Wearing my grubbiest, holiest t-shirt, toughest Walls jeans, a pair of worn out hiking shoes or rubber boots, and skip a shower until evening because I am about to sweat through every pore of my skin; I head out to fell, buck, transport, split, and stack firewood for the 2016 season.
Gathering wood this season has been a real trick when two of the most important tools break down. First, it was the electric log splitter. The second was my Stihl chainsaw. However, thanks to a Stihl distributor nearby, I was able to purchase most of the parts necessary without waiting for shipping. Once I replaced the bar and chain, it took care of most of the problems until the company’s stock can be filled to replace the other troubled items.
When we first moved to Northern Idaho, we knew we would be using a wood stove as our primary source of heat in the winter. I had a small chainsaw with a 16 inch bar and ¼ inch chain, it was a cute garden /shrubbery tool, but not powerful enough to collect several cords of wood each year (a cord of wood is 4 ft x 4 ft x 8ft totaling 128 cubic ft). When building our wood shed, I created a building that was 8 ft wide with 8 ft high walls to easily calculate each cord of wood. Every 2 ft spaced rafter measures a cord of wood stacked. The wood shed can hold up to 12 cords of wood if I was ambitious enough. This past winter season, we used 4 cords of wood, our lowest amount of wood yet because of the relatively warm fall and spring. On average, we use anywhere between 6 and 7 cords of wood on a typical year.
Due to the need for cords of wood each year, I decided I needed a tougher chainsaw to handle the demands. I went with the Stihl MS 311; it was the model close enough to the one Stihl designs for commercial logging use. The saw has begun to show its wear now at the sixth year of ownership. I am a novice when it comes to firewood. I grew up in the city and the only firewood we ever had was what was ordered by phone delivered, cut, split, and we stacked. Because of my ignorance, I have realized at times I have incredible luck or a guardian angel definitely working hard to deflect some of my stupidity. The smartest thing I could have done before cutting a single log was purchasing and dawning a pair of safety chaps. If the chainsaw hits your leg by accident, the chain will quickly stop before cutting your leg open. The chaps stop the rapidly moving chain by using a fiberglass material woven into the chaps by tangling and knotting into the chain which prevents it from moving. Looking at my chaps today, 6 years after their purchase, also known as my cheap insurance program, it is quite clear my chainsaw has it out for my left leg.
This summer we are gathering the last of the felled trees we needed to gain internet access back in the winter of 2014-2015. I have also decided to thin my birch trees for two reasons. First, the birch trees I am thinning are showing signs of infestation. The tops are beginning to rot and break off and fall during the various windstorms. I have decided to remove these dangerous trees first and then replant the area with a type of pine that can be logged and sold in the future. The planting will be done hopefully next year. I also want to increase our timber yield, and hopefully, use some of this revenue to create a small retirement portfolio off of it.
The second reason is birch is the second most coveted wood to burn in Northern Idaho. The first being tamarack. Birch, once seasoned, makes a dense wood that burns hotter and longer than the variety of pine available. However, if birch sits too long on the ground or has been standing dead too long, it becomes worthless. I have a lot of worthless birch on my property that are soggy, decomposing, standing dead as well as the mush decaying on the forest floor.
I am glad another wood gathering season has finally passed, but I have a feeling I will be gathering wood throughout the year to help free up the summer next year for other needed projects.