Introduction: How to Get Wood and Make Lumber for Projects, and Wood for Heat.
I have a friend that commented to me that it looked like I had managed to get a good supply of firewood. I told him no, that it was not firewood. He was very puzzled. I tried to explain that I use it for projects, especially the dry ash logs. He still didn't really get it, he said it looks like firewood to him. I told him:
All wood can burn but not all wood is firewood. You don't go down to the lumber yard and buy a truck load of 2x4 and cut them up to burn. It would work but it's not firewood.
I have come to learn that what some people think is nothing but fire wood or in many cases garbage for the landfill is actually a very valuable resource if you know how to work with it.
There have been a number of authors and DIY people who have been trying to convince the public that cutting down the giant trees in their yards and having them hauled off to the landfill is a terrible waste. The urban trees growing along the streets and in front yards are the exact same trees that grow in the forests that companies harvest and sell to lumber mills. Maybe your trees won't be big enough to do big projects but you can get enough wood to do smaller things by harvesting what is often being thrown out as worthless. Now I am not encouraging people to just whack down their trees for wood. That would be a waste also. But what I do encourage is to harvest those older trees that are reaching their end or ones that for some other reason need to be removed. I can think of no greater honor for a tree than to make something from it after it has spent all those years providing you with shade. That big maple tree that grandmother planted all those years ago deserves better than to be hauled to the dump.
In reality there are a number of problems as to why this is not being done on a large scale. Even the people advocating it admit that while it would be a good idea to get a crew to come and harvest urban trees it is not fiscally feasible. And this is why it is something that lies in the realm of DIY.
I have a good friend who does lawn care and landscaping in the Chicago suburbs. After seeing some of what I have managed to do with my own trees he has gotten into the spirit of it and has been bringing me truck loads of wood that he has managed to salvage. I have a big project in the works for the woodworking contest that will show off a number of those woods.
In the meantime I thought I would show you a little of the process of how I have been getting my wood. We are going for an outing down to the river. Even though getting logs from the river is not the same as getting them from my backyard I go through the same process with those. I just don't have any big ash trees growing in my yard. I have to get them where I can.
Step 1: The Manly Art of Driving Around With a Chainsaw Whacking Up Trees.
I have a number of sources for my wood, but by far the most interesting is down along the Missouri River. I live only a few miles from it and so this fall I mounted my video camera to the windshield of my old Chevy pickup so I could take you along and show you some of the real outdoors that is sort of my backyard.
Its a lot of video and I have tried to shorten it up and cut out the dull parts but there is still a bit of it. I have divided it up into sub themes or sections, such as one devoted to Ash trees and the making of planks from them. If you get bored easily and want to see just that you can skip to that step or any of the others. If you want to enjoy some countryside then you might want to just watch them all. I had my kids preview some of it because I was worried it would be too dull, they didn't thing so. The general comment they had was along the lines of " who wouldn't be interested in videos of driving through dry grass higher than the hood of the truck where there are no roads and hoping that you don't hit a tree or get stuck while trying to get up a river embankment?" To those who do find it dull I am sorry, there are no rollovers, no fires (I do carry a fire extinguisher just in case) or other things worthy of you tube. Its a "how to do" set of videos and not a how not to do. My kids have urged me not to go by myself, and sometimes I do go with others, but I also find the solitude invigorating. I do carry safety gear with me for just in case problems so I am not reckless about things. And since it is only a few miles from main roads I can always walk out if something happens. I feel safer down at the river than I ever felt on a city street. They call where I live, "The Big Sky Country" and you can see a little of that in this.
So, instead of heading to the lumber yard when I need wood for a project, I head to here, if the weather is not to bad.
After uploading the videos to YouTube and viewing them I am a little disapointed in the quality. I shot everything in high quality and went with the highest quality YouTube allows. It might be my playback speed, so it might be just me, But I hope you enjoy it anyway.
Step 2: The Big Flood
This part of the Missouri is many miles downriver from the Fort Peck Dam. The dam was built for flood control and to produce power around 100 years ago. It was one of those giant public works projects that was done back then. In 2011, for only the forth time in its existence they had to open the spill way and release lots of water. We had had a lot of snow that winter and then non stop rain in the spring. The lake filled up faster than anyone could have imagined and they hit a crisis point where they had to start releasing water. We had all kinds of advance notice so everyone was ready, but it was a lot of water. At the dam, the spillway gates pull up and let the water out underneath them. When the gates were all open and pouring out water the lake level actually went UP and reached levels that it was never supposed to reach. The spillway gates themselves acted as damn extensions and since the water was coming in faster than they could let it out it rose higher than it was supposed to be able to. If the spill way had stayed closed it would have easily run over the top of the gates. It was a lot of water. The area that I am going to for wood was completely underwater as a result of those water releases. It made some big changes to the landscape. They were grazing cattle down in this area but all the fences were washed away and they have not had any livestock down here since so it is a lot more over grown than it used to be.
One of the benefits of the flooding was that a lot of dead trees washed down the river and ended up stuck in areas like where I go for wood. I used the satellite photos to find and target trees that I wanted to harvest for wood. If you do have an area where you can go for wood you might want to pull up Google Earth pictures of it. Satellite pictures can clearly show areas that have been burnt over. And the GPS coordinates on the photos can take you to the exact spot.
I mention the flooding a few times in the video clips.
We also had a major fire in the area that started as a grass fire and then moved into the trees along the river. You will see the results of that also in the video's.
Step 3: Getting There, the Journey Is Half the Fun.
Congratulations to a man who is out standing in his field.
The tink tink noise is the metal key fob flying around. I had to tape the camera in because it kept getting knocked out from the jarring. There is a lot of scraping noise going on. The grass and weeds and even new small willow trees are pretty thick and driving through them can get pretty noisy. You do not want to do this in a truck whose finish you care about.
Step 4: Beaver Do What Beaver Do
Step 5: Ash
Step 6: Diamond Willow
Step 7: Geese --- a Big Sky Bonus Video.
These last 2 videos are sort of a show in themselves. if you liked the rest you should like these.