The Importance of Hunting as a Forest Management Tool

Hunting has been important to humans since prehistoric times. Without hunting, people in many parts of the world would not have been able to survive where other forms of food is not available year round.

In modern developed civilisations hunting is no longer a part of survival but the hunting instinct in humans still runs strong. Hunting gives humans an opportunity to get back in touch with and align with their deep human nature. Getting out in the wild and being in touch with who we really are and where food comes from can be a therapeutic break from the artificially created world that most people now live in.

For men hunting has long been a way to leave the home with other men and bond friendships with a common interest and goal. In prehistoric times, going hunting daily was probably as routine as going to our jobs is today. The urge to leave the home to go hunt is a deep part of us that most of society has lost tough with and is a missing part of most humans.

Although hunting is a male dominated activity, it is becoming increasingly popular with women. More women than ever are now discovering how therapeutic and enjoyable hunting and the shooting sports can be.

Hunting is not only good for the sole, it is also healthy for the body. The fresh air and exercise are great for the body and so is the organic fresh meat from a clean kill. The “organic” meat people buy in the health food stores doesn’t compare to real organic meat from the wild.

Hunting is looked down upon by much of society as though it was something barbaric and cruel. At the same time the same critics are eating meat they buy from the store. The only difference is they hire someone else to do the killing for them. And in the case of vegetarians or vegans, somehow they are fine with the idea of animals hunting each other and ripping each other apart in the wild but when humans are involved somehow in their mind hunting bad thing. In the case with most human hunters, great care is taken to make quick kills with as little suffering as possible. This is not the case when animals eat each other.

Hunting is an important tool for wildlife management. In many areas of the world the large predators are no longer around. These predators kept many animal populations in check. Without them animals populations overpopulate and die slow painful deaths from starvation and disease. Hunting solves this serious problem and bypasses the starvation and disease by humanely thinning the populations to healthy levels. Not only is this good for wildlife populations, it also provides high quality food for people.

How to Stack Firewood

Learn How to Stack Firewood

Learning how to stack firewood is very simple, but many people never learn the right ways to stack wood and end up experiencing catastrophic stack failure (technical term for stack tipping over). They end up having to re-stack it multiple times after it keeps falling over. Or maybe the wood dries very slowly because they didn’t know how to stack it so it will dry faster. Avoiding these problems are very easy, you just need to know a few tips.

So you just got a bunch of firewood and now the question now is, what to do with it? You could just throw it into a random heaping pile. That is what I do most of the time. Since I produce firewood commercially, stacking hundreds of cords of wood is just too much work. So why do people stack wood to begin with? Is it really necessary or is it just just something we do out of habit?

Why Do We Stack Firewood?

As I mentioned above, in my case, stacking that much firewood is just too much work. But if you have only have a cord of wood or even several cords, it may be well worth stacking.

There are several advantages to stacking firewood. Stacking can help it dry faster. For drying wood, air circulation is very important. Stacking wood gets the wood off the ground and exposes both ends of every piece to the open air. It can also expose more wood to the sun if it is outdoors. In a heaping pile, much of the wood is buried underneath where it never gets any sun and air flow is limited.

Stacked wood takes up less space than a heaping pile, it looks better, is easier to measure, is easier to cover, and it helps keep it cleaner by keeping it off the ground.

Stacking Firewood – The How To (finally)

The first thing is the foundation. You need something to stack the wood on. (how is that for stating the obvious?) You could stack it directly on the ground but soil contact will make for wet and dirty wood, and possibly even rotten wood if left long enough. A concrete slab or asphalt is fine to stack it on. A firewood rack is great, whether you buy one or build one. Two parallel poles, 2×4’s or similar material on the ground makes a great foundation. When the pieces are stacked perpendicular to them, they support the ends of the pieces but not the middle of the pieces. This prevents the teeter totter situation that can happen when something is supported in the middle, which could make the pile unstable. The space in the middle also allows air to flow under the pile.

From this point up it’s not exactly rocket science. Simple start putting pieces on top of the stack parallel to each other until the stack is as high as you want. Sounds simple right? It is, but there are a few things to do to prevent catastrophic stack failure (yes I made that term up all by myself).

Firewood Stack
Firwood Criss-Crossed For End Support

Catastrophic stack failure can and does happen . The chances of this can be reduced by paying attention to how the pieces are being placed together. Make sure the stack is going up straight and be mindful of how the pieces are being fit together. Try to fit the pieces together so they are stable. I could go into detail on how to do that but I think you are smart enough to figure it out. In the photo to the left you can see how the pieces are intentionally fit together.

Supports on the end of the stacks can help make the stack more stable. Whether it’s stakes driven into the ground or a firewood rack or some other clever structure you invented. Ideas for how to build a firewood rack is an idea for another post at another time. If you do a search on this site maybe I will have made a post about that by the time you are reading this.

Criss-crossing the pieces on the ends like the picture above can work well for making nice vertical ends if you don’t have a rack or other end supports. This is not the most stable way to stack wood and takes some practice. This should be done after you have some experience stacking wood together tightly, otherwise catastrophic stack failure can result.

Another thing I see people do a lot is stack multiple rows parallel with no space between the stacks. Notice in the photo at the top of this article how the rows have space between them. This allows air to circulate around the end of every piece. If you don’t leave a space between them, this can be worse for air circulation than a heaping pile. The same goes if you are stacking the wood against a wall or fence. Leave a few inches between the stack and the surface.

The Sun Actually Pulls Stacks of Firewood Over?

At least that’s what my great grandma used to say. Many times if you stack green wood it will start to lean toward the sun, sometimes to the point of catastrophic stack failure. (you are just waiting for the day when you get a chance to use the term catastrophic stack failure aren’t you) Anyway, she always thought that the sun somehow pulled on the wood. But I think it has more to do with the sunny side drying and shrinking faster.

Which ever one of those theories you believe, this leaning problem is something that does happen. So if the wood is green, you may want to stack it with a little lean away from the sun to help compensate.

So there you have it, you are now a firewood stacking expert. If you have any questions or comments please post them below.

Pickup Logging

The Pickup Loggers in Southwest Oregon have a different way of logging. Instead of using expensive to buy and operate heavy equipment, they use the same equipment they commute with, their pickups. Here is how Mike, the owner of Pickup Logging tells the story.

Sometimes if you have a small job it can be cost prohibitive to truck in logging equipment. If there is a small amount of bug kill or a small thinning project, there is often times not enough volume to cover the cost, let alone make a profit. In these cases, timber often goes to waste. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Most loggers don’t realize how much a full size four wheel drive pickup truck can pull. In cases where we only have a load of logs or even several loads, a pickup makes a fine make-do log skidder. They can’t pull as much as traditional logging equipment, but they are low cost to transport, operate and repair. Plus they are comfortable to sit in, quiet, and have comforts like air conditioning and heating.

As long as your roads and skid trails are already in place, a pickup, some cables, blocks and chokers may be all you need for log skidding. With self loading log trucks available, this may be all the equipment you need for some jobs.

On flat land or even on a slight uphill grade, I can usually skid a little over 200 board feet per turn with softwood logs. That is long logs with westside scale (diameter measured only at the small end). On downgrades I can pull more. Pickup logging is also convenient when cutting the tops into firewood, since it is convenient to throw the pieces in the bed while choking the logs. The weight in the back also helps for getting better traction.

We have used Ford F Series trucks, both F-150s and F-250’s for skidding and they have both held up well. But we don’t drive them like we are in the 4×4 pulls. If something hangs up, instead of stepping on the gas and spinning the tires hard, we stop and fix the problem, then try pulling again. If it is just too heavy, it’s time to get creative with things like a block and double line. This takes some patience but it keeps the trucks from breaking. I would rather get out and re-choke a log than replace a u joint, rear end, or transmission.

The 1976 F-150 in the pictures has an automatic transmission which is good for skidding. This is nice because I can regulate the power. If a log isn’t coming, I can push the power to a certain point and then back off instead of breaking something.

Keeping the transfer case in low range is a must for the extra torque. In cases where a log is too heavy to pull, sometimes we will hitch two trucks together and pull. In this case we have to be careful on tight corners since the truck in the rear can be pulled sideways and over the edge or into trees.

It’s slower going skidding with a pickup, but with lower operating costs we don’t need to produce as much volume. And as far as low impact logging goes, it’s hard to get more low impact than this.

Firewood Storage – How to Store Firewood

I have been producing firewood commercially, as well as burning it myself, for decades. After producing, hauling, storing and selling thousands of cords of wood, I have learned a lot about how to store firewood. In this article I will teach you some of what I have learned about firewood storage.

When it comes to firewood storage, keeping the wood dry is one of the biggest factors. Wet wood burns less efficiently, produces more smoke and creosote, and is just hard to burn. Wet wood will also decay and grow mold and other fungus.

One of the most important ingredients in keeping wood dry is air circulation. Firewood should be stored in a way that allows moisture in the wood to evaporate. One of the biggest mistakes I see people make is to cover up wet wood in a way that prevents air circulation.

Covering Wood With a Firewood Tarp

how to stack firewood
Firewood is covered on top but the sides are left open to allow air to circulate.

Many people cover wood with a tarp or plastic sheeting and cover the whole pile all the way to the ground. Covering the whole pile may help keep more rain off but it also holds moisture inside. If there is enough moisture inside, the tarp will start to sweat and drip water back onto the wood.

If you cover your wood with a tarp, it is best to only cover the top of the pile. The edges of the pile should be left open. This allows air to flow under the tarp and through the pile. This way any moisture that gets inside can evaporate. Without air circulation, any moisture inside will stay inside and your wood will dry slowly if at all. These stagnant moist conditions can lead to fungus growth and wood decay.

Keep Firewood Off the Ground

If firewood has direct contact with soil it can become a mess. The wood will absorb moisture from the soil and the soil will usually stick to the wood, often in thick clumps. Where wood and soil make contact makes great habitat for microorganisms, fungus, insects and other things that will create messy decaying wood.

If wood is to be stored outdoors, a concrete slab or asphalt is a great surface to store it on. If this is not available,  tarp on the ground or just about anything that will separate wood from soil will help. Even clean gravel is better than soil.

Stacking Firewood

Stacking firewood is more work than throwing or dumping it into a heaping pile, but it can be worth the extra work. Stacking firewood helps to get the wood off the ground, positions it for better air circulation, and can make it easier to cover. It also can give the wood pile a smaller footprint and save space.

A common mistake people make when stacking firewood is to stack it up against a surface like a wall or fence, or another stack of wood. This is fine if the wood is already dry and stored in a dry place, such as indoors. But if it is wet or green, or has a chance of getting wet, you should leave a few inches of space between stacks or between the stack and any wall or other surface.

Where to Store Firewood

The best location for firewood storage will depend on whether the wood is green or dry. If the wood is green, it is best to leave the wood outside uncovered where it will get full sun. Sun and wind will dry wood faster than if the wood is stored under cover. Even if it gets rained on that is fine. Many claim that wood that is exposed to rain and sun both will dry faster. As hard as that may be to believe, it actually seems to be true. It may be that wetting wood keeps the outside pores open so moisture can better evaporate from deeper inside the wood.

Indoor Firewood Storage

If the wood is already dry, the best place to store it is inside a shed, lean-to or other covered area. Green or wet wood in an enclosed building will not dry as fast as it will outside in the sun. If you do dry it indoors, just make sure the building has good air circulation. An opened walled structure can be better for drying wood than an enclosed structure. Especially if the sunny side is open.

Storing Firewood is a Garage

You can store firewood a garage, but keep in mind you will likely be bringing bugs and debris into your garage. firewood also creates great habitat for mice, spiders and other pests that are best left outside.

Storing Firewood Under Eaves

Under wide eaves can be a good place for firewood storage, but this is best done on the sunny side of a building. This way the wood can quickly dry in the sun if the wind blows rain or snow on it.

Outdoor Firewood Storage

Many firewood users don’t have the luxury of having a covered area for firewood storage. If this is your case you will likely have to stack your firewood outside and cover it with a tarp. Just make sure you use the tips above about covering wood.

Choosing a sunny spot is best. Also consider how easy it will be for a delivery truck to get to the location. If you have to haul it all to your storage area with a wheelbarrow or by hand, that will be a lot of extra work. Also think about how convenient the location will be for you to bring in wood to burn it.

Where to Get Wood for Firewood

Unless you live out in a barren desert, grassland, or in the ocean, wood for firewood is usually not far away. And even if you live in those places, it can sometimes still be found if there are people and towns around. In most parts of the US and many other countries, wood is very abundant.

Wood from forest land. If you are fortunate enough to have your own forest land, well, most people are probably totally disgusted with you right now, out of pure jealously. But aside from that, consider yourself to be very fortunate. With the right management strategies, you can provide a sustainable source of firewood material indefinitely. Although it may be tempting to just start cutting trees, it’s best to consult with an experienced forester. If you can determine how much wood per acre per year your land will grow and not over cut, and which trees to selectively cut and which to leave, your land will produce far more wood in the long term.

Wood from other people’s forest land. Unfortunately most of us don’t have a large piece of forest land. That’s ok, neither do most successful firewood business owners. There are many land owners who have forest land who would love to see someone take wood from their land. Contrary to what many of us have been taught, most forests are over stocked with wood. A build up of dead wood and overcrowded trees can create a huge fire hazard and contribute to slow growth and disease.

With a little creativity, it shouldn’t be hard to find landowners who will be glad to let you have some of this excess wood for a small fee or in exchange for cleaning up the property. Some people who become experienced with managing forests even charge landowners money for these services. If you can get paid by the landowner, and get paid for selling the wood, not a bad deal.

Landowners can be always found that are clearing trees to make way for construction, roadways, ponds, pasture, etc. I can’t count the number of times I have seen all the trees being bulldozed into huge piles and set on fire. Sometimes dozens or even hundreds of cords of prime potential firewood and money being burned. If you asked some of them really nice, maybe they would let you have some of it or sell it to you for a small fee. You can always offer to help clean up the mess or in some way provide them some value in exchange for the wood. Maybe offer to burn the slash (limbs and debris) in exchange for the wood. Save them the expense of piling and burning.

This summer I bought a bunch of trees that a land owner was clearing to build a road. I got the wood cheap, and all the logging was done for me. I made more money with that than if I had spent the time cutting trees on my own land.

 Wood from urban forests. In urban areas, trees are always coming down or being trimmed. In any sizable town or city you will find a list of tree services in the yellow pages. Many of the trees and limbs get taken to the landfill or chipped or both. Most tree services are too busy being tree services to get into the firewood business. It probably wouldn’t be hard to convince some of them to let you have the wood and save them the expense of disposing of it.

A lot of times I see people post ads on craigslist trying to get rid of wood that is sitting in their yard. They may have had a tree removed or trimmed and they don’t burn wood or have a use for it. Another source of cheap and sometimes free wood.

Wood from industry. If there is logging and other forest harvesting in your area, this can be a great source of wood. In the lumber industry, there is only a certain percentage of the material harvested that is suitable for making lumber. There is usually a lot of material that is left to rot or is burned on site. You can sometimes make a deal with loggers or landowners to have this material or to buy it. In some areas it’s common for loggers to sell these firewood logs and deliver them in log form with a log truck. You can then cut them up and sell the firewood to your customers for much more.

Lumber mills and wood manufacturing businesses can be a source of scrap wood. Trimmed ends and culls are discarded from many of these types of businesses. A lot of times they are chipped and utilized for other products, but sometimes they can be more valuable as firewood.

Recycled wood. If forests are scarce in your area, you can get wood from demolition, pallets, scrap wood on people’s property, fences being torn down, etc.