. Keeping your firewood supply as dry as possible will maximize your investment and it’s beneficial for your homestead long-term.
Where Should You Start?
The first thing to contemplate is seasoning. Wood must be properly seasoned, and I mean dried, before you light your first winter fire. An insufficiently dried wood will tend to ignite harder, will burn inefficiently and will produce sub-par amounts of heat despite having a flame. It will also smoke and smolder.
How do you know your wood is seasoned good and proper? A few hints: dry wood is lighter (less moisture-less weight) and its ends are cracked. It turns deep brown, yellow or gray as it dries (wet/green wood is cream, white or light brown) and if you smash two logs together, they’ll sound hollow when they’re good and dry. Wet wood makes a dull thud.
To get the general idea about proper seasoning, softer essences of wood require six to twelve months while harder ones will need twice that (1 to 2 years).
To achieve proper seasoning, you should split the firewood before storing it into smaller sections, thus speeding up the drying process. Splitting it up increases the surface area which is exposed to the air. Alternatively, you can buy already split logs from a reputable supplier, to make sure you get high quality firewood that’s split properly.
You should allow the firewood to dry in the open air completely before storing it long term. The most important factor that contributes to open-air drying is the wind, as it speeds up the process, but never allow your logs to sit outside uncovered during a rainstorm. If your wood supply gets damp, it will take a long time to dry it out again.
Now, let’s see about storage options. Before storing your wood for the winter season, you must learn how to stack it properly.
This may take a little practice, but it’s very important to stack your firewood the right way when storing it. The general idea is to allow the air to circulate freely by leaving gaps between the logs and each layer must be stored in the opposite direction of the next, to assure the best ventilation possible. Check out the video below.
Video first seen on Cottage Life DIY
If your firewood is stacked next to a shed, a wall or some other structure, allow plenty of space between the stack and the respective wall (at least a 2 to 4 inch gap) , to allow the air to circulate freely. Failing to do that is a common mistake folks tend to make and it leads to termites popping up in your wood supply and wet logs. Oh yeah, and in your house, too, if it’s wood.
Another common mistake and one that can cause the most damage, is to cover your logs completely, thus stopping air circulation. This translates into moisture taking over, damaging the firewood and rendering it useless. If you cover your wood stack, be sure to allow proper aeration by leaving the sides uncovered.
Always remember to bring the logs inside your house a day in advance before you use them for heating purposes. Store them inside in a dry location such as your wood bin and they’ll be in perfect shape the following day. That brings us to storage options.
What About Storage Options?
Always think ahead when it comes to storing firewood. The general idea is to choose the perfect location at each step, from where you’re going to let it season, to where you’re going to store it within reach, to where you’re going to store it once you bring your firewood into the house.
Just think about it: logs are bulky and heavy, and carrying them day after day to your house is hard work, especially if you’ll require several trips for a day’s supply. So, do yourself a “solid” and store your seasoned firewood as close and as practical as possible to your heating device. You’ll thank yourself later.
Obviously, firewood must be stored outside of your home, never inside. Just think about termites and ants, along with other nastier bugs. They all love wood and you don’t want these intruders inside of your house now, do you?
Talking about outside storage, there’s an invention called a woodshed. While you can keep a small amount of wood inside the home, ready to be burned, seasoned firewood is best kept in an outside woodshed.
Video first seen on Jyienger
If that’s too much for you, a DIY log rack is the next best thing for storing wood for the winter. It’s important that you elevate it, at least 2-3 inches off the ground, to keep your firewood dry and protected from insects.
If stacking firewood outside, it would be a great idea to cover it, in order to protect your supply from the elements, but remember to avoid the mistakes we’ve already mentioned. You will find specially designed rack covers in retail stores, featuring tie downs to keep them from flying away when the wind blows. These covers also have slits or perforations in the material to keep the air flowing freely.
Obviously, you can store firewood under any solid structure, such as an awning or a garage roof, or even a basement if it’s not connected to the rest of your house as long as you follow the rules of ventilation, elevation and space that we’ve already discussed.
Always remember to put the larger logs at the bottom of the stack in level rows and make sure your pile isn’t leaning. Also, don’t build the firewood-stack too high, which will make it difficult for you or shorter family members to reach, and will also make it dangerous to be around because it may lean or even fall over somebody.
I hope the article helped and if you have ideas or comments, feel free to use the dedicated section below, we’d appreciate your feedback.
This article has been written by Chris Black for Survivopedia.
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My grandfather heated his home in northern Michigan with wood for most of his life. As he got older, we installed an oil-burning stove as a backup. But for the most part, he did great with just wood heat, and my brother and I would often go up to his place to cut and split timber and stack the cords.
My grandfather usually insisted on three cords of wood stacked on his back porch for a typical Michigan winter, and sometimes liked an extra batch just in case. (A “cord” of wood is a stack that measures four feet high, four feet wide and eight feet long.)
He always over-stocked. He felt that wood harvested in summer and fall was much better than panicking in late winter or early spring if the stockpile of wood was low. We all agreed.
His house was modest at about 1,500 square feet, but he had a second story. His wood-burning stove was on the first floor. He also had a wood-burning cookstove in the kitchen, which was next to the stairs leading to the second floor, but he rarely bothered to heat the upstairs.
When the temperatures got below zero, he closed off the stairway to the second floor with a light sheet of plywood and set up a cot on the first floor in the living room. Over time, he actually preferred this bed in the living room and pretty much relegated the second floor to storage.
I learned a lot by helping him heat his home – lessons that are still applicable for today.
Let’s start with the basics. If you have a two-story home, the good news is that heat rises. If you only have a first floor wood-burning stove, the heat will find its way upstairs, but you may find the first floor a bit chilly if the heat generated isn’t sufficient for your total square footage and it’s all going up.
Many wood-burning stove manufacturers indicate the reasonable amount of space you can heat with a given stove, but this varies depending on the stove quality. Make sure you anticipate your square footage and understand how many square feet any stove you purchase can reasonably heat.
Stove Quality Facts
A standard wood-burning stove is made from cast iron, and the iron acts as a heat exchanger to direct heat into a room or rooms. Some have clear glass doors so you can enjoy the sight of a wood fire and assess when to add more wood.
However, quality matters. A poorly constructed stove will not only vent smoke into your home, but burn and heat inefficiently. If you can’t afford a better quality stove, any wood-burning stove is better than none.
Some stoves are made with stone, brick or soapstone to transfer and hold heat. Another critical consideration is the flue and other valve controls that can control the flow of air to the fire. What you want overnight is a slow, steady burn that continues to radiate heat without burning out in the middle of the night. The key is to do your homework and know that better quality stoves will give you maximum control, effective smoke sealing and overall safety.
Wood-burning stoves also require a base underneath that is usually firebrick or fire-proof tiles that protect the floor from any radiant heat from the bottom. Make sure you insulate the floor properly before planting a wood-burning stove on any floor.
Humidity and Stoves
An unfortunate side-effect of heat generated by any wood-burning stove is that it creates a very dry environment. This can cause problems for some people related to their sinuses, chest congestion, dry skin and dry eyes. You need to find a humidifying solution. The simplest is a towel in a five-gallon bucket that is filled with water and draped over a T-shape made with dowels of two slats of wood.
Any water exposed to dry air will evaporate into the surrounding air, but the towel acts as a wick to speed the transpiration. You could also hang your wet laundry on clotheslines in your home; you’ll be surprised at how fast it dries.
Wood Types and Seasoning
Only wood that has been dried or aged for a least a year should be used in a wood-burning stove. In an emergency, you do what you have to do, but green wood not only burns inefficiently but produces creosote that will eventually clog your stove pipes and chimney – creating a fire hazard.
The type of wood is also critical. Hardwoods such as oak and maple are best. Fruit woods are also good if they have been sufficiently aged. Aged ash is good for starting a fire but as a soft wood it burns very quickly. The worst is pine. Dried pine branches can help start a fire, but even when aged pine produces creosote and simply burns too quickly. Here again, if it’s all you have then you need to do what’s necessary, but if you can avoid pine, do so.
Strive for hardwoods for 90 percent of your stockpile, with well-aged softwoods to start a fire. Three cords is a good general stockpile, but like grandpa said, “More is better.” Besides, you can always carry over the excess to the next winter.
Insulation as a Factor
Insulation applies to the retention of heat regardless of the heat source, but you can reduce your wood stockpile needs if you manage insulation properly. The key is to understand not only key insulation points, but temperature management.
Temperature management is as simple as telling a teenager to not leave the front door or the garage door open. This was my grandfather’s pet-peeve. He knew how much he worked to maintain heat and humidity in an environment — and complacency from anyone was not tolerated.
Temperature management also involves stopping leaks in the integrity of a structure. This is largely defined by doors and windows. What most people don’t know is that doors are the biggest heat leakers. Make sure your doors are sealed with a rubber or plasticized gasket and that the door seals tight.
Windows are another matter. If you have storm windows, make sure you use them. You can also apply a sheet of plastic internally and stretch it tight with a blow-dryer to create an additional seal. It may be unsightly for a while, but hey — it’s winter.
Gaps in insulation between the foundation and the frame can also be heat sinks. If you can afford it, find ways to insulate and seal areas where cold air can invade.
By the way, electrical outlets on walls facing the exterior can also cause drafts. There are simple insulating templates that you can use to insulate any electrical outlet. Hold your hand close to the outlet on a cold day and if you feel a draft, you know what to do.
Hire an Expert?
As a self-sufficient person who values and appreciates homesteading, I’m always reluctant to hire experts. But you may want to think about this a bit if you’re not willing to pursue some due diligence on the subject of heating your home with a wood-burning stove.
Heating your whole home with wood heat is a serious and potentially dangerous proposition. The risk of fire, oxygen depletion, carbon monoxide poisoning from escaping or leaking smoke, or a failure of the stove on a night when the temperatures are -30 Fahrenheit contradict our attempts to survive in the face of adversity. You want to get this done right the first time.
Wood-burning stoves require annual maintenance:
- The seals need to be evaluated and potentially replaced.
- The chimney should be swept and cleaned by a chimney sweep regardless of the quality of wood you are burning. If you want to do this yourself, then buy the equipment and make it a late spring chore.
- Clean out and dump the ashes on a regular basis. You’ll need an ash bucket and a place to dump the ashes in the cold and snow of winter. Think ahead about how and where you’ll do this. Remember: The ash will most likely have hot coals that are a fire hazard.
Heating with a wood-burning stove makes sense for many people and may be your only off-the-grid option. Take the time to learn the basics and have the tools and hopefully the resources to stockpile enough wood to stay warm and comfortable all winter long.
What are your wood-burning stove tips? How much wood do you stockpile? Share your advice in the section below:
In this episode of #AskPaulKirtley I answer questions on toxic firewood, down sleeping bag cost vs weight, what to do if lost in the woods, what knife to carry, sharpening knives on coffee mugs, using contact lenses outdoors for extended periods, the minimum knowledge to be a bushcrafter and rewilding Britain…
For people who have lived with wood heat for years, firewood is pretty much a no-brainer – just another part of living in the country. But people who have just moved to a home that relies on wood heat or just installed a wood stove might not find it so simple.
Here is a brief rundown on selecting, buying, splitting and storing firewood for the beginner – and in making sure you have more than enough for the season.
Types of Wood
When it comes to type of wood, there are four categories to keep in mind:
- Hard vs. soft
- Green vs. seasoned
Hardwoods and softwoods refer to the type of tree. Hardwoods like oak will burn longer and create a nice coal bed. Softwoods like pine will burn hotter and more quickly. An ideal woodpile should have a mix of these dense and soft woods. Softer woods tend to make good kindling and help to get the fire going before adding bigger piece of hardwood. Softer woods also are useful for getting a room heated more quickly, whereas hardwoods will maintain the heat and last throughout the night if maintained properly.
Softwoods also can be nice to have in the spring and fall when you only want to warm your house in the morning to take the chill off. Keep in mind that some softwoods like pine can have a lot of sap in the wood, even after seasoning. This can cause a creosote build-up to happen more quickly, so keep that in mind.
The terms green and seasoned refer to the age and status of the firewood. Green wood is newly processed firewood that still has a lot of water content. Naturally this water content is going to make the wood difficult to burn and also might cause gunk to gather in the chimney. It just isn’t efficient. Seasoned firewood is wood that has been split and stacked, then allowed to sit in storage to dry. Depending on the wood, you can season firewood well in about six months. But some people choose to gather a ton of firewood a year or two in advance to ensure they have plenty of nice, dry wood.
It’s best to get your firewood in the spring if it’s green so it has time to dry by late fall or winter, depending on your climate. Seasoned wood costs more money and is more difficult to find.
Buying vs. Gathering
When deciding whether to buy or gather your own firewood, you should consider a few things. If you live on some acreage with trees it can be tempting to want to play lumberjack. But take a moment to think about that. If you are brand new to woodlot management, you can do a lot of damage to your property if you haphazardly take trees without considering the long-term effects. Aside from that, say there are some damaged or already fallen trees you have your eyes on. That would be fine to take but you will need to learn how to safely use a chainsaw and should have someone else with you in case of an emergency. Even experienced chainsaw users can become complacent and end up hurting themselves. Learning to use a chainsaw is an important skill for anyone who lives in a rural area. Just be sure you educate yourself either from the help of a friend, a class, or online videos before cutting trees.
Cutting and gathering your own firewood is quite a laborious process, especially since you’ll still have to split and stack it at home. If that is something you’re interested in and you have the time to do it, by all means go for it. But keep in mind that your firewood pile may not be seasoned by the time you are done. If it’s your first year with wood heat, it would be a better idea to start gathering wood but also buy enough for the first winter.
If you’re in a rural area you can find ads for firewood in the local newspaper, online (like Craigslist) and through word-of-mouth. If your town is like mine, you might even see trucks loaded with wood and a sign with a phone number as an advertisement. For most people it’s easiest to just ask friends if they know a good source of firewood in the area.
When buying firewood be sure to ask whether the wood is seasoned. You also should inspect the wood yourself before paying. It’s a good idea to measure the stack of firewood before paying to be sure you get your money’s worth.
Cords vs. Truck Loads
The reason for measuring wood is to determine whether it’s a cord or not. A cord of firewood is roughly 8-feet x 4-feet x 4-feet. Typically, wood is sold by the cord, so it’s a good idea to get an idea of how much wood that actually is. Depending on your climate and your home, you may only need a cord. Whereas others may need three or more to be safe. It’s a good idea to ask local friends/acquaintances or the person you are buying wood from for an average amount of wood needed for your region’s winter.
Firewood also can be sold as a face cord which at face is 8-foot long and 4-foot tall but only as wide as the logs. A lot of private firewood sellers sell by the pickup truck load. This can be a bit tricky because you really won’t know how much you are getting until you get it unloaded and stacked. Depending on the truck, you can get about one-third to one-half of a cord in the bed based on how neatly is stacked and how high. A face cord is roughly a neatly stacked, full-size pickup truck bed load.
Splitting and Storing Firewood
Whether you cut your own wood or bought it, once you have logs you will need to split and stack the wood for storage. This is the most time intensive and tiring part of firewood and perhaps the one major reason why some people do away with wood heat. It is a great workout, however, and very rewarding once it’s all done.
You will need a nice open area for splitting firewood and it’s nice to have someone there to help with placing the logs in front of you or take turns splitting. You also will need a good quality splitting maul. The traditional, wooden-handled ones are nice but will tire you quickly so if you are buying a brand new one, you should probably go with a fiberglass handle.
You’ll also want a splitting block. This can be a stump or a very large log. Splitting on the ground is doable but a splitting block will make your job much quicker and much easier on your back. It’s going to take a bit before you get into the swing of using a splitting maul accurately and efficiently, so don’t become discouraged. It’s really helpful to watch a video on proper swinging technique.
Once you’re ready to go you can start splitting the rounds. If you bought firewood, be sure to measure them to ensure they will fit into your stove. Also, don’t go overboard with splitting. You don’t want a bunch of small pieces of firewood. It’s better to split a round into thirds or quarters and also leave some as halves for overnight burning. You can use an ax or hatchet for splitting the thirds or quarters into kindling.
After splitting the wood you can stack it for storage. There are a couple of different ways to stock wood, so just be sure you stack in a way that allows plenty of airflow.
Within six to eight months your stacked firewood will be ready to burn. For fire safety reasons, it is best to store your firewood well away from your house. You can keep a small stack by the house in a safe area and move a days’ worth or so into the house everyday if you have the space. Keeping kindling stacked by the stove is also a good idea to help it dry more quickly and help you get a fire started without hassle.
Wood heat is wonderful, and there really isn’t anything quite like a warm fire with the occasional crackle to relax by at the end of a long day.
What advice would you add on chopping and storing firewood? Share your tips in the section below:
I picked up a Poulan Pro brush cutter/ trimmer on closeout at wally world last week. It was a 2 stroke model with interchangeable heads. I also picked up the cultivator/mini-tiller head to go with it.
I need a brush cutter in my woods. Since the ash borer killed all the ash trees the light has reached the forest floor and the brush is close to impenetrable. I need to clear away the brambles and other brush for cutting firewood.
Since the Poulan Pro was on sale I figured I would check it out and see how well it did.
I got it home and found the instructions were as easy to follow as any others I have used to assemble equipment. The cutter went together quickly and the premix is the same as I use in my chainsaw so I fired it up to see how it worked.
It fired right up when I followed the instructions for starting, but I noticed I had to feather the throttle quite a bit to get it up to speed. I also noticed it seem to not be running quite right, I figured it may take a bit to warm up and get broken in.
So I walked over to a patch of weeds to see how the cutter blade would work…the mixed weeds and grass were difficult for the blade to get through, not because of lack of power but they were easily pushed out of the way and it didn’t cut them well.
So then I walked down to the woods to see how it would work for the reason I bought it. I should at this point mention the kill switch wouldn’t work. I had to pull the plug wire to kill it for my trek to the woods.
I got down there and started in on a mixture of brambles and 1/2″ saplings. I easily cut a swath about 15′ wide and 30′ deep into the woods. At this point I had been running it for 15 minutes total and it still wouldn’t smooth out or let me give it full throttle without feathering it open a bit at a time.
So I decided I was going to return it since it was a new machine and while it cut pretty good for what I wanted to use it for it, something was messed up with it.
I got back to the house and dumped the remaining gas back into the can and decided to start it to run the carb empty. When I pulled the starter rope it stayed out and I couldn’t get it to go back in…so apart it came and back into the box and back to wally world it went. There were no hassles with the return.
The Poulan Pro brush cutter in my opinion worked well on actually cutting the brush I needed cut, even though it wasn’t running right and I had to return it. I would give it 1 1/2 stars out of 5
I will be picking up a Stihl in the next week or so and I will give a review of that brush cutter.
Still clinging to my God and my guns,