Finally finished cutting all our firewoodOn January 5, 2020 by Vlad7 min read
This past week I took advantage of this year’s warm winter weather and the time off from work I got for the holidays to finally finish cutting all our firewood. Our first winter on the homestead, I promised myself that next year I will get the job done by the end of autumn, yet I found myself in the middle of winter with tons of work left to do.
For me, cutting firewood has a bitter-sweet taste. After I get going, I love the workout, the ruggedness of the task itself and most of all, seeing the results. There’s something about a big pile of freshly split firewood that gives me a lot of kick. Getting there, however, is a daunting task!
We’re still determined to take advantage of our terracotta woodstove as much and for as long as we can, but with the price of wood going up so fast, it might soon not be an economical solution for us. For now, we still had some wood left from last year and we also fell a huge ash tree this year. Although ash is not the most energy-efficient option for firewood, there would be no point in disposing of it. The tree was also very sick and rotten on the inside, so it would’ve been hard to capitalize on it in any other way.
Splitting firewood is hard, but with the right tool, anyone can do it!
The logs we got from the ash are not ideal either. The guy we hired to fell it, also cut it into smaller pieces, but the trunk of the tree was so thick, it still took 3 people pulling and pushing on a wheelbarrow to transport them. Unfortunately, some pieces were also too long to fit in our wood stove, so I had to cut them again with our small chainsaw. Let me tell you, cutting thick trunks with a short blade chainsaw is not fun.
This also forced me to learn how to sharpen a chainsaw chain. Last year I just bought an extra chain when the first one got dull, this year I pulled up the courage to try sharpening it myself. I think this is a good tip for any beginners – keep practising one the same chain, over and over again, so in case you mess-up while learning you only ruin one chain.
I’m using a hand sharpener with a 30 degree marking on its guide and I do my best to follow what I’ve learned from the tens of youtube tutorials I’ve watched. While I’m still not getting consistent results on all the blades on the chain, I can tell I’m getting better each time. I’m also impressed by how well our electric chainsaw is performing and how easy it is to use.
Wood-splitting wedges are a must-have!
When it came to splitting the ash logs it became obvious right from the get-go that I won’t be able to do much with just my axe. So I made the best decision ever and bought two wood splitting wedges. These turned out to be, by far, the best value for the money spent on any gardening tool I’ve ever purchased.
If you’ve never used or seen a wood-splitting wedge, they are triangular-shaped tools made out of metal, that can be jammed in a crack in the wood, then pummeled down the split it with little effort. You generally want to use two wedges on either side of the crack and alternate the one you pummel in, this way it works even faster.
I’m certain it would’ve taken me three times more time, blood, sweat and tears to split the firewood without the wedges, so I’m really happy I found this simple yet amazing tool.
I also go over a lot of this stuff in this homestead vlog update on youtube:
Using sawdust to avoid a muddy work area
Like I mentioned before, this year we had an abnormally warm winter, so instead of frozen, snow-covered land, we have a lot of mud. Working in mud would’ve been a pain in the ass, but since I’m cutting the logs in the same place where I split the wood, I spread the sawdust I got from chainsawing over the ground and this kept everything clean and dry.
I use the same trick to prevent us from slipping on muddy paths, I spread a 1cm layer of woodchips on the path, just enough to add some extra grip. By doing this I always had a dry surface to put my chainsaw and other tools on and I avoided sprained ankles and who knows what other accidents.
Storying firewood inside
Firewood is best split when it’s still green, but burning it right away lowers it’s caloric output as some of the energy is consumed to vaporize the water inside the wood. So, in a perfect world, you’d want to split the wood right away, store it for a full year, then use it.
If the weather stays this warm, chances are we’re going to have enough firewood left for next year’s winter. But that means it has to be neatly stored away in a dry, well-ventilated space. We decided to use a small annexe built adjacent to our barn to store our firewood, but you can also use a carport or tarps to if that’s more accessible for you.
Using a soft plastic bucket proved to be the more efficient method of transport in our case since we only had to move them a short distance, but we had to duck through a small door to get inside. I’ve also tried using a wheelbarrow, but since I couldn’t get over the door threshold with it, it didn’t help much.
Making use of the freed up space
One of the best things about finally getting all the firewood cut, split and stored away is that we can once again make use of the space that occupied by the stacks of wood. This happens to be one of the sunniest spots we have on the homestead that is also close to the house, so we moved the greenhouse there, getting ready for next year’s planting season.
We still have a massive amount of branches that we need to mulch down using our woodchipper, and now that we have space, we can finally get going on that. Buying mulch in our area is ridiculously expensive, therefore we plan to chip away as much as we can. The 7 bags of mulch we’ve made when we cleaned up after cutting the ash were already worth more than the woodchipper itself.
We hope to get a lot more mulch this way and use it for our paths in the vegetable garden this spring.
Splitting firewood is a great FarmFit exercise!
All in all, even though this was all really hard work, I really enjoyed the work. Switching from my desk job to physical chores around the homestead is always hard at first, but gets me pumped up and excited by the end.
I strongly advocate for workouts that don’t involve going to the gym. It just feels to me that I’m using and developing muscles that are actually useful, not just good looking. You get to dead-lift logs, hit with the axe, carry large loads on uneven terrain and using all kind of muscles to achieve this.
I even challenged myself to turn the transport of the split wood into a High-Intensity Training exercise, by simply forcing myself to do it faster and faster each turn, until I felt my heart bumping out of my chest. Take a break, go again.
This can be a great exercise for anyone, just take care not do hurt yourself, remember to be safe above anything else, especially when handling chainsaws or axes.