The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Assessing dead trees for firewood

Cutting a log in half

Mark cut our gifted hickory log in half and then split it up into a full wheelbarrow-load of firewood.  Our movie-star neighbor told me that he'd cut down the tree just last week, but that it had been standing dead in the forest for a long time before that, so the wood was bone dry.  He wasn't kidding!  The hickory wood was good enough to act as kindling, but also held a flame well --- a great boon for our current cold spell.  (It's much snowier at the moment than in the photo above, which was taken Monday.)

We've had varying amounts of success with cutting dead trees and using the wood immediately, and I'm starting to understand the differences.  The oak we were cutting up a week or so ago had only been dead for a year and was reclining instead of standing vertically, both of which meant the wood is likely to stay wetter.  On the other hand, a standing dead tree that is starting to lose its bark is probably dry enough to cut and burn now.  Live and learn!  I've got my eye on an elm that perished over the summer not far from our core homestead, but it looks like that will be firewood insurance around 2016.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Mark should consider keeping his head/body to the left of the bar while he cuts in case of a kickback. Would not want to see him ever get hurt, better safe than sorry.
Comment by M Wed Jan 29 08:37:12 2014
I'm not sure if all Elm trees are created equal, but the one and only elm I ever encountered wouldn't split for anything. It took about 15 whacks with the maul just bouncing off before I finally gave up on it. It was deceiving considering it looked as if it would split effortlessly. I've never given an elm a second look since, so I'd be interested to see how it turns out for you two when it comes time to split yours.
Comment by Anonymous Wed Jan 29 13:21:28 2014
It has been my experience also that elm--at least American and slippery elm species--is terribly hard to split (by hand) because of its naturally twisted grain. Good luck!
Comment by Jake Thu Jan 30 00:03:15 2014

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