In which we never stop gathering wood...and we never stop riding

A dear friend bought a wonderful house last year. 

It's a huge, rambling house (she has a big family--a big house is important) with several fireplaces and a woodstove.  When they moved in, the intent was to cut down the alder trees that had invaded the back yard under the former regime, and keep the huge house toasty-warm all winter with this home-grown fuel.
green alder logs
She didn't tell me that her husband and kids planned to cut down the backyard forest with a battery-operated chainsaw (runtime limit, about 15 minutes) and immediately load the logs into the woodstove.  If she had told me, I would have informed her that green Swamplandish logs don't burn: they smoke, smolder, and give off no warmth whatsoever.  My friend and her family have always lived in the city, and didn't know how (or why) to season firewood.

After a month of shivering in a huge cold house, my friend's husband fired up the oil-burning furnace, and they have been living warmly and happily ever since.

The backyard forest was a hinderence to their plans, but not a problem to MY family!
My friend's family and the Haiku Farm family, knocking down backyard alder trees
There's nothing as nice as seasoned alder wood for a fire.  It's easy to split and stack, and (after sitting in a dry place for 6 months to a year) it burns beautifully.  Around here, alder trees grow like weeds.  The trees in my friend's yard were about 6 to 8 years old, the perfect size for harvest.
Jim and me doing the chainsaw stuff, the kids pulling and stacking logs.

Willy got a lesson in chain-replacement. 

Green alder logs are WET, and they dull the chain blades really fast.  We used 4 chains on half-a-cord of wood; Jim sharpened the chains at home, and they were good for the next work-day.

With wood in the shed, I feel free to ride.  We're "seriously" conditioning now, with the first ride of the season less than 3 weeks away. (It's hard to believe that this much fun is considered serious).
Fiddle shows off her physique: lots of engine muscles, and enough fat to fuel them.
We do most of our conditioning in a group, because Fiddle needs so much practice working in a group.   

Fee is a coward at heart, and she is the equine equivalent of a "fear biter" : she is convinced that every other horse in the world is waiting for a convenient time to beat the stuffing out of her.  Coming within kick-range of other horses has usually resulted in Fiddle trying to kick the other horse in a desperate attempt to get away.  She also tries to bite other horses.  When I got her, she tried to bite and kick people for the same reasons--I wrote about fixing that badness HERE.

Major progress has been made in the "Dragon in a group" catagory!

It's taken a long time and a lot of effort and constant vigilence and she still isn't completely trustworthy.  She has made a lot of visible progress.

Some days, it's good to just head off into the woods to have fun, just her and me.  Not a training day, not working on distance or speed or form or anything:  just celebrating that she is a mostly-good horse
Solo on the trail with Fiddle. 
Photo taken while trotting 14.2 mph  (I checked the GPS)

and that I think she's pretty danged neat.


  1. So you're stealing their wood, eh? Did you leave 'em a rick for next year?

    Jealous of Jim's chain saw expertise. Nobody's ever taught me, and I'm too scared of kickback to try to learn on my own.

    Yay for the friendly dragon!

  2. I love bringing in firewood. My husband & I had a good system when we were living in Vermont: He would cut and buck, we would both load into the wagon, I would drive the big blonde boys to the wood pile, they would stand while I offloaded and neatly stacked, then we would both split when we had time. Firewood is so...very rewarding, because no matter how much effort it is, I know it pays off when I'm warm on a cold winter's evening!!

    Really? Not that long til HOTR?? Yes! Now if only I can find a ride, I'd be a lot more excited...Fiddle looks ready to conquer it though!

  3. That last photo is really neat. You can "feel" how fast she's trotting.

  4. I see your caption about a 14 mph trot.. I remember reading an article last year (can't remember where) that said the best way to keep an endurance horse sound was to never trot more than 10 mph. I think Karen Chaton subscribes to that too. There's something about the physical toll trotting faster than 10 mph takes on the horse. So I always have one eye on my GPS and never let my horse trot that fast anymore even though he's capable of it, not even for a few feet.

    Oh Funder, you have to learn to use a chain saw. I use it all the time, I LOVE an excuse to cut things up.

  5. Funder, I'm largely self-taught and practice safe sawyery as much as I can. A healthy respect for a tool that can make 33,000 cuts per minute is a good starting place.

    I'll post a few links at the bottom of my comment. First, though, let me give you the gist of my "saw philosophy".

    * Wear Personal Protective Equipment.

    * Read, re-read and read again safety rules and procedures, from a variety of sources, until you are as knowledgeable as you would be in your paying job. Then read them again.

    * Watch videos on safe and proper technique, following the rules above.

    * If you're lucky enough to have a USFS/BLM Chainsaw Safety Certification Class near you, take it--This certifies you to operate the saw on their land as part of a trail crew. I haven't been so fortunate.

    * Never operate the saw when you're tired or impaired in anyway. As soon as you notice that you're tired, stop.

    * Sawyery is not a sport. You aren't competing.

    * Start small, build confidence.

    That's the short list. Do I sometimes violate these? Heck Yeah, because I'm human. However, I accept the risk when I do. In other words, I try to think it through, and assess the risk.

    This comment is the seed for a guest post on sawyery. Keeping it short(ish) for now, I'll add that Aarene had strong emotions about her ability to use a saw a couple years ago. Now she confidently and safely bucks wood, just from practice. She overcame her hesitation; most any of you, her readers, can do it, too.

    Now some useful links:

    Stihl Video Library

    North Dakota State University Online Course

    OSHA Quick Card

  6. Funder: they *begged* us to get the trees out of the backyard!

    Jamethiel: they say that wood warms you four ways: when you cut it, when you split it, when you carry it, and when you burn it. How's THAT for "more efficient than petroleum"?

    Laura: When she's good, she's REALLY good. That much is certain.

    KT: I've read Karen's blogs and articles for years, and I follow much of her advice. However, in some areas I find myself diverging. Barefoot vs steel shoes, for example: Karen has used barefeet and boots successfully for years, but my current mare has made it abundantly clear that she is more comfortable with steel shoes.

    The speed thing is another example: I train at speeds averaging 8-11mph, depending on the terrain. When Fee and I go out to "play", I let her choose the speed. As long as she is appropriate (i.e. not galloping through slick mud), I accept what she chooses. We don't do this very often, but I make an effort to really play along with her when we do. OTOH, for years I rode an Arab gelding whose top speed was 7.5mph--faster than that and his brain would fall out and he'd launch me into a tree. The 10mph guideline didn't help me there, either!

    Cowboy Jim: you rock. I have always said this. >g<

  7. I've learned a lot about chainsaws and trees this year. Jealous of your conditioning.

  8. Jim, that's awesome! Thanks for the links. Sadly, I have no trees to cut down, and it'll probably be a few years before I own any trees which may need cutting down, so it's gonna remain theoretical for a while longer. Looking forward to the guest post though!

    Risk assessment and mitigation is the secret to a successful and happy life. I do risky things all the time, but because I feel like I understand the probability and severity of loss, it's ok. It's the meta part of G's job so we're huge nerds for risk management discussions :)


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