Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Survival Wood Cutting - Day 2 at my Lot

Day two of wood cutting had me limited to my own wood lot. There was actually more of a load this year than there has been in previous years.

Two Winters ago I took on an experiment of cutting a full load of wood completely by hand. The only fossil fuel I used directly was in the form of the tractor to pull a small trailer. This was to simulate a trailer being pulled by a horse.

The first conclusion I came to was the wooded areas of North America would quickly begin to look like the cleaner forests of Europe because without chainsaws I assure you most people would be relying on fallen dead wood as much as possible.  I am sure there are a few mighty lumberjacks reading that will swear they can bring down a tree in one Paul Bunyon type swing of an axe but for myself I would stick to smaller trees as much as possible. The less splitting and cross saw cutting by hand the better.

Although I used modern day tools this morning cutting wood from my own lot is more like survival firewood gathering than when I cut somewhere else.

Around my own lot I usually limit myself to dead limbs or trees that need to go for some other reason. This typically limits the need for a whole lot of splitting as I leave the large trees alive to continue supplying me with burnable limbs.

I do however have one dead standing Elm that needs to be completely taken down the only problem is it is located at a triple fence line junction and sits in the middle of the largest wild rose thicket I have ever seen.

What I have been doing with this tree is waiting for the limbs to fall off and then dragging them out with the tractor and cutting them up. The bottom few feet or so of the massive trunk has years of wire grown into it and there is absolutely no way to drop this tree without cutting through the wire and then allowing it to fall on the fence line.

Luckily the wild rose keeps the limbs from damaging the fence when they do fall. As it is I have gleaned about two full truckloads of firewood off it's corpse the last two years. When those limbs finally all fall off I am letting the trunk rot because it isn't worth tearing up my chainsaw chains on it.

Now that some of the underbrush is dying off I discovered another big Elm that is not long for this world.

I am not sure what is eating it's main trunk away so badly. My guess is it is a stage of Dutch Elm Disease which we see so frequently around here. I end up burning a lot of Elm due to the constant attrition rate the disease has on mature Elms.

Here is the top part of the dying Elm. As you can see it isn't a small tree at all and the upper branches are already starting to die off on the left side of this picture. I will probably go ahead and drop this tree down this Winter and either cut it up or let it lay to cure for next Winter. With a scar like that on it's trunk and branches beginning to die it isn't long for this world and clearing it out will give it's off spring more light and nutrients to grow up and replace it.

This is the split pile for this year so far. I have another pile about that big left over from last year to add to it. I save the stuff that needs splitting for those days I cannot get out but need more wood. I also keep a bunch on hand for when we get a major snow storm predicted. When that happens I pull out the log splitter and split an entire load of firewood and pack the truck bed full then lash down a tarp over it. This way I have some real weight in the back of the truck for emergency snow travel. Also if you have followed my blog you will know that without fail the wife will try and go to work in the snow and she will call me to come get her.

Last year I got so sick of her ignoring the major storm warnings that I finally took her keys so she wouldn't leave for work and get trapped or stuck.

I am still getting some "I told you so" mileage out of those incidents.

Day two was a pretty good haul of mostly stuff that doesn't need to be split. A load mixture of White Oak, Locust, Hickory and Elm. The furnace stack of wood is now completely filled and I have gotten a long way on the road to getting the reserve built back up where they need to be. At least I am more comfortable with it than I was.

Two other things of note happened today. The first was this can of small engine fuel.

Apparently some friend of my Dads gave him this can of fuel and he stuck it in my truck. It had a tag on it priced at $5.95. I was shaking my head about that can all day. I mean it's like 32 ounces. Who in their right mind would pay that much for fuel? I mean I guess it might be useful for storage purposes but it's still silly. I got such a laugh out of it I had to share.

The second area of concern is a smallish Black and White dog. I have been seeing him at least three times a day for the last week or so and he came up to say hi while I was cutting in my wood lot this morning. He appears well fed but I am worried I may have another stray on my hands.

I hope not.

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!


  1. I have a variety of cross cut saws and have experimented with them and it is possible to get a supply of wood in but you are right, no use cutting big stuff down to use them on. I have a portable saw buck that I wheel out and put small stuff on and use the one man buck saws on. It only takes a few minutes to get a wheelbarrow load which will burn for a cold night. Lots of work with out a chain saw.

    1. Sf - It is possible to collect firewood completely by hand as you know but very time consuming. I would bet that what is now more of a seasonal concern of importance would become a year round job.

      I found I got the best bang for my time by ignoring the big trees and clearing out the dead fall and small stuff. I would bet most people would end up just devoting a bit of time each day to heating.

  2. PP,

    It's too bad we don't live closer, my son is cutting down tree's on a friends farm. They're clearing some of the land.

    1. Sandy - I have had some people mention they wanted some clearing but that brings with it some other issues. I am always leery of cutting on other's property but hey beggars can't be choosey. I suspect all too soon I am going to have to leave behind my standing dead wood rule and actually begin cutting some live stuff.

  3. And once you are done cutting all that wood, I know a place in SC that needs some done.. lol

    There is a show called "Hillybilly Blood" these guys took a tire rim off a pickup truck, welded a sharp ended object on to it, mounted it back on to the truck, and made it a log splitter.

    1. JuGM - OMG that sounds dangerous. I wish I coulf find that video that has that front loader attachment that cuts and splits the logs all at once. It was amazing.

  4. I have brought a few down by making a cut in em then pulling em down with a chain. Mainly when I want to control the fall direction, but it'd prolly work on your elm too.

    Had a couple of old blackjacks that didn't even need a cut, just pulled em down.

    I read some where of people using the wind for the same reason, Nessmuk I think. However, I'm not that good so I ain't trying it.


    P.s. If you decide to try it, put the chain on first so you're not stuck climbing a weakend tree to do it.

    1. Dan - This tree is problematic. The fence wire in the trunk is at least up to about 5 foot and maybe much higher depending on how long it has grown in there. Not to mention the wild rose would need to be completely removed to get close enough.

      I have considered pulling over with a chain but I suspect the trunk will bring the fence down with it and honestly I don't want to replace it right now. My other option is to take the Massy down there with the bucket on it and attempt to push the remaining limbs off and I have thought about that but there is also a redbud that would be run over if I do that.

      Not sure if there is enough wood left in there to really bother with at this point. We had some strong winds this evening too so I may have some more limbs down tonight even.

  5. I had a miracle occur this fall while taking down a dead larch by the road. It was about 70' tall, maybe 18" at the butt. It scared me because if it fell the wrong way it would hit the road and possibly kill a passing motorist. I had been watching it die for a couple years, and figured I'd take it when things felt right. Well I decided things felt right about a month ago. You know we all get that feeling when we know it's the right time to take on a nagging task. I took a felling rope that I use if there is a chance the tree will fall the wrong way. I tied it to the trunk, put the other end on my hoe and backed it up, putting plenty of tension on the rope. It was incredibly awkward. The hoe was about 20' above me on a driveway landing above the road and the slope to the cut was about 50 degrees and covered with soft duff. I walked down there and cut a HUGE notch in the appropriate direction. My heart was pounding. Am I about to kill someone? I check the tension on the rope -- maybe it could be more tense. I climb the bank up to the hoe to back it up some more. While I was in the hoe I figured why not just back it up the whole way and take the tree out. With a notch like that surely it will break and fall right where I want it. Then I won't have to climb back down there and deal with the paralyzing fear I somehow couldn't shake. So I back the hoe up. The tree starts to come down. There is a ton of tension on the rope. It snaps. The tree flies back in the opposite direction. I know there is only a tiny hinge left on the base and it's going down onto the road and if nothing else I'm an incredible fool. The tree flies over the road and for some miraculous reason the hinge holds, and it comes back towards the landing. I retie the rope and make the felling cut.

    It turned out fine. I don't know. I think any of us who spend a lot of time in the woods with a chainsaw get to be pretty good overall. But still not everything out there that sees you to the evening intact is your own doing. Of that I'm convinced. There are things that gather to see you through. Woods angels, perhaps.

    Enjoy your cutting sir.

    1. Montana - That's a neat story, glad it worked out for you as it could have been bad.

      The wood angels is appropriate. I sometimes think they are good to me since I try really hard to limit myself to dead wood only.

      Ya know pulling trees is rarely done around here. Usually if one is in a bad spot you almost have to have it removed in sections even if there is a possible way to pull it safely and it makes me wonder if it isn't because of the sheer weight of the hardwoods we deal with.

      I know I have seen even small oaks literally pull backhoes when they fell the wrong direction but maybe I am barking up the wrong tree or something. :)

  6. Nice load of wood! Keep safe.

  7. Well, you can always use another dog. They don't each much....

    I don't like to drop trees. I have no skill at telling where they will fall.

  8. Replies
    1. Harry - I really am not a fan of felling the trees myself either. Hardwoods are the worst because of the spreading branches and weaker knots. You have to watch em close.


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