“People love chopping wood. In this activity one immediately sees results.” — Albert Einstein
Having our woodshed filled with neatly-stacked dry, seasoned split logs makes me feel rich. Once the chimney sweep has performed his annual inspection and cleaning, lighting that first fire of the season in the kitchen’s wood stove is a special event.
This is a good time to cut firewood so that it will have an entire year to cure before the next cold season. Removing trees that are diseased, crooked or otherwise unfit for the saw mill can provide firewood and also benefit the health of the woodland.
If your woods have been thinned, tops of harvested trees can become firewood and leftover branches made into windrows for wildlife habitat.
You should avoid cutting large, healthy trees, especially those as valuable as walnut or black cherry, for firewood. Leave decaying trees which are no longer in competition for moisture and nutrients in the woods where they support wildlife. Hardwood (such as oak) is preferable for firewood because of its high heat value. Softwood (such as pine) tends to throw sparks and leave greater deposits of creosote, which can cause dangerous chimney fires.
Remember that firewood should not be stacked beside your house. Aside from the obvious fire hazard, stacked wood attracts a variety of animals such as rodents, snakes and skunks. A common practice is to stack wood between two trees, but this practice stresses the trunks of the support trees.
Firewood can also be a carrier of destructive insect pests and deadly tree diseases like Sudden Oak Death Syndrome. Moving firewood from where it was harvested can spread harmful species. This is becoming such a threat to our forests that The Nature Conservancy is promoting the Don’t Move Firewood campaign, which recommends limiting the distance firewood is transported to 10 miles.
— Joanna Angle is a 30-year resident of Chester County and a Master Tree Farmer. She has previously directed the Olde English District Tourism Commission, produced and hosted “Palmetto Places” for SCETV and helped establish the Chester campus of York Technical College.