We had firewood delivered November 30th, the wood stove being our primary heat source for right now while we save up to get the central unit repaired. There's about 40 sticks still out there of that, but at $75 a load, ordering wood every 2-3 weeks was not going to be enough. So, we started cutting small trees from the orchard and pasture by hand. This involved chopping or hand sawing the tree down then using a hatchet to chop off the smaller limbs, cutting the length of the tree and bigger branches into stove-size pieces and hauling and stacking them on the porch.
We have been able to stretch the dried/split delivered wood MUCH longer this way, but for every 3 days of wood, we were spending about 6 hours cutting and processing. With all 5 of us working-or just me and the kids when Matt was at work-we could get a fair amount done by hand, considering how much work is involved in cutting wood to begin with. We kept a stack of green wood at a pretty steady height, but it was a slight concern EVERY load we hauled in to use...we can go through 25 sticks of wood a day when it's below 35. A small tree might make 10-15 pieces of wood and about that many in smaller pieces from the branches. We did a steady business of cutting wood the whole time Matt has been off.
Matt's mom told us we could get her old chainsaw looked at and use it if it would still run. We headed to Garnett's in Hartselle and dropped it off Thursday. He said it would be early the next week before he would have it looked at. Matt works until next Friday and we had 4-5 days of wood left on the porch. We came home and worked the rest of that day on stockpiling more wood-there's a COLD snap coming. 3 days of single digit temps, UGH. Then right back up to 60. It's a wonder more of us Alabamians don't drop dead of the weather yoyo's.
Matt got up Friday morning and got right back out there cutting, I was still stumbling around looking for shoes (remember, I act like I have been drugged when I first wake up) and the phone rang. Carl had a chance to look at it and it needed a whole new fuel system and carburetor. He said repairs would run 'pretty high'. I said, "How much?" Thinking anything under $150 would still save us money-that's about as cheap as a 'decent' chainsaw goes for (or 2 more loads of wood, which is about how long a decent chainsaw would last). He said, "Might be near $70!" Ack! Fix that thing already! I told him our situation and said if he could bump us up some in his queue, it would be REALLY nice to get wood this weekend while Matt's still off. He said no promises, but called back at noon and it was ready. WOOT! We came in for lunch and heard the message.
We ran in and picked it up and got the stuff to make it run and got back home and did more in an hour than we had in 12 by hand. Matt cut, I gathered, the kids hauled and stacked, we all cleared the downed branches to the burn pile. In the past 2 days, we have taken down privet, black walnut and false pear trees that were either nuisance (privet, ugh) or in the process of dying or growing near the septic tank field lines or against the base of the barn. We have 3 full rows of wood cut and stacked on the porch, 8 feet long and 3 feet high! At least 300 pieces of wood. The wood stove is pumping out heat and the wood rack is full to the brim and wood is stacked in the floor nearby. We cut down 2 black walnuts the size of telephone poles and left them laying for next weekend.
We plan to head out Friday and scout out more trees. I know we have enough privet to launch the space shuttle, it smells awful, but it burns. I don't want to cut any more trees than we have to and we don't want to just cut a swath, either. There are plenty of trees we can cull without taking out any big trees or leaving any eyesores and still quite a few in the orchard that need to come down anyway. I have started looking at trees as 'fire calories'. How much heat will that one make? Those 300 pieces of wood will last 12 days of true cold or 20 in the usual milder weather we have had so far. But 12 days of heat for a full day of work is a MUCH better trade-off.
I don't want to do this every winter, we will run out of scrub trees and have to start looking further afield, too. But for now, it's actually been really nice to all pull together to cut and haul and DO something for ourselves. We don't farm or have livestock or even grow a bucket with some tomatoes most years, so it's been surprisingly fun to get out in the woods and gather all that stored sunlight to release inside. :)
Oh, in other Garnett's related news, Beth (who runs the auto shop next door to the lawn and garden shop) was able to get my van back to running fine, AC and all, for under $200. The belt squeal I was hearing was from low freon. Learn something every day...now I just need a deal on some tires. I knew I felt a change in our luck...even the kids are busy right now working on math-at 7 p.m. on a Saturday. Love homeschooling, it all works out somehow.