Ah, the days are getting longer and warmer. Haven’t had to build a fire in a couple of weeks, so you know what that means: time to start cutting firewood for next winter. Now is the best time. By the end of June, it will be to hot, and they will probably close or severely restrict wood cutting. In the fall, you are going to be too busy hunting. Yep, now is the time.
Cutting firewood on a national forest requires that you buy wood permits. They can be purchased at the local Forest Service office for $5 per half cord. The minimum purchase is four cords, and the maximum per household is 16. If you need 16 per year, you may want to invest in some insulation. Technically, a cord is a stack of wood 4-by-4-by-8 feet. For reference, a half cord is about all you can safely load in the back of a full-size pickup without the use of racks.
When you go in to buy your permits, the Forest Service will provide you with a map of where wood cutting is allowed on the forest along with other regulations. Some include the distance from the road you are allowed to cut, size and species of trees and when certain trees can be cut. Any tree that is dead and down is fair game. Most standing trees that are dead are also, but remember that tamarack shed their needles and may look dead but are not. That is why the Forest Service specifies dates that tamarack can be harvested.
I know folks that are tree snobs. Some only cut red fir, others only tamarack. I’m more of a generalist. I like the way juniper burns but can’t take a steady diet of the smell. Some poplar is nice every now and then to clean out the stove and chimney, but it leaves a lot of ash. I burn quite a bit of pine just because it is easy and accessible, but I don’t turn down red fir or tamarack if I stumble across it. The last time I cut firewood with my dad, he said that he knew just the tree. When we drove up to it, I almost dropped my dentures. The darn thing was four feet through! I was sure somebody was going to have a heart attack or at least pop a hernia before we were through. Luckily we all survived, but now I am a lot pickier about the size than I am the species of tree I’m chopping up.
Take the time to sharpen your saws and make sure your equipment is in good shape. It is a real bummer to drive all the way out to the woods and then not be able to start your saw. It is even less fun to blow a tire with a full load of wood on. Fire cutters are required to carry a shovel and chemical fire extinguisher and provide a one-hour fire watch after the saws are shut off. That gives you just enough time to load up and have a cold beverage before you head home.
Most importantly, be safe out there. I don’t really want to get to know you while we put you back together in the ER.
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