In the summer you don’t need a furnace. So you’ve got time. What do you do with that time? First you fish, then you mow the lawn, then you prepare for winter. It is as it has been since the beginning of time. Also you should drink beer.
Our old farmhouse is insulated with old saltine boxes and hope. Every winter the seasonal reversal of global warming forces us to expend a lot of cash on heat. For some baffling reason my paycheck stays the same. I called Obama about that but he blamed George Bush and hung up.
Knowing that money would be tight once the snow flew (as it always is), I set to work. I’ve got an ace up my sleeve. Trees grow in my backyard, propane does not. My wood stove works. My furnace does not. Fate was giving me a hint with a sledge hammer. I started chopping firewood like a madman.
I should note that I know what I’m doing. I’m a forester and have plenty of experience with every aspect of timber harvesting. (Including planting truckloads of seedlings so shut up Sierra Clubbers!) If you don’t know what you’re doing, chainsaws are a great way to wind up dead. You’ve been warned. Don’t try this at home. Your mileage may vary. Warranty void in California and New Jersey. Etc…
For me it was therapeutic. Cutting your own firewood is a manly workout, but grit and Ibuprofen work wonders. I like doing it. Also I cleaned up a decrepit and messy forest. (Note: I can harvest trees and make the forest better. Don’t go all Al Gore and assume I created a barren wasteland.)
My wife and kid pitched in too. I believe they did about 8% of the work. I did the other 92% and a lot of the remaining 8% while my kid looked for his gloves. Sometimes it’s hard to work alone but the bitching is a lot quieter when there’s nobody there whining but me. Gem of Insight:
“Hard physical labor, unsurprisingly, is unpopular. Get used to being lonely.”
I didn’t cut as much as I wanted but I did amass a decent stockpile for most of the winter. Firewood around here sells at about $150 a cord for cut, split, and delivered. This isn’t labor free. After delivery you’ve got to stack it (or it won’t dry properly). Stacking it is also how you discover the extent to which you’ve been shortchanged by your supplier.
I cut about 4 – 5 cords. At $150 a cord that meant my pile of wood was worth $600 to $750. That’s money in the bank baby!
Everyone humored me while dismissing my mountain of wood as a clueless nincompoop’s hobby. Americans realize that you can buy stuff with money but they can’t quite see stuff as an asset. I think they’ve bought so much useless shit over the years that “stuff” means “shit” and asset means “expensive shit”. A pile of firewood seems valueless to people who didn’t cut the propane check last winter.
I was a happy little beaver cutting mostly dead and dying wood from my little forest. This improves the vigor and growth of the remaining trees. Most of the wood I cut was old, knotty, and bent. This, of course, is fine. Fire doesn’t care about the appearance of it’s fuel. Commercial loggers have to cut a lot more wood than a yokel like me so they tend to harvest live, straight trees in great mechanized swaths. Their product looks better than mine. Americans think pretty stuff is better than ugly stuff…even in the case of firewood where looks are irrelevant. This is why there are patterns drawn on your toilet paper.
By now it was mid summer and I was shifting from harvesting to storing. I did this all when it was 80 degrees out. Americans do not remember the story of the ant and the grasshopper.
Hat tip to True Blue Sam for the excellent instructive tree felling safety video.