Firewood Day

A few days ago, we had one and a half cords of sawed and split firewood delivered. We buy a load of green, unseasoned wood every spring, then let it season until the next winter.

(Green wood is cheaper and more readily available than dry, seasoned wood.)

So two days ago, my husband and I spent a large part of the day moving that firewood from the pile where it had been dumped into our woodshed, where it was carefully stacked and left to dry. The ground in the woodshed was very muddy from snowmelt, so this was an extremely dirty job.

A cord of wood is 4 ft x 4 ft x 8 ft. (4 ft is 122 cm.) This is a lot of heavy wood, and it is a lot of work to move and stack it!

We were quite tired and sore when finished, but now we have our firewood ready for next winter. When you live in a place where winter low temperatures routinely fall below zero Fahrenheit (-18 Celsius), you plan ahead to make sure that you will be warm!

Our woodstove is capable of heating the whole house if necessary, though we usually use it as a supplement to our oil furnace. We've found that we use much less furnace oil when we run the woodstove regularly, and we can afford to keep the house warmer than we could if we only used oil.

Wood is so readily available in Vermont that uncut, unsplit wood is pretty much worthless. I found this out when we hired someone a few years ago to remove the aspen tree that fell on our garage, punching a hole in the roof and blocking the garage entrance. He removed the tree and sawed it up for us to use as firewood. The cost of getting our own tree cut was about the same as buying the same amount of already-cut wood from elsewhere.

Getting a chain saw is now on our list of tools to purchase in 2021. If you have wood on your property, it makes sense to do it yourself. But it's hard work, nothing like turning up a thermostat on the wall when you want heat!


  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,502 admin

    @VermontCathy It warms you several times. When you cut it, when you split it, when you stack it, when you carry loads into the house and finally when you burn it. 😁

    Getting your own saw will be a lot cheaper than buying wood. I recently saw a notice that someone was selling firewood in my area for $150 for a pick-up load. So not even a full cord. A tank of gas and some oil for the saw is about $5.00 and the gas for the truck to get a load is about $20.00 depending on how far we go. With only 5 acres we don't have enough wood on our property and wouldn't want to log it anyhow. So. a saw and getting your own is a lot cheaper than buying firewood. Especially when you need as much as we do. We have a big house and winters can bring -40 temps for extended periods. We need more like 12-15 cords for the winter. We have backup electric heat but that is very, very expensive to run.

    Once you get your saw and have free wood from your property, you might find yourself heating more with wood and less with oil.

    I enjoy going out for firewood, however, as we age, its not getting any easier. We have been trying to purchase a logging truck load but due to high stumpage rates charged by the government (partly due to the softwood lumber dispute between CA and the US and now the huge increase in the price of lumber), we have been unable to find one.

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,911 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @torey At 12 - 15 cords every winter, you definitely need to saw it yourself! That would be crazy expensive to buy. We have a smaller house and winter temperatures here rarely drop below -10F.

    We will use the chainsaw to cut stuff that comes down on our 2-acre property, or to saw purchased wood smaller when we get the occasional piece that won't fit in the stove. But cutting all the firewwood we need would be take more time than we have. It's worth a few hundred dollars a year to us to not have to track down a source of wood and cut it, especially since we would have to rent a truck to haul it. (You probably have a pickup, but we don't.)

    Every situation is a little different, and there is a whole sliding scale from "cut and split all the wood you need on your own property" to "buy the wood cut, split, and delivered".

    Those who don't heat with wood yet need to know that even buying cut and split wood doesn't mean you don't have to do any work. :-)

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,502 admin

    @VermontCathy Agreed. While wood can be less expensive to heat your home with, there are other considerations.

    If you are going out and getting it yourself, you definitely need a truck. If you are cutting as much as we do, then you need a better quality, reliable (more expensive) saw. We use a professional faller's model.

    Then there is the time factor. It takes about 2-3 hours for us to get a load, depending on how far we have gone for a drive and how big the wood is. Because we are getting dry wood, we don't usually split it until it is time to burn it. However, sometimes the trees have a big enough diameter that the rounds have to be split in the bush because they are too heavy to lift into the truck. That takes a bit longer.

    No matter how you get your wood, it is still a lot of work. And it can be very dirty. Sometimes, no matter how careful you are, a tree will still fall in a mud puddle or bog. And then there is the mess it creates in the house. No matter how careful you are, there will still be little bits of bark or sawdust that will wind up on your floor. And then there is the ash to deal with as the stove or furnace gets full.

    If you don't mind me asking, what is the going rate for a cord or dry wood in Vermont?

  • Monek Marie
    Monek Marie Posts: 3,535 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited April 2021

    Some of my best memories in childhood are getting firewood.

    In fall on the weekends we would go up on the hill as a family (we were young so we played more than helped, but we did help) The woods were full of color and the crisp smell of fall surrounded us.

    Dad had either cut a few trees in the spring to age and dry or he cut down dead trees. We would load the trailer several times during one day. The trip up and down the hill was over a mile. The rest of the week was spent stacking wood in the basement. We needed to have ther entire basement full to make it through the winter and spring.

    I also loved the smell of fresh cut wood. And wood heat just feels warmer.

    We also had a few not so great adventures cutting wood. It can be a very dangerous activity, even when your trying to be careful

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,911 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @torey The volumes of wood you are cutting mean that you are almost running a firewood business with your family as your only customer. I'm not surprised that you can justify a professional saw.

    2-3 hours is very fast to get a load if there's any significant driving distance involved. When our neighbors brought their chainsaw and pickup over and helped us saw up some wood on our own property last summer, we probably spent about that much time even without much driving.

    Even if the wood wasn't dirty when it went in the woodshed, it would be dirty when it came out, at least if it was in the bottom row on the ground. And when you burn wood, it produces a lot of ash that has to be removed nearly every day. The ash gets into the air no matter how careful you are, and settles on everything in the room.

    We started out using our regular house vacuum to suck up dust and the little wood chips and splinters that are too small to pick up any other way, but after a couple of years it jammed up the vacuum and it never really worked right again. Now we have a 5 HP shop vac for the garage and the wood-burning room, separate from the house vacuum. It's a constant challenge to keep the floor clear of those annoying little pieces of wood underfoot.

    I don't know the going rate for a dry cord here. In past years, dry firewood has been in somewhat short supply. Wood here is usually cut green and stacked for months to fully season, either at the end-user's home or the wood-seller's business. Wood seller's would rather not deal with that, so they prefer to sell it green.

    Our local supplier sells a cord of green wood, delivered, for $230. I looked on the web and found another supplier offering it at $225, so that seems to be the going rate. For pickup, no delivery, this other suppliers asks $175.

    I would guess that a dry, fully seasoned cord would be around $300, if you can find it. Good luck finding it.

    Some other Vermont firewood sellers are pushing kiln-dried firewood, which is ridiculous. I assume they are selling to the "oh, what a pretty fireplace" crowd who own second homes in Vermont, but really live in Boston, Hartford, or New York. Those kiln-dried wood prices are over $400 a cord, but usually sold in smaller quantities.

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,502 admin

    @VermontCathy Wow! Kiln-dried firewood. Who woulda thought! But as you say, there are those that will buy it for their occasional fires.

    Green firewood wouldn't sell here at all. We have so much dead wood. The Pine Beetle has devastated a lot of the forest in my region. Now it is the Douglas Fir Bark Beetle that is invading. The Spruce Bud Worm is also a problem but we try not to burn spruce.

    We rarely, if ever, burn aspen or any of the other deciduous trees. They just don't have the BTU's or length of burn time in comparison with the conifers.

    @Denise Grant I, too, love the smell of cutting firewood. Even more so in the autumn. And I agree that wood heat is warmer. I am lucky enough to have a wood cookstove as well as a wood furnace. The cookstove is a gathering place to huddle around on really cold days.

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,911 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @torey This is a very humid climate, so dead wood rots pretty quickly. If it was sitting in the forest and more than a year or two old, it would likely already be decaying into wood compost and not suitable for burning. When I walk in the woods, I see a lot of this semi-decayed dead wood.

    If I left a pile of wood out in my yard for a couple of years, it would only be suitable for garden compost. There are places in my woods where exactly that has happened.

    We have had issues with insects damaging ash trees, so there are some fresh-cut ash around that had to be taken down by utilities.

    While I wouldn't go out of my way to burn aspen since it puts out less wood per cord, when the wood is dumped on your garage, well, you may as well burn it. :-) You are going to have to cut it, or get it cut, anyway. It burned fine when mixed with other wood.

    I would not want to burn pine in a woodstove, though. Too much creosote would go up the chimney. We burn mostly deciduous wood, which is readily available.

    One of these days I need to try cooking on my woodstove. It has several burners, so it's designed for cooking, but it's not in the kitchen and not a place I would want to cook except in an emergency. But if the power was off for a week in winter, it would certainly be nice to make a stew on that woodstove!

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,502 admin

    @VermontCathy Such different conditions! Our standing dead wood can be harvested years after it has died because of the lack of humidity in our area.

    And different wood species!

    I prefer pine in my cookstove because it burns faster and has less creosote than other species in my area. I don't usually have an issue with creosote in the woodstove chimney, though, cause it is usually burning hot. Ponderosa pine seems to have more pitch than the Lodgepole pine which is the primary pine species in my area. We have only burned Ponderosa a few times because the climate zone that it grows in is a couple of hours further south.

    My husband likes Douglas Fir in the furnace because it burns longer but I think it creates more creosote resulting in him having to clean the chimney more often. Doug Fir seems to burn longer than Sub-alpine Fir but it is more difficult to split. I don't mind the Sub-alpine for the cookstove. Gives a good cooking heat.

    Birch is one of the deciduous trees that we burn but not often. They are beautiful trees and are going through some sort of Birch die-off in my area. They tend to decay quickly so it isn't often that we find a even a standing dead one that is OK to use. Usually, the only time we get birch is when we are in a logging cut-block and we can salvage birch that got in the way of the machinery.

    I encourage you to try to cook on your woodstove even if its not in an optimal spot. Soups and stews cook so well on a woodstove.

  • JodieDownUnder
    JodieDownUnder Posts: 1,482 admin

    @VermontCathy in Australia we work with firewood by the tonne. In the past I have cut fallen trees up on our property with my Stihl chainsaw(wouldn’t have anything else) split it with a block splitter and stacked it in our wood shed, ready for winter. Last year when my shoulder started giving me grief, I was unable to do that, so we sourced split firewood delivered to our property, last year and now this year. (At $110/ tonne) Hopefully next year I will be able to commence chainsawing again but I won’t punish my nearly 60 yr old body with having to split it. So I’m on the lookout for an electric log splitter.(Actually that will be a good discussion topic on the forum)

    @torey thats funny to hear you say that about wood. I’ve been known to say a similar thing, “firewood, the best recycler of heat, keeps you warm when you cut it, split it, stack it and burn it!”

  • gardneto76
    gardneto76 Posts: 528 ✭✭✭✭

    I grew up with a wood stove and loved cutting wood with my dad and family. When we were really little we used to go meet my aunt, uncle, & cousins. The dads would cut wood and all of us girls would go pick berries. As we got older I started to help dad cut the wood up at the house. At 5-6 I would sit on the log as he cut, then got to the point we had a 2-man saw and we would push and pull that thing together all day long. My dad also said burning wood warmed you 3 times cutting it, hauling it, and again when you burned it. Now where I live, no one burns wood unless maybe for a bonfire. Lots of landscape companies give away mulch for the gardens, and occasionally logs too. Matter of fact, when the tree in my front yard died, they quoted me a cheaper price because I was willing to keep some of the wood, otherwise they have to pay to dump it. Such a different world.

  • vickeym
    vickeym Posts: 2,019 ✭✭✭✭✭

    VermontCathy Learning to cook on your woodstove now would be so much better than trying to figure everything out in a situation without power. It will be much less stressful to do it now than in the situation where you are forced to do it to take care of yourself and/or your family.

    We have 10 acres with a lot of trees including the beetle kill spruce, so we don't normally buy firewood. Our main "hardwood" is the paper birch which isn't really hardwood, just the hardest we have in our area. Most folks burn a combination of birch and spruce.

    Last I had heard was that the going rate for a cord of wood here was around $200 - $250 a cord. Unfortunately, there are folks here who sell green wood and claim it is seasoned. Not everyone of course, but there are a few. Living at our last place we did buy firewood once and not only ended up with green wood. It took almost a month to get the full load delivered and took several "heated" discussions as the man delivered in a smaller pickup and was "not in a hurry" shall we say to deliver anything more than the one small truckload.

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,911 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @vickeym Yes, but running it in warm weather would heat the house up too much. That learning needs to be done next winter.

    We have a propane grill, propane camping stove, and various other stoves that burn white gas, butane, or alcohol, so in a warm weather power outage I would use those.

    I don't want to strip the wood from our second acre, so we'll never be able to produce all our own firewood. We get plenty of kindling from our own property, and trees that need to be removed anyway (like the ash trees this year) help supplement.

    I think that demand for cut, delivered firewood exceeds the supply of labor in rural areas like ours, so getting good service can be challenging. There's plenty of wood, but not plenty of people cutting and delivering it. Fortunately we work with a guy who has been very reliable. But even he can be tough to schedule just because he's busy. That's one reason we tend to buy in the spring before all the summer and fall demand kick in.

    Doing it yourself is ideal.

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,911 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @torey " I don't usually have an issue with creosote in the woodstove chimney, though, cause it is usually burning hot."

    That may be the difference that makes pine work for you but not for me. We need to be able to bank the stove when we go to bed and let it burn slowly through the night, not putting out too much heat, but lasting until morning without adding more wood.

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,911 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @jodienancarrow I see people here who own significant land are likely to own a power-driven wood splitter. They seem to work very well, but you would need to process a lot of wood to justify the expense. For small property owners like me, it wouldn't work.

    Splitting by hand is way too difficult for us. My father did this when I was a kid. He would split and I would stack. It was much harder work than chainsawing or stacking.

  • frogvalley
    frogvalley Posts: 675 ✭✭✭✭

    We used only wood stoves for about 12 year until we found out that our son was allergic to oak. Bummer! We then turned on the heat for the a months if we needed it right before he went to college, then back to wood.

    My father-in-law let somebody hunt on his property and the guy left firewood for him and he gave it to us. My FIL died, but we continued to let the guy hunt and he continued to leave firewood. Bugs of some type made the state issue a ban that forbid taking wood out of the state to our house. OK. We bought pellets instead. The gentleman started leaving firewood again when the ban was lifted and then passed away. His son wanted to hunt on the land so we of course said yes as we really don't use it and we found firewood out there from him too. My husband broke his hand a couple of years ago and declared hauling wood too painful so I hauled it and the pellets for the year and then declared that we were "at that age" and would just have to adjust to paying for heat from now on. We haul a little and turn on the heat a little. This year hasn't been bad and with global warming we've not had the high bills we were expecting, but it's certainly a change for us.

    COWLOVINGIRL Posts: 954 ✭✭✭✭

    During the winter, most Saturdays are wood days. We cut it, split, load into the dump truck and dump it close to our outdoor wood furnace.

  • marjstratton
    marjstratton Posts: 1,132 ✭✭✭✭

    We have electric heat which is not cheap but still less expensive in our area than in many other parts of the States and other parts of the world. We do have a wood fireplace which we use to help with our heating in the winter. It certainly can't keep up on a cold winter, which isn't all that cold compared to what a lot of you experience. We hope to maybe put in a more efficient wood stove some day soon. We do order a cord of wood for each winter. We took out a willow tree that was falling apart last fall and it gave us a lot of wood, which my husband is still working on getting it cut up and split.

  • Monek Marie
    Monek Marie Posts: 3,535 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @marjstratton take a look at ther homemade rocket stoves or heaters. I plan on replacing our large gas furance with one. I'll keep a gas furnace as a back up

  • marjstratton
    marjstratton Posts: 1,132 ✭✭✭✭

    @Denise Grant, yes I have definitely been looking at rocket stoves type of concept. I have been impressed with soapstone stoves too. We are also looking at possibly doing a heat pump too.

  • Monek Marie
    Monek Marie Posts: 3,535 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited May 2021

    @marjstratton I will have to look at soapstone. I have not heard of it. Thank you.

    Rocket stopve and heaters are quite amazing. I want one with one of those long extended benches. They work great to warm up on and also in a greenhouse for seeding heat. Plus I like the look!~

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,911 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Denise Grant Our stove is a Woodstock Soapstone. The soapstone absorbs a lot of latent heat, so it takes quite a while to get warm but stays warm a long time after the fire is banked or goes out.

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,911 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I just ordered 2 cords of green wood for next winter from our usual supplier. Price has gone up dramatically, now $365 a cord!

    I still consider it worth it compared with furnace oil, but boy, that is a steep increase. Inflation is touching everything. Since wood is abundant here, that has to be mostly due to an increase in labor rates.