During the long, cold winter months a great deal of our time is taken up by cutting, splitting, moving, and stacking firewood. We heat our home with a large Kitchen Queen Amish Cookstove. Working with wood is our primary outdoor activity from December until the end of February when the maple sugaring season starts (which actually involves working with a lot of firewood as well!). We often feel like staying indoors next to the warm cookstove however the rewards of the winter landscape are many and varied. It is actually one of my favorite seasons for enjoying the beauty of nature. The quiet and stillness of winter is simply awesome, unrivaled by any other season. I feel a special joy in working outside on a cold, sunny, windless winter day. I love breathing the clean and crisp winter air and feeling the warmth of the sun on my hands and face.
I generally enjoy all aspects of “wood work” save one: felling dead trees. Even though I’ve done it many, many times, each time is still nerve wracking. I’ll study the tree for quite sometime to determine which way I think its leaning. The problem is that in the woods, on a slop, it can often be difficult to determine which way the tree is leaning (if at all). I’ll then notch it on the “leaning” side and make a second cut at an angel from the other side towards the notch. Theoretically this will prevent the tree from falling on you. The idea is that your saw will bind up in the upper cut and stop the saw before the tree falls. This has always been the case for me. The problem is that you now have a doubly challenging situation: the notch on the wrong side and your saw bound up. I’ve had this happen before which requires a harried and dangerous recut (the opposite way) with a second chainsaw.
We cut all our firewood using a Stihl Farmboss chainsaw. In a prior lifetime (when we were much younger) we cut all our wood using crosscut and bow saws. Although there is definitely environmental, health, and noise benefits to cutting wood with people powered tools there is the time constraint to consider. Given that we no longer homestead full-time (we both have other work in the “outside” world) and have multiple other responsibilities on the homestead we reluctantly gave up that practice many years ago. We definitely miss the days of being able to have a conversation over cutting firewood and hearing the gentle song of the crosscut making its cut and the sounds of nature. However the chainsaw is such a huge time saver plus it allows one to harvest wood much more efficiently. The problem with a crosscut saw is that your wood cutting space needs to be arranged just right in order to effectively cut firewood. I remember many times being in too tight a space or not have the log’s weight properly balanced so that the blade would bind. We have made peace with the carbon footprint trade off because we can gather so much more wood so much faster and use wood that we never would have been able to cut with the crosscut.
We split and stack all our wood in an open lean-to style woodshed (for maximum air flow) and try to get a year’s worth of wood in advance. There’s nothing worse than burning wood high in moisture content. Its bad for you, the environment, and causes rapid creosote build up. My wife Kelle does almost all the splitting. She actually really enjoys the work and is really good at it. It’s part of her winter exercise routine! We have three storage areas (see pictures) that we try to fill up. We go through most of it in a winter…Amish cookstoves are not very efficient!