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Firewood – labor efficiency

Dale Hodgins
pollinator

Joined: Jul 28, 2011
Posts: 4260
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
    
  63
  I'm constantly trying to figure out how to get more work done with less time spent. I believe I've come up with one of the most labor efficient means of gathering and burning firewood on a difficult site with steep slopes.

My property is long and skinny and just over half a mile long. It belonged to a railway at one time and has a good quality gravel road which runs for most of its length. No area of the property is more than 150 feet from a road and 80% of the land is within 75 feet of the road. Some of this land is quite steep and that is the area where most of the natural forest which produces my firewood and building wood is located. 

  There is a huge amount of coppice maple in this zone with nice four and 5 inch branches and there are quite a few multi-trunked trees which have individual branches over 1 foot in diameter. I will use some of these as building posts and much of the smaller wood will be firewood. Although I like the idea of small dimensioned wood which does not need to be split I don't relish the idea of handling millions of small pieces of firewood and then having to heave them either up or down slope to the road so I've come up with this.

  I have an old crane truck with an 18 foot deck. I've determined that it's too expensive to keep this thing licensed and insured but it's fine for use around the farm. It's the type of crane you often see hoisting Hydro poles. I'm planning to make several big troughs from recycled heating oil tanks, the oval type that hold about 300 gallons. I've often seen these used at scrapyards to contain various grades of metal. They use these since they're a good size for moving around with a forklift. I've charged $100 per tank to dispose of these in the past so no problem on supply. These tanks will be placed up or down slope into areas where wood has been cut. Most chunks will be just shorter than the tank. In that way the total number of pieces handled will be greatly reduced. Once the truck is filled with loaded tanks it will be driven to the firewood storage greenhouse. This greenhouse will have removable panels on the side which faces the driveway. The crane will be able to drop big buckets of wood to within inches of where it will be stacked. The long pieces of wood will never need to be cut since they will be fed into a rocket stove slide which allows for burning of materials up to 6 feet long. See posting called rocket stove slide in the green building section.

      Sometimes I will have large dimension firewood which needs to be split. When this happens I'll cut this material to 16 inches and load it into separate containers. The truck has an awesome hydraulic pump so I'll run a splitter off this power while the truck idles. It runs on propane so there's no worry about diesel fumes. Material that is taken from one container will be split and immediately heaved into an empty one 3 feet away. No stacking required.

    My work often produces short chunks of 2 x 4 and other lumber. These materials are gathered into banana boxes or other reusable or burnable containers. These containers are stacked for later use and nothing is taken out of them until they're sitting in front of the stove.

    Is there anything I haven't thought of here? Can you think of any way to make the process more efficient?

  Please tell us what devices or processes you have used to make burning firewood  less laborious.


Dale's picks - These are some of my favorite threads. Greed - http://www.permies.com/t/10736/md/unbridled-greed-ambition-compatible-permaculture My garden - http://www.permies.com/t/27910/projects/Dale-Day-Garden ethics - http://www.permies.com/t/11534/permaculture/frustration-ethics Good wood bad wood http://www.permies.com/t/12206/hugelkultur/Hugelkultur-Good-wood-Bad-wood Alder - http://www.permies.com/t/10609/plants/Alder-nitrogen-fixation-native-tree Bees - http://www.permies.com/t/10917/bees/time-replace-European-honey-bee Pulling nails - http://www.permies.com/t/10249/natural-building/Removing-nails-recycled-wood-techniques
Allan Laal


Joined: Oct 02, 2011
Posts: 31
Location: Estonia
I have 3 systems, but first, my area:
My forest is just 50 meters from where I process my firefood, but because therese a small river (15m wide) between these, then I have go over the village dam and make a stupid 1 km round trip.

#1. (replaced by 2.)
2 friends with chainsaws thin the forest
I drive my ATV over to some of the felled trees, I attach 2-6 (depending on mass and amount of branches) of them with chains to the ATV's trailer hitch.
If theres a larger log, I make the ATV end of it pencil shape, so it could be dragged better.
I drag all these logs to my processing area, where I eventually cut them into smaller furnace-sized bits, split them with a hydraulic log splitter or use a friend, who thinks he can split logs faster with an axe
After that we stack them on pallets and cover the tops with waterproof panels - they dry in the wind for a few months/years and then they are ready for my 25 kW central heating furnace.

#2.
2 friends with chainsaws thin the forest
I drive my ATV over with its kickass log-tower-trailer: http://img38.imageshack.us/img38/779/dsc05847f.jpg
I use its manual winch to lift the log up, then attach it to one of the chains and release the manual winch to pick up another log down the road and drag all of them into the processing area
Processing looks the same as in #1.

#3. (newest edition)
2 friends with chainsaws thin the forest and cut the wood into furnace-sized bits
I drive my ATV over with a old trailer attached to it: http://img31.imageshack.us/img31/5341/dsc05978f.jpg
Thats the maximum load per wheel my swampy forest can handle in the driest month of the year!
Then I drive the load over to the processing area, whilst depositing a few logs every time the trailer goes over a stump.

I split the wood with my new hydraylic log splitter an everything is dandy.


I personally like #3 for firewood, as it seems faster - I actually havent timed if it is faster than #2.
I use #2 for logs I want to keep for building material. Which raises a question: How long can I keep a log, before its pointless to saw it into timber?

I use birch (Betula pendula) and European Spruce (Picea abies) for logs. Birch and Grey Alder (Alnus incana) for firewood.

I consider the Grey Alder as trash, since it doesnt offer much energy density as firewood and is too weak for building material. Its the only legume tree I know, so its a love-hate relationship

http://www.permaculture.ee
Country: Estonia (Northern Temperate. affected by Baltic Sea)
Snowy, cold winters w 6 hours of daylight and 18 hours of utter darkness in january.
Wet, windy, sunny summers w 18 hours of daylight and 6 hours of twilight in july.

January avg -18 ºC, (-0.4 ºF), min -34.6 ºC (-30.28 ºF) -> 44mm/1.7" snow
July avg 23.4 ºC (74.1 ºF), max 35 ºC (95 ºF) -> 72mm/2.8" rain
Yearly: 646mm/25.4"
Sam White


Joined: Mar 08, 2011
Posts: 211
Location: Caerphilly, Wales, UK
    
    1
estopermie wrote:
I consider the Grey Alder as trash, since it doesnt offer much energy density as firewood and is too weak for building material. Its the only legume tree I know, so its a love-hate relationship



Alder makes good charcoal apparently and might be worth looking into assuming there's a market for it.


"A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in."
John Polk
steward

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 6661
Location: Currently in Seattle. Probably moving 1 hour north by end of the year.
    
138
The alders are not legumes, but they do fix nitrogen from the air.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, alders are the wood of choice for smoking salmon.
Dale Hodgins
pollinator

Joined: Jul 28, 2011
Posts: 4260
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
    
  63
  Thanks John Polk. I was also under the impression that alder was a legume. I heard this years ago and took him at his word. I googled nitrogen fixing plants and it turns out there are hundreds of plans able to fix nitrogen which are not members of the legume family.

   So it turns out that the ability to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere is not a guaranteed entry into that plant family. I think many people kick the word legume around quite loosely because of its association with nitrogen fixation. Of plants commonly grown in our gardens the only ones that fix nitrogen are also members of the legume family so you can see how this misunderstanding would develop.

   Alder are particularly important here on the West Coast since we get very little lightning. When lightning passes through the air large amounts of nitrogen are precipitated in a form useful to plants. Although we are plagued with scotch broom in areas where the forest is regenerating, it also fixes plenty of nitrogen and in the long run leaves the site with richer soil. I've used it as a mulch around young trees and those trees grew much faster than their competitors. I assume that some of this is due to the additional nitrogen but there would also be benefit in maintaining a lower soil temperature and more moisture on my hot slopes where this was done.
Chuck Freeman


Joined: Apr 13, 2009
Posts: 116
Location: Southcentral Alaska
Sam Hatfield wrote:
estopermie wrote:
I consider the Grey Alder as trash, since it doesnt offer much energy density as firewood and is too weak for building material. Its the only legume tree I know, so its a love-hate relationship



Alder makes good charcoal apparently and might be worth looking into assuming there's a market for it.


It also is great for smoking meat & fish especially salmon


FrontierFreedom
Dale Hodgins
pollinator

Joined: Jul 28, 2011
Posts: 4260
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
    
  63
An exhaustive examination of the various types of wood splitter has led me to the threaded screw type. Unicorn and Hy Crack are two models that can be viewed on YouTube.

One of these attached to the crane arm could allow me to drill into logs and lift them so that stuff on the steep banks could be loaded and split while I remain at the controls. The wood could then be driven to the storage area where it's cut up while still aboard the 18 ft deck and tossed off the truck into a waiting wood box which the crane later transfers to storage.

Finally, a no lift firewood system. The only manual handling would be kicking wood off the truck into the storage boxes. These boxes could later be machine hoisted into the living room. But I'll use a wheelbarrow thus lifting the now dry wood once.

It may be that the hydraulics on the arm aren't strong enough. Sight lines are a problem on some of my slopes. The units I've seen on excavators are huge. A simple jaw grapple would not require much juice. Either way I may be driving a finishing nail with a sledge hammer here since the crane alone already takes 80% of the work out of things as compared to manually wrestling the stuff to the back of a pick up.

But it was fun figuring out how to avoid all lifting and climbing of slopes.
Dale Hodgins
pollinator

Joined: Jul 28, 2011
Posts: 4260
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
    
  63
I gave away 45 truck loads of firewood today and yesterday. I know a guy who owns a mill and he was absolutely over run with slabs and cutoffs. There was a serious fire risk plus the landlord was about to raise the rent. So I presided over the largest free firewood frenzy I've ever seen. One family returned 4 times. We cleared out less than half of it, so I will go again on the weekend. Very frugal all around. Slabwood has to be cheap or free to move it around here. The dumpage cost would have run $2500 for what's been done so far. The ad will run all week , so new and returning firewood hounds will come in droves.
Fred Morgan
steward

Joined: Sep 29, 2009
Posts: 972
Location: Northern Zone, Costa Rica - 200 to 300 meters Tropical Humid Rainforest
    
  12
Dale, the point about mills is a good one. Getting rid of wood waste is a constant concern for someone who works with timber. We process a lot of wood, and give away a lot of kiln dried scraps, the kind that would be excellent in a rocket stove. In fact, there is a local restaurant that I have deal with, I bring over a pickup load of scraps, and get free food and drink. My wife is allergic to wood smoke, so I don't grill like I would like to, so this allows me to have stuff grilled over a fire, by a professional cook - with a nice dark beer on the side, for the cost of getting rid of wood scraps.

Someone else's waste can be your resource. Life is good.


Sustainable Plantations and Agroforestry in Costa Rica
 
 
subject: Firewood – labor efficiency
 
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