Saturday, November 12, 2011

Firewood, Firewood, Firewood

Lately we haven't had too much time for adventures because we have been so busy collecting firewood for the winter. It seems like every free moment we have on the weekends in spent off a dirt road in the Black Hills National Forest looking for dead and down tress. I'm not complaining but we wouldn't mind our cruising to be pointless and our afternoons to be ours again but all the time we are dedicating now will pay us back in moments of warmth and many beautiful fires we'll enjoy.

11.11 Josh at work
There's no shortage of firewood in these hills. When the Mountain Pine Beetle infested the Northern Hills created lots of stands of standing dead pine trees. The Forest Service made permits for folks like us to go out to collect dead and down trees or standing dead pine beetle trees within 300 feet of the road. Of course, not all roads are open to this. They choose specific areas that needed it the most. Since the National Forest is riddled with dirt roads, there are a great number of areas that we can cut within 20 minutes of our place. And since the permits are only $5 per cord we thought that it was well worth our time and effort to do this instead of buying cords of wood or paying a huge oil bill.

Collecting firewood is a task that is much more time consuming than it appears. We are using our Jeep and usually have Wu in tow so we rarely bring home a huge load but it's nice just to be outside doing it; smelling the air, walking the land and getting pitch all over us. Josh usually throws on his chaps, puts on his helmet (mostly for the ear coverage) and starts up the chain saw and Wu and I take a nice long walk.

11.11 A very happy Wu
Wu and I aren't much help until the wood is cut and even then I can't lift a decent size of green wood. But we try and maybe next year we'll look into creating a harness and putting Wu to work. When we first started it would take us about 90 minutes to cut and fill the Jeep but now we can do it and be back on the road in less than an hour. We're learning!

We've been really lucky this fall with excellent warm weather and we haven't had too much of a need for the furnace or the stove and so any wood we needed we chopped it as we went. Time has seemed to pass so quickly that all the plans we've had to chop a large quantity had gone out the window. Until this weekend.

11.11 There's something beautiful in a wood pile
On Sunday we borrowed our neighbors wood splitter and set to work. That machine was a miracle worker. Some of the rounds we were able to cut were 80-150lbs and outrageously huge. We worked for about an hour- Josh running the machine and I was stacking like a mad hatter. It was a lot of fun spending that time together and seeing each other in a new way.

All that work made us hungry and it was PB&J time. Then we hit it again and got quite a bit more done before Josh's back was screaming with pain. He's so tall that it's quite a reach down to run the machine and continuously be picking up pieces. At one point he let me run the hydraulics and he worked the rounds. I think that we got the most done doing that but it gets a little crowded and so I went back to stacking. In all we cut just under a cord. Which isn't too much but for our first day on the job it was enough. All that fresh air and hard work is exhausting and we were ready to start cooking a good meal and enjoying a nice fire.

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