Farewell to Winter

By Martin L. Klein

I should say “good riddance”, but without winter who would want to run a firewood business? It’s late February, and the last remnants of the Great Winter Storm of 2011 dot the woods and fields in ever diminishing proportions as warmer temps rekindle a bit of spring fever here for many of us. Some of the Robins and even a few Bluebirds have made their appearance. However, as experience is the best teacher, I may be a little premature on the farewell thing.

I must say, that with the disappearing of the snow, my woodlot certainly is a mess. I very nearly sold all of my firewood just before the Big One descended, leaving rows of empty pallets, littered with cast off sheet metal, tarps, bungee cords, tie-down ropes. I even found my lost kindling hatchet! You probably think I’m a slob, but when the orders for firewood are coming in as fast as they did this year, I have to move fast to keep up. Besides, now is the time to pick up, clean up, and reorganize for next season. Ideally, The heavier, denser hardwoods should be split and stacked for seasoning in February. This would include the oaks, locusts, and fruitwoods. Others, such as hard maples, elms, hackberry, and birches should follow, respectively, being split and on the pallets by May. I did say, “Ideally” however, and since things rarely turn out as we would like them to, just remember that 5 to 6 months drying time is the general rule. Getting it up and drying late just means that you’ll sell it or burn it that much later in the season. Also, you can use the chimney-stack method of stacking green wood to help speed the seasoning process a bit.

By the way, I am currently processing a large supply of Honey Locust which I cut to length and set aside late last summer. This winter’s supply of the same was among the best heating wood ever burned, according to some of my customers. I used quite a bit of it myself, and I would agree that it rates among the finest for woodstoves. It is acceptable for use in the fireplace, too, but I would recommend it only be burned in those units with glass doors, as it may tend to throw a few sparks. So, thumbs up to Honey Locust! That beautiful, salmon-colored hardwood. But what about those horrible, unapproachable thorns, you may ask? Well, so far I have not had to deal with them. The Honey Locust delivered to me by a local tree service has, so far, been the thorn-less variety. We have plenty of the “spiked” variety here in the woods, but owing to the abundance of the long-cultivated, more civilized tree, I leave the thorny devils be, unless I happen to find them in a dead-standing situation, shed of their bark and their armor.

So, except for the inevitable mud, which must be tolerated by the more rural folks as the ground begins thawing, do take heart. The gloomy grey of winter’s last blow must soon give way to the early flowers, the long missed notes of the song bird, and the balmy airs of Spring. Think upon that as you trudge in wearily with one of your last armloads of firewood. And don’t forget to leave your muddy boots at the door.

Happy Wood-burning!

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