Friday, April 8, 2011

Swinging the Axe

You hear a lot these days of local food, locavores, and locomotion. One thing that isn’t in the mainstream, unless you’re going to a state park, is local wood. There are some benefits to harvesting the fire wood from around you instead of buying it from a big box retailer. First, it’s free, and free is always better than not free (even if not free is on sale). Second, you don’t spread pests that live in wood, such as emerald ash borer.

That sounds all well and good, but I live in the city and I don’t have acres of trees to choose from! Never fear, there are two simple ways you can get local wood, even if you’re a city dweller. First, you can look up sellers of firewood on Craigslist, there’s a surprising amount. Second, you can do what we did and wait for a windstorm to knock a bunch of trees down.

We only had a few branches/limbs fall in our yard, but we needed more wood to last us the season. Local residents were really quick about chopping up their fallen trees and placing them alongside the road. Local government was really slow about picking up said trees, and my dear husband saw his opportunity. After purchasing the correct sort of axe (there’s a difference between a log-splitting axe and a tree-felling axe) and a saw Andy discovered his new favorite activity: log splitting.

I say “we” a lot, but to be honest, I have nothing to do with this log splitting activity. I recently turned 92 and threw out my back, also my clumsiness forbids most activities with sharp, heavy objects. Andy didn’t grow up having ever split a log. He learned it the hard way, with long hours watching You-Tube videos and shards of wood banging against his shins. So if you burly men and women are a bit shy about swinging the axe (is that a euphemism?) here are some tips to harvest and store your very own local wood.

Safety First!
  • Wear a helmet, gloves, shoulder pads, shin guards, and a mouth gaurd, you can never be too careful.
    • Actually, Andy only recommends steel toe boots (if you have them), gloves, and eye protection.
  • Stand back an arms length away from your to-be-split log.
    • A piece will attack your shins at some point (or somewhere even less desirable), so keep as far away as practical.
  • Stack your wood chunks so that they can dry out, which means it’ll burn better later.
    • This is called “seasoning,” don’t mistake this for how to “season” cast iron.
    • It helps to keep them covered if it’s going to rain.
  • Get a stump of a firm surface for chopping on, this way you don’t have to lean over as far.
  • Don’t swing for the fences. That’s literal, don’t chop up your fence. But also, don’t try to show off whilst chopping wood. You’ll probably hurt yourself.

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