"The tragic reality is that very few sustainable systems are designed or applied by those who hold power, and the reason for this is obvious and simple: to let people arrange their own food, energy and shelter is to lose economic and political control over them. We should cease to look to power structures, hierarchical systems, or governments to help us, and devise ways to help ourselves." - Bill Mollison

Friday, June 12, 2009

Preparing For Winter

The gods were obviously conspiring against us as we "tried" to prepare for our first woodcutting mission of the season. Normally we have the whole firewood project rapped up by the end of May, we are a little behind this year... too many projects going at once. I was going to go into a whole spiel about all the issues I had with my chainsaws, truck, and other things but will spare you the dreadful details and show some pictures of todays trip instead.

This dead tree will keep us warm for over a month, providing us with almost a cord of wood.

We rolled the rounds of wood over 200' down hill to our truck waiting below.

My wife readies the wood for splitting.

Only a few more rounds to go!

The truck is fully loaded with about 1 1/4 cords of wood. Now where will I put my equipment?

We even had time to hunt for a few stakes and poles for the garden. :)

Cut, split, and stacked all before noon. Only three more trips to go... but not today, we still have some projects to finish in the gardens. I am most fortunate to have such a great helpmate.


SuburbanGardener said...

Yes you are fortunate. That is heavy work. At my old age. In the end it is fulfilling work though. Always good to stock up.

el said...

Only a month? Whoa. Can you imagine doing that without a chainsaw?

Explain something to me, Mike. Is this your land, or are dead trees kind of fair game out there in Idaho? Very curious.

Mr. H. said...

Suburban Gardener,

It is definitely a good workout, but the only heat we have is wood and pellets. I would rather be getting wood anyday over digging sod... my least favorite task.

Mr. H. said...


I sometimes wish I could go back in time and meet and learn from the people that did these tasks without any mechanical means... amazing.

We have over 11 acres 7 of those are in trees. I will usually get at least one cord from our own property when a tree dies or falls down in a windstorm each year. The majority (5-6 cords) of the wood comes from the national or state forests in the area.

Every year we purchase a $5.00 a cord permit and are able to cut certain dead or wind blown trees. We have to fill out paperwork after each cord showing the amount we took and the date and time... this is sometimes checked on by the Fish & Game agents if they happen by. There are big fines for cutting down live trees or breaking any fire safety rules, although that does not stop a lot of people from breaking them anyways.

I enjoy cutting firewood, but it does make my wife nervous as it can be very dangerous and there are some very, very strange people out there... we always go well prepared, just in case.

I was somewhat hesitant to post these pictures as I am well aware how some people feel about trees, but this is how we heat. I would never cut down a live tree, or even a dead one that was harboring wildlife. It's not the easiest way to heat ones house but it is how we do it out here. Great exercise as well, those hills are steep. It's kind of like weeding onions, you have to be fully engaged... aware and limber at the same time.:)

I sometimes see 70 year old men, gnarly and tough, still getting their own wood... no rockers for them. I hope that is me in 30 years. I hope we still have beautiful forests in 30 years.

el said...

Well, your $5 permit and whatever taxes you pay on your own land certainly beat my heating oil bill! I have done a bit of firewood cutting, it is not easy work, and if you're not in shape you can really hurt yourself quickly. However, there is a nice rhythm you can get into while doing it, and it's really nice if you hit a log on the 2nd or 3rd try and it splits well for you. But I am with your wife: it makes me nervous too. Good luck getting the rest of your cords in, and watch out for the creepy people!

Lisa Carroll-Lee said...

That is amazing. Gives me a visual for what a cold winter means. And how long a winter might last in your neck of the woods.

Mr. H. said...

Accidental Huswife,

Our winters can be really cold but recently they have been rather mild, but very long with lots of snow. I use our pellet stove to heat in October as it is still very dry out and is safer than the woodstove. We use the wood stove exclusively from November through April, about six months. After that we just wear extra clothes if chilled.

Silke Powers said...

Oh, my goodness, I am sooooo impressed! I can't believe you did all that - you two make a great team! And it's all so neatly stacked (appeals to my German sense of order...)! I love that you took all those photos. It's fun to see! Your winters must get pretty cold where you live. :) Silke

Kelli said...

Wow, what a fantastic effort! You guys make woodcutting look so easy, although sounds like you encountered a few problems! We haven't got that far yet (we're still purchasing kiln-dried wood from the local mills). Best wishes with the rest of the job. Thanks for dropping by.

WeekendFarmer said...

I came across your blog from el's blog. I didnt know Idaho was so beautiful. Your soil looks exceptional. No wonder you get such great potatoes. I wish I could split wood like you do. Its hard work. Congrats on self sufficiency on winter heating. Have a great weekend!

Mr. H. said...


We are just getting started, but it is a task that I enjoy... and yes we do have long winters. It is really fun to take pictures of what we are doing, this blog is becoming a handy reference for us.

Mr. H. said...


We had problem after problem it was almost comical. Two of my saws had bad gas lines, one was not receiving any oil, the trucks radiator broke, and if that wasn't enough my ax fell apart... Murphy's law was in full effect. I don't mind though, easy come easy go. I try not to let the little things bother me. :)

Mr. H. said...

Hello WeekendFarmer,

It is truly rewarding to know that we are in charge of our own heat. Especially when the electricity goes off and we can still manage to stay warm and cook a meal.

Yes, we are so very fortunate to be blessed with really great soil. It makes all the difference in the world.

Thanks so much for stopping by and paying us a visit.


PocketsoftheFuture said...

We heated solely with wood for the first time last winter and loved it. It was the first time I felt truly warm (there is just no substitute for radiant heat!).

I just thought I would mention that we have no chain saw. Crosscut saws and axes is all. Last winter we got downed trees and trees felled by others who use chain saws but then did the rest of the work ourselves using the crosscut saw and axe. Crosscut saws surely provide vital lessons in teamwork.

We had to scrounge so much to get by last winter that I think we are still in shock and have not addressed next winter at all yet. Besides we have had so much rain that everything is too soaked to work with.

Yes, Idaho is so beautiful. As beautiful as it is here in the mountains of southwest Virginia, I still think back fondly to our days in northern Idaho.

Love your blog. Look forward to being as expert as you two are someday.

Mr. H. said...

Hi Leslie,

I love it here in Idaho, for the most part, but fear we will be forced to move farther north in the future as we seem to be having a population explosion in these parts of late.

Cutting wood with a crosscut saw would truly be a challenging experience, I applaud you for the endeavor. With the vast amount of timber in this area I would probably try for dry, pole size wood that did not need to be split. I often have considered doing what the Nearings "Continuing The Good Life" did with bundles of dried twigs, or limbs to burn as well as firewood.

We are far from being experts on anything and are continuously learning as we plod along. It is so nice to know that there are others with the same goals in mind.

Take care,


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