Tag Archives: firewood

Soggy spring

I would love to say that we have accomplished a whole lot in the last month since I posted, but unfortunately we haven’t. This is largely due to the weather. I think this past May has been the soggiest one on record. Rain is pretty common in May, but it has been rather severe this year.

Our area was pretty lucky in that the worst we had were a few basements where the sub-pump broke and they wet basement floors. Other parts of Ontario and Quebec had full blown evacuations and states of emergency. When you come back to your house after it all resides and find that the water was up to the level of your counter-top in your kitchen, you could say that we had a lot of rain.

My last post was on May 2nd and it wasn’t long after that when things started to get crazy. We had two days of severe rain, then this happened on the 7th.

Yeah, that’s right. It started snowing. This has been known to happen in May, so it wasn’t so much of a big deal, except for the fact that it didn’t stop. I bet you can guess when I took the following picture?

That wasn’t the end of it either. It just kept snowing, right through until the 9th.

You can see that there wasn’t a whole lot of accumulation, but still, three days of snow in May?

Someone needs to turn up the outdoor thermostat.

That wasn’t the end of it either. I think we had a day or two break and then we had two more solid days of rain. When I say solid, I mean around 60mm (2.5 inches) of rain. That number may seem small, but if I put that in equivalent snow terms that would be 60cm (2 feet) of snow. It rained A LOT!

Those were the two heaviest days, but we’ve had quite a few days where it rained since then. Not nearly as bad. On May 14th we had a severe thunder storm which included hail. I had just done my weekly trip to the dump and it started on my way back. I was pulling into the driveway when the hail started so I sat in the truck for a bit and snapped this picture of the hail building up on the windshield wipers.

Not only has it been wet, it hasn’t been particularly warm either. We’ve had a few days above 20C (68F) but not many. And on those days when it isn’t cold and raining, the bugs are bad enough to pick you up and carry you off if you aren’t careful. The black flies especially are having a bumper year. We’re hoping the dragon flies will show up soon and we have seen one or two, but the big swarms of them have yet to arrive. They help a lot with reducing the biting insects.

All of this wetness has put a big damper on our firewood harvest this year. Going out in the pouring rain to cut down a tree isn’t a great thing to do. It’s even more inadvisable if there is high wind. Don’t try cutting down a tree in high wind and expect it to drop where you want it. I avoid that at all costs.

In addition to this, because of all of the rain, there were times we couldn’t even get the truck up the hill for fear of burying it out of sight just because the ground was so saturated with water. We still can’t drive to the top of our hill because a lot of water is draining down the road and it’s very squishy.

Of course there is the bug factor as well. Once you do get a decent day to go cut wood, you have to deal with the bugs. So, needless to say, we are behind in our firewood harvesting.

Fortunately, we haven’t been completely idle. We did get started on installing a new sink and finishing the counter-top around it. Here you can see the cutting of the hole where the sink is going to go.

Slightly closer so you can see the sink outline in pencil.

There we have it, a hole for a sink.

We even have a sink to put in that hole too! We bought it at the Re-store which I have to say, is kind of a hit or miss in terms of whether it’s really worth it or not. The sink we bought didn’t have holes for faucets, nor did it have a strainer basket. We weren’t too concerned about the faucet holes as we aren’t likely to have any faucet for a while. A new strainer basket cost $20 for the cheap one. The sink cost us $45. I could have bought a brand new sink for $100 that included holes for the faucet and strainer basket. Add some tax in there and you start to wonder if it was really worth the savings. Things to think about if you ever go to the Re-store for building materials.

Now for the counter-top we decided to use a 19mm (3/4 inch) piece of plywood with red oak veneer. One sheet of that will set you back $85 so you don’t want to mess it up. I cut out the piece to size for the counter first.

I scribed the hole for the sink from underneath and then cut out the hole for the sink as well.

Voila! New counter-top. Well, almost. The counter then went out to the staining and finishing department. I can say that it has been stained and had two coats of varnish put on it. The next step is to put a thick coat of epoxy on it to make it durable and waterproof. We have the epoxy, but it is sensitive to temperature and humidity so that part has been put on hold until things dry up and warm up a bit.

So it’s been a slow start to the year. We haven’t planted anything in the garden yet either because it’s been so cold. Last night we had a low of 2C (36F). Yes, we had a fire. They say we should be safe for planting after the full moon in June, which is this Friday. We can only wait and see at this point.

Getting back outside

It’s the start of May now and things have warmed up considerably since my last post. April was all over the place in terms of the weather. The last you heard from us we had just had a big snow storm. I took those pictures on a Friday morning as we were clearing the fallen trees from our driveway.

The next day we woke up to full sunshine and it was quite warm. Everything started to melt. This is what it looked like in the morning.

By 16:00 that day, there wasn’t a tree left that had any snow on it. Sunday was nice a sunny too and by the end of that day, the driveway was clear of snow, though still mushy. The following day, on Monday, we hit 24C (75F) and it was really humid. We had a huge thunderstorm in the afternoon too, with some really loud thunder and close lightning strikes. So in the space of five days, we went from heavy snow fall to serious thunderstorm.

With all of that snow and rain, things have not been dry around here. In fact, all sources of water in the area have exceeded their banks and there is a lot of flooding. Fortunately, most of it is flooding the forest. There are a few cases of people who are near the York river who are having difficulties.

This reminds us of spring 2014 when we first came to look at the property. The other pond we have at the top of the hill was over flowing. Don’t remember the picture? Well, here is what it looked like back then.

As a way of comparison, here is what it looked like on April 26th.

That’s really close to the 2014 level. I should add that we just had a huge rain storm that lasted two days straight. We haven’t been back up to the top of the hill, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the upper pond has now exceeded the 2014 level. I say this because, despite having a drain pipe under the driveway for the pond we have beside it, we had enough rain to wash out part of our driveway.

The drain pipe couldn’t keep up fast enough and the water just rushed over the driveway. I’m sure there will be another load of gravel in our near future.

Going back a bit to April 18th, it had dropped below freezing the previous night and the pond beside the driveway had a thin layer of ice on it. It looked pretty spectacular so, of course, we had to take some pictures.

Needless to say, we have had some really nice weather, and some really wet weather in April. We have been trying to get out as much as we can to work on important projects outside before the bugs arrive. The project with the highest priority right now is firewood processing for next winter.

Last week we had a good run of clear weather so we were able to get out many days in a row. Unfortunately, a bunch of our time was spent clearing fallen saplings from the roadway up to the top of the hill. We did get some trees cut for firewood though.

We started off with that small pile. Anything big I buck up on site and the smaller branches we just haul back and use the saw buck I made last year to make it easier to cut. It sure saves the back using the saw buck.

Another day, and more wood. I split some of it by hand. The cherry is pretty easy, but I leave most of the elm as it is painful to split by hand. All of it is dead already, which makes splitting it much easier than if we were trying to split live wood by hand.

We cleared out the middle section of our wood storage at the back of the trailer and this is where we are piling the newly harvested wood.

It’s not a lot yet, but it’s better than nothing. We’re hoping that things will dry up this week so we can get back out and do some more.

When we aren’t processing firewood or working on other projects, Kat and I like to take walks down our road. Kat uses this opportunity to pick up all of the dang garbage that people throw out their vehicle windows. We live on a very quiet road, but that doesn’t seem to stop people from polluting it. We’ve gathered several large garbage bags worth of things people have tossed away, most of it is beer cans.

There are some nice things to see while we’re out walking too. Like some pussy willows we found growing beside the road.

You have to take advantage of pussy willows pretty quickly as they turn into fuzzy tree buds soon after they appear. Yes the buds are all out on the trees now and some are even starting to sprout a few tiny leaves.

Soon everything will be exploding with colours. The leaves will be out in full force and the flowers will be in bloom. Heck, even Kat is looking really awesome in her spring colours.

She doesn’t tweet as nicely as some of the birds we have hanging around our place, but she sure is nice to look at.

It’s always good to end with a smile 😀

Splitting wood

As you may recall we had this big pile of logs needing splitting sitting in our yard.

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Well our neighbour showed up on Tuesday (yesterday) afternoon with some serious machinery to take care of that for us.

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This is Roger, his tracker and attached to it are all the various log destruction paraphernalia. You can see the hydraulic splitter above as the big blade sticking out of the large red metal shaft attached to the back of the tractor. Behind that, there was a trailer that had a staging rack, wheel barrow and a crane we used to pick up the really big pieces and put them on the splitter.

Here you can see it all setup and in action.

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We would put some logs on the staging rack, which was really handy as it means the operator didn’t need to be bending over all the time to get the logs, and then feed them to the splitter. When we started it was just Roger and I as Kat was in town buying groceries. However, after she returned, we put her to work right away.

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She looks pretty sedate in that picture, but there were some moments of maniacal glee coming from her as she brought forth destruction to the timber. While she was doing that, Roger would load the staging rack and pick up the split pieces to be placed in the waiting wheel barrow. I was the stacker. I took the full wheel barrows and carted them around to the back to our firewood storage facility.

It now looks something like this.

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And that pile of wood we started with now looks like this:

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It went really smooth and we split everything in the pile we had. That was way easier than trying to split that pile by hand and we are eternally grateful to Roger for coming over and helping us with that.

Kat and I had quite the sense of security after finishing that job. That was, until this morning at 07:15 when this happened.

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Our center rows of wood had a bit of an accident. You can’t really see it from that picture, but it wasn’t the just the outer row that came down. No, it had all shifted from the back row forwards. I spent quite a while this morning realigning the rows and restacking the wood.

It was a minor mishap, nothing serious. I’d much rather have that problem than not have any wood to stack at all.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year

Why, you might ask, is this the most wonderful time of the year? Because it is warm enough to be outside in just a t-shirt and there are no bugs. It’s a great time to be outside doing things and we have not been slacking in this regard. This is largely why I haven’t updated the blog in over a month.

As you know from my previous post, we now have working appliances that have made our lives so much easier. Unfortunately, we haven’t done much more than that on the kitchen as outside activities have taken precedence. However, I did get the hood vent reinstalled. Unfortunately, it wasn’t just a matter of putting it back in the hole where it had been. If we had done that, it would have been way to close to the top of the new stove.

Here you can see a picture of the hole where the vent had been. The blue you see is the tarp covering the north side of the roof posts. You can also see the new hole above it.

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After some measuring and consulting the photos we took while we had the trailer stripped down, I figured out where to cut the new hole. It was pretty straightforward and the outside vent flap that was in the old spot worked fine in the new one.

I covered the old hole with some plywood and then filled the hole with spray foam. Here you can see the results with the new hood in place and the old hole filled.

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There is one downside to spring, and that is the part where your driveway turns into a mud hole. This is bad enough, but the propane delivery truck left some huge holes in our driveway while attempting to deliver propane. Unfortunately, we weren’t here when he came by or we could have warned him.

Here are some pictures.

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In this one you can see the big, two-tire wide ruts with the water in it that the propane truck left.

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On to other things.

What has been occupying most of our time is firewood processing. This is a great time of year to cut firewood for the next winter as it has a chance to dry out all summer. To help with this job, I built one of these.

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That’s a saw buck and I have to say, it has made this work a whole lot nicer. You don’t need to bend over all the time trying to cut logs on the ground and you save the wear and tear on your chainsaw by completely avoiding hitting the ground with it. As you can see from that picture, we had already put it to some use.

That was fresh maple that we had cut. We usually don’t cut live trees, but in this case, we had some trees that are were the way of our sun view during the winter, so we removed them to improve that.

Any day where it has been sunny, we’ve been outside working on the firewood stock, in some form or another. Here you can see me selecting some more victims. We were cutting dead elm trees that day.

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We cut them into logs and then load them into the truck.

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Bring them back to our processing station and cut them down to size using the sawbuck.

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Kat and I have a pretty good system going with the sawbuck. She does the loading and holding and I do the chainsaw work. We can go through quite a few logs pretty quickly, depending on the type of wood and the diameter of the logs, obviously. It’s way easier to cut white pine (softwood) than it is to cut the elm (hardwood).

With all of this wood processing, we obviously need somewhere to put it. This is where we were lacking at this point last year. However, this year, we have the roof and large sections at the back that we made specifically for storing firewood. We have three, ten foot sections, separated by palette walls. Here is a picture of the middle one, that has the first row mostly complete and the second started.

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That was all hardwood in that picture. We have a section we created for softwood too. Here you can see it with its first row.

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Now some of you may be wondering why we are processing softwood. After all, isn’t hardwood supposed to be the optimal burner? That is correct, hardwood is optimal for long term burning during the cold months of the year. However, our only source of heat is the wood stove and it can push out a lot of heat which at this time of year, will bake you. You can always put a piece in and close the draft on the wood stove a lot so it doesn’t burn as hard, but if you do that, the chimney doesn’t heat up enough and you end up with creosote buildup.

We had this problem this year as we didn’t have any softwood processed and we ended up having to the replace the chimney cap because it was so encrusted with gooey tar. I have the cleaning brush for the chimney so we do that about every six weeks or so. This is how we discovered the state of the chimney cap.

To get around this problem, you can burn softwood, which burns fast and hot. It gives you a nice heat boost for a while, but it won’t cook you over the long term and it works better with the chimney in terms of the buildup.

So that’s why we have a section for softwood. It’s mostly poplar and white pine.

Move forward a little while and you can see how the middle section has increased.

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A little while later and we’ve completed both of the back two rows and we’re on the third.

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This is what the softwood section looks like now. That’s two full rows with a third started.

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We even built a boxed section out of some palettes and scrap wood so we have somewhere to put all of the bark and sticks that we get. Dead elm sticks are awesome for starting fires. They burn way longer than other stuff.

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Today was yet another nice day so we were out again. However, before most of the trees we cut down were fairly small. If you need to split it at all, it’s just a few of the bottom pieces. This is especially nice if you are dealing with elm as it is supremely difficult to split by hand.

Well, today I cut down probably one of the biggest trees I have dropped yet and it was a dead elm. How big was it? Well, I’m glad you asked.

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That may give you some indication. The tape measure says just under 56cm (22″). What makes it more interesting is my chainsaw only has a 46cm (18″) bar on it. There was a lot of work involved in getting this tree to drop and the saw was not happy about it either. There were a couple of times I had to let it rest and cool down before continuing.

Fortunately, I took my time and tried to do it as well as I could. It probably took me a good fifteen minutes to get through the base of that tree but it fell exactly where I wanted it and I didn’t have to fuss at all. It was a text book drop and I was pretty proud of myself for that one. I can’t say all of my lumberjacking has been that successful.

I went through two and half tanks of gas to buck up that tree and then we had to load it into the truck and take it back to the trailer. That one tree took us two loads in the truck to get it all. I had cut some others a day or so before and we have quite the pile of elm to be split going on.

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That would be a LOT of work to split by hand, but we’re hoping that a friend of ours who has access to a splitter will come by and give us a hand with it. That would save me several days of work. Unfortunately, Kat can’t split the elm so it would be just me working on that pile. However Kat did some great work splitting all of the white pine and poplar.

We do what we can. Hopefully we’ll get the pile processed before the bugs arrive in force. That won’t be too much longer though. There are a lot of trees that are ready to burst with leaves so we probably only have about ten days or so before they arrive.

Once we finish with the firewood, I can get back to working on the kitchen.