I live in the woods. I have twenty acres of woods. I have a LOT of trees! It is not uncommon for me to hear people say, “Well, you have plenty of wood in case the power is out!” That certainly appears to be the case, but the novice needs to know one very important thing: Green wood doesn’t burn very well! So how can you prepare firewood to last 30 days, and be ready to burn at a moment’s notice?
You can cut it yourself, or just buy a supply. Just be certain you have enough. If you elect to cut it yourself, here are some things to consider.
Wood to Heat and Cook for 30 Days
It depends on what hardware you have to determine how much firewood you need. If you are heating your home with an open fireplace, you will consume more wood than a wood stove or fireplace insert. A bonfire on the ground will consume more than a cook stove. Northern Canada will require more wood than Louisiana. If you have good wood and a decent wood and/or cook stove and a well insulated & weather proofed home, then the only variable is climate.
Having said all that, we are still left with the original question: How much wood do you need to heat and cook for 30 days? Firewood is calculated (and sold) by a volume measurement. A cord is 4ft wide , 4ft high , 8ft long – stacked. A Ric is ½ of a cord. Think of a Ric as a regular pick-up bed filled level with the sides. A general rule of thumb is a Ric should last for 30 days of eating & cooking.
What is the Best Firewood to Have?
First of all, it MUST be cured. This means it should be cut and left to dry out for at least 6 months. The drier it is, the better and more efficiently it will burn. Split wood cures faster & more complete than wood with only the ends cut because the bark prevents curing. The more surface area that is exposed, the better.
Secondly, hard wood burns better than soft wood. The University of Oklahoma has an excellent website breaking down the difference between hardwoods & softwoods by BTU (measurement of heat) content. Generally speaking, oak and hickory are the best, both for BTU content & splitting characteristics. If you do not have easy access to oak or hickory, any well cured wood will burn. Other good woods are Gum (hard to split), Maple, Elm (hard to split), Locust, Ash, Poplar, and even Willow. Sycamore is basically a water wood but will burn very fast. A word on conifers (Cedar, Pine, etc.) – They will burn hot but fast. Also conifers tend to form creosote (soot) in the chimney faster than other woods, but all woods do.
What Tools Are Needed for Firewood?
Tools can be as varied as time and money will allow. Think of it as the “Armstrong Method” (Manual) vs. the Modern Era. It helps to have both as the Modern Era tools require fuel besides.
Chainsaw: If you are only preparing for a 30 day power outage, the easiest is probably to have a chain saw and the required fuel on hand. If possible, get two chainsaws, one 18-20 inch for the big logs, and one smaller 14-16 inch for the branches. If you are concerned about running out of fuel for the long haul, you should also obtain a hand saw.
Splitter: You can get the old-fashioned kind – an axe or maul (you better practice ahead of time), or rent/borrow a hydraulic splitter for a weekend. That will get you enough wood for a month. A day of splitting firewood can be a fun family activity, but you have to get it done before the children become teenagers. By then they are smart enough to know it really isn’t all that fun! Don’t forget the hot chocolate at the end of the day!
What are the Safety Concerns?
As part of your preparation for a crisis, learn how to use a chainsaw safely. If you find yourself cut off from the world for a couple of weeks, and you have a chainsaw accident . . . well, use your imagination! You might also want to have a pair of steel-toed boots in your stash. By thinking ahead, you can avoid a broken foot from a dropped log. Safety glasses are easy and cheap to obtain, and again, consider the possibility of an eye injury without access to medical attention. A logger’s helmet might be something to consider stashing away. They come with a movable screen to protect the eyes and face (again, the best way to treat an emergency medical situation is by preparing to not have one!) My husband was my source for this article, and he wants me to share the necessity of raising the face screen before you spit!
For long term chainsawing, ear plugs are a must! To get by for a couple of weeks, maybe they are not as important, but they are super cheap and certainly do not take up any space. Why not grab some while you are thinking about it. You will certainly want some heavy gloves. Blisters can become infected and, AGAIN, you need to be avoiding medical emergencies. Leg chaps are a good protection from the saw as well as from the flying debris and tree limbs.
If you are heating your home with wood, the chimney must be cleaned at least yearly. While conifers produce the most creosote, all woods produces some, so it is very important that you do not neglect this. If you do not normally use your fireplace, be sure the chimney is clean NOW, before a crisis. You do not want to add a house fire to your problems in the even of a major power outage. Some homeowner’s insurance providers offer a discount if you turn in your receipt for the chimney cleaning. And of course, you can clean the chimney yourself.
Just for fun: I cannot say the phrase “clean the chimney” without hearing Dick Van Dyke singing “Chim Chim Cheree.”
I Have My Supply of Firewood – Now What?
Do you have a way to light the wood on fire? Seems sort of obvious, but matches can be like batteries – an afterthought! And in an emergency situation, those are not the afterthoughts you want to have. Store a supply of matches in a rodent-proof container. Mice can chew on the ends of matches and start a fire! Be sure your matches stay dry.
Starting a fire is possible with leaves and kindling, like in the movies, but having fire starters in your stash is easier. They can also be made quite easily. Save paper egg cartons and dryer lint. Buy paraffin. Stuff each egg container with the dryer lint, and pour melted wax over it. Break off one egg section at a time for each fire.
You can easily survive a 2-4 week power outage without firewood. You will quickly become resourceful in keeping warm and eating non-cooked food. But with a little fore-thought, you could endure a crisis much more comfortably.