Flinging Firewood

I love the smell of a real wood stove fire. It’s the only smoke that doesn’t make me hack. But it seems more and more places (at least in California) are banning wood burning for air quality.

Living in the middle of nowhere means the effect is negligible. Or at least there aren’t enough environmentalists to outvote all those who use it a primary heat-source. But wood is a lot of work.

Have you ever tried to move a wood pile?

It wouldn’t be so bad if it didn’t take so much. Last winter, we burned nine cords.

A cord is a pile of split wood 4x4x8 feet. Plus a weight, but it’s not exactly something most people can measure, so it’s pile size.



Anyway, we already have had five cords delivered, and my brothers and I just moved the first of the two delivered today. Because I’m woefully out of shape—especially my shoulders and back and arms. You know, exactly what goes in to moving a giant pile of wood. At least my brothers were still willing to do the big stacking stuff.

Meanwhile, as I haphazardly tossed the wood in the general direction of where it should go (usually at my brothers, who are at least good at catching) I learned that whoever* cut our wood also approached the task in a haphazard manner.

How to Cut Wood Properly (according to almost-two Eagle Scouts, secondhand, several hours after the casual conversation)

1. The pieces should be about the same length. So the cutter of the wood, once he has his log

The "square-cut" wood, in a "tie" method of stacking, which is a little more sturdy. I think.

(assume it’s a brother), ought to mark it equally lengthwise with his chainsaw to ensure evenness. Since once you’ve got it in pieces, you can’t exactly hold up what you cut before to make sure before you make the next cut.


Well, I suppose you could, but it would be awfully time consuming.


The "straight stack" method, or at least that's what I'm calling it.


2. When splitting, there are two kinds of usefully cut wood. Square and triangular. Or something. And this part can’t actually be controlled, because a splitter is some kind of machine with a giant nail on the end that you whack the cut pieces of wood with, and then they fall apart. Ideally.

Because up here in the northern California eastern high deserts the only real wood is juniper, which is terribly knotty, and only gets knottier as it gets older.  Fortunately it’s good for burning, as it isn’t good for much else.

3. If the log was cut evenly, you should not end up with odd, completely unstackable


This is what I call a "very odd piece".


ends, because even though they’re still burnable, they don’t like to fit in the fireplace with all the other wood either. That makes it hard to build up a fire that will last the night—when fires are especially necessary.

After the Cutting

Once you have the cut wood, it has to be delivered. If you’re fortunate, you are doing the delivering because here you get paid. If you are receiving, here is where you pay some $150 dollars per cord, depending on the kind of wood, the seller, or where you live. Unless you pay extra, you receive this wood in a giant pile that the deliverer throws over the fence.

It’s a great big pile, and seems to take an hour plus per cord. Wear gloves, and be prepared to have two pieces of wood of similar sizes to have extremely different weights. Watch your shoulders, remember to lift correctly (with the legs, and don’t twist), and use both arms to toss—as the woodpile gets smaller, you have to shift it closer to the stack.

Or you could have two big burly boy scouts who are good at catching flung wood.


Yay! A fully-stocked woodshed!


*is there anyone who can tell me if I should use “whomever” there? Shame on me, the so-called English major, but I tried, I really did.


One thought on “Flinging Firewood

  1. Nice photos. You have to admit that cutting, moving and stacking wood is great exercise and you can see immediate results from your labor. Nice way to spend a fall afternoon. We moved and stacked 2 1/2 cords into our garage last weekend. Another 5 cords are out in the back (stacked) drying out for next winter (or later this winter if it is a cold one).

    I enjoy reading about your activities.

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