Garden Diary - December 2010

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Saturday, 11 December 2010
Making Firewood

New Jersey offers reduced taxes on properties that qualify for farmland assessment. There are various requirements but of course the primary one is making money. Signs at the end of a driveway offering eggs for sale are more-or-less year round. There are farms that sell Christmas trees in December, pumpkins in October. Those are quite seasonal, and relatively brief duration. Fall and winter sees roadside stacks of firewood for sale.

That's fine for someone with a fireplace who only wants a romantic blaze by which to drink eggnog.


But those of us who heat, even if only in part with firewood would be in the poorhouse if we had to buy stove wood by the stack. Best is when you have a woodlot and can cut your own firewood.

Firewood, the saying goes, heats you several times. When it is cut, then bucked to length, next split, moved, and at last, burned. Also, except for ash which burns wonderfully well whether green or dry, firewood should be seasoned for a year between felling and burning. This big oak is partially dead. At over 3 feet in diameter, it is too large for Paul to drop. The Stihl only has an 18 inch bar. So Dick came over with his chainsaw that has a 24 inch bar to fell the tree for us. First he cut a felling notch.

Then he cut on the opposite side. Used wedges to encourage it to drop and when it came thundering down the autumn leaves fell like snow from the wind of its passage and vibration of its fall.

It takes trees the size of this one a long time to die. Even trees have a life span. You can see the decay in the tree's center. Dick is kind enough to trim the butt and even cut the largest portion to length.

Beautiful wood. Oak is excellent firewood.

The oak rounds are too heavy to move. Before they can be hauled out of the woods it's necessary to use the wedges to chop away portions around the edge using a sledge and steel wedges.

Set a wedge, tap, tap, into the wood. Swing the sledge up overhead and smash it down. Repeat. Split off a piece of wood. Work around the round. The pieces and remaining core are movable.

Sometimes the wedge gets stuck. Use a second wedge. If that gets stuck use a third. Or once started with a steel wedge finish splitting with a glut, a large wooden wedge preferably made of nice dense dogwood to split the log. A glut won't get stuck.

It's a good feeling to look at a rack of firewood. Stove wood on the right, cores & chords on the left.

This rack of stove wood is over and above our needs for this year. At $10 a roadside stack it represents a goodly sum. But that's only if we're were buying or selling. Neither. It's wood to keep us warm next winter.

And this winter's firewood is doing just that. Cut, bucked, split, stacked, moved.
Burning bright. Let it snow. Let the wind blow. The fire is absolutely delightful.

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