Bucking Challenge: Electric v. Gas

I have wanted an electric chainsaw for a few years now, and when I was asked by my wife and son what I wanted for Father’s Day, I went with the Oregon CS1500.  The Oregon electric plugin chainsaw was one of the few chainsaws left out there that doesn’t use batteries.  I did not want a battery-operated chainsaw because who wants to wait an hour to recharge to work 20 minutes then wait another hour to recharge for another 20 minutes of work.  With the plugin, I can plug directly into my solar powered home and begin bucking wood for free, minus the need for bar oil.

In the video, I created a split screen and put myself side by side to make it appear I was racing myself in the challenge.  The Stihl was not warmed up, and had a slow start.  The Oregon electric just started and ran when I pulled the on trigger; however, it did not have the power the Stihl had.


I believe the electric chainsaw is a great option during the summer months when the solar panels create a lot of extra power.  Not having to buy gas or perform engine maintenance also helps with the decision to have one.  When looking at the cost, the MS 311 Stihl is $499.00 while the Oregon CS1500 was advertised at $99.00.  I will keep my Stihl for the deep forest work of collecting of firewood, but I will try and use my lighter Oregon electric whenever I can.

Will I drag the electric chainsaw into the forest connected to my tractor’s PTO generator?  I have thought about giving it a run just to see how it would perform, but the idea of hauling all the video equipment out to film it, doesn’t seem appealing when I want to just get the work done.  “The Bucking Challenge” video I created took an entire Saturday morning and afternoon to film and about another 10 hours of editing.

What to do? The race to meet a deadline.

Ah, the good ol' days... My second year of teaching in which all was needed was a walkies-talkie, a cup of coffee, and a skip in each step.

Ah, the good ol’ days… My second year of teaching in which all that was needed was a walkie talkie, a cup of coffee, lots of pens, and a skip in each step.

What deadline could I possibly have?  The summer is rapidly coming to a close, and I am about to re-enter the classroom again this fall for my 16th year of teaching.  Each summer I have a to do list that I try to complete before I am inundated with lesson planning, orchestrating projects, grading papers, and after school meetings.  My list is nearly complete, but I am waiting on Amazon for parts I need.  Here is my list so far of what I can remember…

  • Fight obsessing over firewood, all the while collecting just shy of 10 cords of wood
  • Fix broken electric log splitter
  • Give lifesaving maintenance to chainsaw. Whose life mine or the chainsaw?
  • Replace refrigerator with a converted freezer
  • New road. “Yeah! no more mud, dust, and mud.”

    Awe the relaxation of a vacation... However, it's the getting to the vacation that brings a whole new level of crazy.

    The relaxation of a vacation… However, it’s the getting to the vacation that brings a whole new level of crazy.

  • Recover and and place sailboat back into storage without sailing it this summer. Bummer.
  • Take micro mini vacations or go crazy.  But, getting ready for a vacation became a new kind of crazy
  • Water, set up water system, fight with battery operated timers
  • Set up security system
  • Fix headlights on car. Okay this was easy ,until I drove off without closing the access doors.  So blessed my wife found them on our new driveway.
  • Fix the snow plow.  My battle with the snow plow has been constant since its purchase.  I will win if it kills me and it might.  I am still waiting for the parts to fix the plow, so the blade can stay suspended without dropping.
  • Be a Dad daily, wow that is an incredible amount of work.  Hoping, I am
    Shooting for the stars... Here i am encouraging our son to become an astronaught. The skies the limit; However, he wants to be a barista at Starbucks. Perhaps, the price for coffee is the sky's the limit. Great benefits though.

    Shooting for the stars… Here I am encouraging our son to become an astronaut. However, he wants to be a barista at Starbucks.  We’re still shooting for the Star[s]bucks.

    making a difference.  But, it feels like three steps forward and 2 and 3/4 steps backwards.
  • Have company over to our off grid home.  This is always stressful; we always wonder if people will accept our lifestyle
  • Chimney sweep and clean the wood cook stove one last time before it needs to be used this fall.
  • Reorganize the utility room, pump house and old cabin
  • Taking materials to the recycling center to clean up the property.
  • Find time to take a nap in the hammock, staring up at the stars with my wife was awesome.
  • Build a fire wood holder for our wood cook stove this coming season
  • Hook up new cheap bike racks to the roof of the car and realize I have to be smarter than the weak instructions they came with
  • The Trap is set while the audience awaits... Our cat Copernicus accompanies our son to watch the yellow jackets take the bait.

    The Trap is set while the audience awaits… Our cat Copernicus accompanies our son to watch the yellow jackets take the bait.

    Defend family from plague of yellow jackets

  • Berry picking
  • Replace broken down washing machine with a luxury energy efficient front loader.
  • Replace broken cistern pump; it couldn’t take the pressure. Hah.
  • Get ready for the next year at school in which I will be teaching Advisory, Economics, Journalism, History of Psychology, and American Government first trimester.

This is just the things I could remember.  It has been a great summer.   One day I will retire from teaching, so that I can work full-time on the property.

What were some of your to do lists this summer?  Please share in the comment section below.

 

 

 

How to fell a hung up tree

Holding on by a thread... The birch tree was leaning against a neighboring tree in this precarious position.

Holding on by a thread… This birch tree was leaning against a neighboring tree in this precarious position.

During one of the bad wind storms last  year, I noticed an entire birch tree partially broke at the base of the trunk.  The tree continued to live, but it was hung up on another birch tree and couldn’t fall completely to the ground.  Even though the tree was still living per se, it was a continuous hazard and could fall during the next windstorm or breeze depending on the strength of the tree it was leaning against.

I decided it was time to take it down completely, but I didn’t want to risk cutting the tree down that it was hung up on.  Too dangerous.  Amazingly enough, I was going to unhang the tree without using a chainsaw, axe or any cutting tool.  Instead I was going to use two log chains and a newly purchased tool, a 2 ton come-a-long.  This is also dangerous to do, and I took my time studying the situation before I attached the chains and started pulling.

Being pulled in different directions... This birch tree is being pulled by gravity, the 2nd chain on the right, and the come-a-long and 1st chain pulling the support tree on the left.

Being pulled in different directions… This birch tree is being pulled down by gravity, the 2nd chain on the right, and the come-a-long and 1st chain pulling the support tree on the left.

The first chain I hooked up was to pull the fallen tree away from the support tree it was hung up on.  I attached the chain to the fallen tree and a sturdy tree nearby.  I then used the come-a-long to ratchet the tree away from the support tree using the chain connection I set up.  However, this did not work, and so I had to add another step.  I then used my second chain to support the fell tree to the nearby tree just ratcheted,  and I unratcheted the come-a-long and first chain.   I then took the first chain and come-a-long and hooked it to the main support tree and hooked it up to a sturdy tree nearby and pulled the support tree in the opposite direction, knowing the falling tree was still secured and pulled in the opposite direction with the second chain.

Ready for the next job... I have two log chains 1, 3/8" x 14 ft. and the other 5/16" x 20 ft. Above is the already stressed come-a-long.

Ready for the next job… I have two log chains 1, 3/8″ x 14 ft. and the other 5/16″ x 20 ft. Above is the already stressed come-a-long.

As I ratcheted the support tree, I could hear popping noises from the branches up above and a few branches began to fall to the ground.  I was aware this was a strong possibility, so I was wearing my hard hat I use for felling trees.  I also brought a thick old towel to throw over the come-a-long just in case the cable was stretched beyond its 2 ton limit.  The towel could add needed time to my escape from a possibly snapping cable if the come-a-long broke.  However, the towel was not needed this time.  Shortly after tightening the support tree, the falling tree finally gave way and fell to the ground.

Safely down... The tree is safely down without the need of cutting. Thanks to the chains and come-a-long.

Safely down… The tree is safely down without the need of cutting. Thanks to the chains and come-a-long.

Once the tree was safely down, I began bucking it into small rounds to be split and stacked in the woodshed.   The felled tree was showing signs of deterioration and probably would not have survived another winter.  It was better to collect the firewood now to prevent an accident from the next storm.  Also, I don’t like seeing potential firewood going to waste.

Another Firewood Season Coming to a Close *Note sigh of relief…

Splitting in action... In my grubbiest clothes, I split rounds with my Homelite 5 ton log splitter. I had just finished repairing the log splitter by replacing the capacitor. I indeed have violated the warranty by splitting this round a good 8 inches above the manual's recommendation.

Splitting in action… In my grubbiest clothes, I split rounds with my Homelite 5 ton log splitter. I had just finished repairing the log splitter by replacing the capacitor. I indeed have violated the warranty by splitting this round a good 8 inches above the manual’s recommendation.

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.

Stacked and packed... The Wood is now stacked to 8 cords looking at the marked rafters. We should be between 9 and 10 cords this year. A little extra never hurts and makes gathering for wood next year that much easier.

Stacked and packed… The Wood is now stacked to 8 cords looking at the marked rafters, above right. We should be between 9 and 10 cords this year. A little extra never hurts and makes gathering wood next year that much easier.

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.

Good ol' chaps... These safety chaps have saved my left leg on numerous close calls.

Good ol’ chaps… These safety chaps have saved my left leg on numerous close calls. Above the chaps is a load of birch already bucked and about to be split.

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.

Firewood: Cut, Split, and Stacked

Stihl with me... After 5 years my Stihl is still working strong with a few minor maintenance adjustments.

Stihl with me… After 5 years, my Stihl is still working strong with only a few minor maintenance adjustments.

As of early August, my wife, son, and I stood happily before our woodshed and admired our work this past season.  We had successfully cut, split, and stacked 9 and half cords of wood.  Those who don’t burn firewood a cord is 4′ x 4′ x 8′ or 128 cubic feet.  We succeeded to get 9 and half times that for the 2015-2016 season.

Doing the splits... Using the Homelite electric wood splitter has been a great back saver

Doing the splits… Using the Homelite electric wood splitter has been a great back saver.

Over the past 5 years of gathering firewood, I really value the tools I use and couldn’t do the work without them.  My favorite tool is my Stihl chainsaw. Next in line is my chaps, which have saved me from some close calls, and I nicknamed them my cheap insurance policy.  Brother Red our pickup has been great this year as we ride, bounce and jolt into the forest on our ten acres to get the downed trees.  Of course, leather gloves and safety goggles are a must.  My newest addition to my set of wood gathering tools is our electric log splitter.  It’s a Homelite 5 ton electric log splitter that I purchased from Home Depot.  So far, we have only had the electric log splitter these past two seasons and already it has split close to eighteen cords of wood.  It may not move as fast as a gas splitter, but it still saves the back a lot of pain, and it is very quiet; my teeth don’t chatter after using it for hours.

If the gloves don't fit, you got to quit... Work gloves are a necessity when gathering wood. Everyone in the family has work gloves.

If the gloves don’t fit, you got to quit… Work gloves are a necessity when gathering wood. Everyone in the family has work gloves.

Other tools I use is a 8 pound splitting maul for freeing my chainsaw from a pinch or for splitting logs the electric splitter can’t handle alone without a little assistance.  I also use metal splitting wedges to help split seriously tough rounds and also to help free a pinched chainsaw.  About three seasons ago, I constructed a 12 cord wood shed.  I designed the wood shed to be 8′ wide x 8′ high x 24′ long.  Each 2 foot rafter measures one cord of wood.  I marked the rafters with number to indicate cords stacked, so I can see how many cords I use during the season and be able to pace myself on days that a fire may not be necessary.

Gathering firewood is a tough activity; it would takes us about 2 consecutive weeks to bring in the wood.  However, we spread it out over a  couple month period to play a little during the summer and to also do other projects less monotonous.

“Beat the Heat” with homemade water guns

You can't see me... Playing "hide and seek" during our first water pistol campaign.

You can’t see me… Playing “hide and seek” during our first water pistol campaign.

During the summer months in  Northern Idaho, many families spend substantial time collecting, cutting, splitting, and stacking firewood.  Our family is no different since we use firewood to heat our house, cook our food, and heat our domestic hot water in the winter.  The best way to beat the heat is not to be out in it, so collecting firewood is done in the morning.  We break for lunch and work on inside projects while the sun bakes the outside.  Currently, we are on a stage 2 fire alert for North Idaho and chainsaws are not allowed to run after 1:00 pm, and if they are used in the morning, the sight needs an hour of monitoring before departure.

In the late afternoon during the extreme heat, we decided to have a water pistol campaign due to a logical request from our son.  He and I decided to have a full force water war with buckets of water left out all day in the sun, making the water not frigid, but nice to be blasted with.  Our fight lasted probably half an hour until our 5 gallon buckets ran dry.  By the end of the campaign, my son’s water pistol fractured and fell apart.  We decided to buy him a “better” water pistol like mine. During the second campaign, my wife joined in the free for all, but during the second campaign, my water pistol broke first in a not so bad place to prevent functioning, but within a few minutes the second break occurred leaving me defenseless.  Looking at my shattered handle, I began to mourn the loss of my 10 dollars for this gun I thought had quality on it because of the price.  After mourning, anger set in, and the finally the need for satisfaction.  Knowing the company that made the cheap Chinese product would careless to replace the broken siphon style pistol, I decided to build one of my own.  I hunted the Internet for a PVC water pistol and came across the same siphon style design as my once cheap inefficient plastic one that shattered.

Parts Check... Setting out all the parts and going over the project in mind always helps before construction begins. The broken blue water gun on the left is what is being replaced.

Parts Check… Setting out all the parts and going over the project in mind always helps before construction begins. The broken blue water gun on the left is what is being replaced.

So, without further ado, here is our how to instruction we found and modified due to a few comments made by others who built one themselves. As in the instruct-able, I  purchased the following parts…

  • 1 &1/4″ PVC pipe
  • 1″ PVC Pipe
  • 3/4″ PVC slip plug
  • 1 &1/4″ PVC end cap
  • 1″ PVC end cap
  • Dental Floss
  • Petroleum Jelly
  • PVC Glue
  • (2) #215 O-ring at O’Reilly’s Auto Parts
  • Black electrical tape

I decided to cut the length of the larger PVC pipe to the recommended 20″, but decided to cut the 1″ PVC pipe to 25 inches to allow room to grip the handle and to prevent the PVC from pinching the hand when firing the water pistol.  I used a dead blow hammer to force the 3/4 inch plug into the 1″ pipe.  I also placed the o-rings onto the 3/4 inch plug while hammering it to prevent from forcing the plug too far and not having a lip available to hold the o-rings in place.  The Dental floss helps hold the o-rings in place, which was surprising to me that it worked so well.  After I laid all the parts out it took me roughly 30 minutes to make the first one, and the second one was made much faster once I knew what I was doing.  I used black electrical tape to mark the one inch pipe about 2 inches of length from the end to warn the user to not pull the syringe out past a safe point, which keeps the water engaged in the barrel.

Ready, aim, douse... Our son tests the homemade water gun preparing for a battle with a friend on a hot sunny day.

Ready, aim, douse… Our son tests the homemade water gun preparing for a battle with a friend on a hot sunny day.

Once the PVC water pistol was constructed, the only thing left to do was have my son test it;  It worked great.  It shot far enough, 25-30 ft. and with enough water to make the water fight fun without worrying about our guns breaking again.  If my mathematical calculations are correct, I estimate the giant, homemade constructed, syringe, water gun should be spraying a little over a pint or just shy of two and half 8 oz. cups of water.