Sunday, October 27, 2013

Chainsaws and firewood-cutting

We heat with firewood in our cabin, and both my husband and I have heated with wood for most of our lives.  We love the way the heat radiates from the stove and soaks into our bones.  It's also a nice place to set our tea kettle so we always have hot water ready for hot chocolate, coffee, or tea. 

Here in northwest Montana that's possible most of the year, at least in the morning.  Even in the summer we have at least a small, quick fire to take the chill off the cabin, and it's usually enough to get the water in the tea kettle hot.  Often in the summer I gather pine cones from the woods around our house, and we burn those instead of "real" firewood for those short fires.

But we still need several cords of firewood to get through Fall, Winter, and Spring.  That means a lot of hours up in the forest with a chainsaw or two, cutting and filling our truck with wood.  Our old Dodge one-ton truck will haul about a cord of wood at a time, sometimes more depending on the wood and how dry it is.  Green wood is much heavier because it has a high water content.  So-called 'green' wood means that it hasn't dried out yet.  It's fresh. 

Even dead wood doesn't all weigh the same. I always knew my husband preferred the heavier, dense wood like Larch or Fir (western woods.  Back east it's probably Oak and walnut?) but I didn't really know why.  He said it was better wood, that it would burn hotter and keep us warmer in the coldest parts of winter.  He was right.  I could tell the difference both in how warm the cabin was and by how often we had to feed the stove compared to burning other wood that time of year.

If we have wood of lesser quality, such as Lodgepole or Aspen, we burn it in the spring and fall when it's not so cold outside.  Wood like Aspen leave a lot of ash and we have to shovel the stove out a lot more often, whereas with Larch there's almost no ash in the stove. 

Even though I grew up helping my Dad cut firewood, and then helping my husband cut firewood, and also some expeditions on my own to cut firewood, there were a lot of things I didn't know.  For one thing, I never dropped a tree (cut down a standing tree) because my Dad and my husband always were so grave and serious about the dangers of doing so.  I figured it was just some sort of macho guy-thing that only they could drop a tree safely.  But I decided to just stick to cutting up trees that had blown down, and it's a good thing because it turns out there are a lot of dangerous things I wouldn't have thought about, and I probably would have gotten hurt.  Or worse.

Usually when we are cutting together my husband drops the tree (unless we're cutting up fallen timber) and I help him cut the limbs off with my smaller chainsaw.  Then he slices them into stove-size pieces and I start carrying them to the truck.  When we get home we throw them out on the ground in front of the woodshed.  The ones that don't have to be split are stacked in the shed, and my husband works on splitting the rest, a bit here and a bit there.  He loves splitting wood and is good at it.  He always seems more chipper and with a lighter step after he's been out there splitting wood. 

Over the past several months my husband has been working on a book about the subject.  It's a thorough book, starting with how to choose a chainsaw, how to buy a chain for your saw, how to maintain the saw, how to cut firewood, including choosing wood (which is where I learned that Larch has a high BTU rating among woods in our area, and that's why it puts out more heat for less amount of wood burned), how to fell trees and what/why the dangers are, how to split wood, and how to sharpen (file) the chain, how to adjust the chain, how to mix the I'm getting things out of order as I remember the subjects in the book, but let's just say it's a very complete book about chainsaws and cutting firewood.  I know.  I helped edit it.  It also has a lot of good pictures, carefully labeled, and they're in color on the kindle version.

The print book won't be out until the end of the week, but in the meanwhile, you could curl up and read this kindle version of a very good book.  Even if you're not going to cut wood, this is an interesting book.  My husband is interesting and you'll feel like you know him and more about our lives after you read it.  He included some funny stories about mistakes he made while cutting, including what happened after he sawed off a limb he was standing on, up in a tree!  No, he wasn't on the outer side of the cut, but it's still funny!  He is a good man who learns from his mistakes and keeps a good attitude.  I'm proud of him, and his book.


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