Winter Firewood

Much have been said about living the moment, live in the present to maximize your happiness. But to live only in the moment without heeding the past and preparing for the future is complete and utter ignorance that will inevitably lead to more misery than executing proper wisdom from past experience to prepare for future challenges.

I know winter can get very cold, down to minus 30 degree Celsius, from the first 3 winters in the canyon. I know machines will not start in the deep freeze. I know it is unpleasant to work outside when it is so cold. I know we need wood to heat the house otherwise we will run a hefty hydro bill. If the power is out, we would be in the cold without firewood.

I had several trees fell to help reduce fire risk around the house. These can be conveniently used for firewood but I did not have sufficient time to buck and split them all. I did have about two cord of rounds bucked up and 3 cords of ready to burn wood. But is this enough? I could have done more preparation but there were other things to do: fencing, hay preparation, shelter building and most importantly hanging out with the girls. I fret everyday with not being able to do more hanging out.

In preparation for this coming winter I built a cover on my deck to avoid having to shovel snow off of it. I then stored about half a cord of split wood there in 100 liter totes, 9 totes all together with 1 as kindling. This is meant to be an emergency supply for the kids should I become ill and unable to get the wood for them. The firewood lot is now about 100m away from the house for fire safety purposes. Dragging the wood over to the house is not so simple for a preteens.

Winter came very early this year and hard. Temperatures went below freezing early in November and was well below minus 10 degree Celsius in December. We had 2 weeks of below 20 already. I burnt through a cord of wood in November and decided to start splitting the loose rounds when the deep freeze came around. I wanted to save the remaining cords of prepared wood for when I didn’t have the energy to split wood manually.

My lack of preparing all our winter firewood created the uncomfortable work in splitting wood in freezing temperatures. At a high of minus 18 degree Celsius the gas splitter won’t start. The rounds are so frozen, each strike of the axe bounces off the target like hitting cement. In the video below, this can be seen in the first 7 strikes until the axe finally finds a sweet spot to create a groove for the splitting wedge.

Winter wood splitting

Working in the deep freeze is not impossible, actually kind of fun for me when I only do 30 minutes at a time. I take many micro breaks to warm up my fingers. The cold can quickly incapacitate my hands. By the end of the 30 minutes, my toes will generally freeze up.

I split my rounds in half and then into small chunks off the tips towards the center leaving roughly an 8×8 inch block in the middle. This offers me a variety of sizes for the burn. The smaller pieces burn faster and allows me to heat up the stove quicker. The large pieces help prolong the burn and are best through the night when a low heat is desired. The splinter bits are saved for kindling. After the burn, the ashes go into the garden; everything used, reused and purposeful as per the permaculture philosophy.

Filling the stove with lots of small logs will generate too much heat that will interfere with sleep. This also causes the stove the burn through the wood well before morning comes. It is not ideal to have to get up in the cold to start a new fire.

The limited physical activity in city life bring many people to fitness facilities. They pay large sums of money to push, pull and carry things around.

It would have been nice not to have to split wood in the winter but that’s how things worked out this season. Next season I hope to be better prepared. Actually this coming summer will be the preparation for the next 3-5 winters. 5 seasons of wood would be my ideal reserve. The wood will also have plenty of time to dry and offer a better burn.

Cross-Fitters do sled drag with meaningless weights, I do a wagon pull with a purpose. Feel the burn in the legs and even better in the house!

Fitness everyday with purpose!

December 2022
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