The fuel that keeps warming you

Dead elm tree in segments

We live an area affected quite significantly by Dutch Elm disease and the Emerald Ash Borer. Anyone familiar with pictures from our land will know that it’s dotted generously with dead trees standing amongst the living. For the most part, this represents wood that we will get around to harvesting as and when we can.

Heading into this winter, we were aware of a large elm behind our house that really needed to come down. We also knew we wouldn’t tackle it on our own. It was simply too close to the house and we’re just not that experienced with felling trees. We called the experts in, and one morning they came, felled it and cut the trunk into 16-inch lengths. Sadly, I was out the morning this happened, and I only got to hear about it afterwards from my husband and our youngest son. Apparently, the tree made a fantastic ‘whomp’ when it hit the ground, shaking even our concrete house. I wish I had been at home for that!

Later that day, Reggie had a blast exploring the tree that was now laid out across our back lawn, a broken echo of its former self.

Dog exploring fallen tree


If you’ve never tried to split elm, you don’t know true frustration. It’s a fibrous wood that hangs on and puts up a fight. This was definitely the year to invest in a better axe than the one we’d been using, and my husband put in the research before making a final choice. It’s from Fiskars and it’s every bit as good as the reviews said it would be. Part one of the clear up was splitting those 16-inch lengths into logs for the woodstove and hauling them over to the chicken coop where our outdoor wood storage sits.

Father and son at wood splitting time

Fortunately, our youngest loves to use the handcart for hauling just about anything, but especially wood. Which meant that cutting up the thin branches for kindling fell in large part to me.

Clipping branches

Our older boy came home from a shift at the library in time to help out with branch clean up and raking.

Clearing up after a felled tree

Happy to help in his own way, Reggie snagged bits of branches here and there and generally kept the mood fun.

Dog with a stick in his mouth

Wood is that amazing fuel that warms more than once. It warms when you cut it down, again when you split and haul it for seasoning and storage, again when you carry it indoors (when perhaps you also split larger logs before burning), and finally when it burns. How good is that?

10 thoughts on “The fuel that keeps warming you

  1. What a lovely sequence of pictures – and you’re actually in one of them – that’s rare! It’s a pity about the dutch elm disease, but it seems to have struck all over the continent, and at least you get firewood out of it. How does elm burn compared to other woods, if it’s so tough to split? Fiskars make the best sewing scissors, bar none, but I had no idea they did axes as well!

    1. Thanks for that. It’s true, unless I think to thrust the camera at another family member, it’s like I’m not even here! 🙂 The elm does burn quite nicely; it’s not in the same league as a hardwood like apple, but it’s a good, solider burner. So, quite worth splitting on the whole! I’ve never had scissors by Fiskars – there’s a good idea!

  2. Stay warm! There is nothing like a wood fire to warm in so many ways. Lovely that your boys help out so willingly. It helps to find the job they like. Mine helped me with some garden clean up and was happy to help as long as he got to use the long clippers. I was happy to oblige!

    1. Sending warm thoughts your way too! One of the best things you can learn as a parent is what jobs your kids like and are good at. I think they have to try a bit of everything, but having them help, grudgingly, again and again with a job that’s a bad fit, just doesn’t do anyone any good. We learned that our older boy, who is fast approaching adulthood, also loves it when he can take on an entire job himself; he’ll pitch in with group jobs, but he’s happiest when he can go off and solve a problem and fix it. I don’t mind that at all, but try to make sure we’re still doing some of the jobs together. It’s different every year!

  3. I smiled at the truth of your comment about wood heating three times. 🙂 We use an outdoor boiler so I don’t have to split wood any more. But I spend a lot of time cutting it up and hauling it, and even on the coldest days I shed my coat after a little while.

    As I’ve mentioned before, Reggie reminds me of our Ginny when she was younger. She’s over 11 years old now and no longer jet black, but I remember when she was. And like Reggie she loves carrying sticks around when we’re out for a walk.

    Sorry about your tree but glad it will help keep y’all warm this winter.

    1. Cutting and hauling wood is surely a good way to keep fit as well as stay warm, isn’t it! While we could have done without the expense of having someone else take down the tree, we’re so fortunate that we can burn all of that wood. I’ve really noticed the gap behind our house since it came down and there just aren’t any quick fixes for that.

      I absolutely love how many folks we’ve connected with over having a labrador retriever, and your Ginny sounds like she shares a similar lifestyle to Reggie, which is pretty great.

  4. There’s nothing quite like a family project where everyone works for a common goal. At the end of the day, everyone enjoys the fruits of the labor…sitting around in a warm house.
    When our adult children visit, they are still somewhat interested in wood heat, but they probably think their parents are quaint as they now have homes with thermostats, while we have kept the wood stove. It’s still my choice.

    1. I’m so with you on the importance of common goals. Even when the kids might not feel the same motivation, once we get started it’s usually a good thing and a great way to bond. We just sat in front of the woodstove earlier this evening while we read our latest family book; everyone has dispersed to other activities now, but it’s still ticking over behind me as I write here. I am 100% with you on a woodstove being the better choice.

      1. “Reading a family book” brings back happy memories of when the kids were young, during Christmas vacation, my wife would read aloud to the family. My daughter and I would be working a jig saw puzzle, my son playing with Legos. When my wife would stop reading to get drink of water or check the cooking, we would all chorus in, “read more, read more, read more!” 🙂

      2. Those are truly wonderful memories. We’re still in those years for a while longer. Just last night my youngest was building with Legos too, while my older boy baked cinnamon boys nearby. I love that chorus of ‘read more!’, it’s pretty special! I love the idea of a jigsaw puzzle from your own memories; something I always want to do, but never seem to actually get to.

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