Gathering and processing firewood may be one of my most contemplative tasks on the homestead. The repetitive tasks involved give me a lot of time to think. Sometimes, I even think about what I’m doing—which means I spend a lot of time thinking about gathering and processing firewood!
That’s left me with a lot of free advice on various methods of wood gathering, which I’m more than happy to pass on to you:
A good way to save money on fuel for your woodstove is to scrounge it. A little bit of ingenuity and initiative can cut your heating bill significantly. While most of these options are closed or inconvenient to us here on the “homestead,” we used to get a lot of firewood from these sources when we lived in Juneau.
If you have lumber mills in your area, ask about scrap wood. More and more mills use scrap to create their own heat and energy, but a lot of them will sell or even give away trimmings and mill ends for firewood.
Construction sites are a great place to find scrap wood. Just about every site has a scrap pile. Construction scrap creates extra chores and possibly even expense for the company. If you ask, often they’ll let you take all you want. Scrap usually makes excellent firewood, as it’s kiln-dried lumber. It’s harder to stack, but it burns, that’s the important thing!
Demolition sites can be a good source for firewood, if approached cautiously. It’s a bad idea to burn painted or treated wood. Pressure treated wood should be avoided at all costs—it’s toxic to burn! Pressure treated wood is not firewood, period! Wall studs and other uncoated lumber can be burned.
If you’re scrounging wood from work sites, be sure to stay out of the crew’s way. Work quickly and neatly. Stack the pieces you don’t want. Try to leave the site better than you found it. Such courtesy can earn you a welcome the next time you come looking for wood. If you establish a good reputation, they might even call you when scrap’s available.
Watch for tree trimming or felling operations. Hired tree fellers often accept the resulting wood as partial payment, but not always. It doesn’t hurt to ask if they’d like you to remove the wood for them. Be ready to buck it yourself if necessary.
Electric company and municipal crews often trim or fell trees that interfere with power lines. Usually you can ask the crew, or call their office for permission to take all the wood you can haul away.
Don’t scorn saplings as a firewood source. Every year road crews mow brush and saplings from the sides of highways and roads. This is almost always left where it falls. It requires more work to gather a cord, but if you get your wood in rounds, likely you’ll chop most of it down to the same diameter as a sapling before burning.
Scrounging wood is much more work, and certainly involves more time than simply waiting for a wood seller to deliver a load to your door. However, it’s generally cheaper, if not free, and you get the extra benefit of a lot of exercise. If you’re the type who consults your doctor before starting an exercise regime, be sure to do so before beginning to gather wood.