No, really, how much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?? Well, if that woodchuck lived in Montana and if that woodchuck heated his burrow with a wood stove, then he would have to chuck up quite a woodpile. When we moved into our burrow (house), the previous owners had already installed a woodstove and left behind enough wood to get us through the last of the winter.
The whole concept of purposely creating a fire inside the house was new and difficult to adjust to. It took me quite a while to get comfortable with leaving the house with the stove fired up (I always breathed a sigh of relief as we reached the point of the road where I could see the house was still standing and not a pile of ashes) and I spent many a sleepless night worrying about the fire getting out of hand. But that winter turned us into inveterate wood heat lovers. No air blower kicking on and off during the night, no click-clacking of the ductwork cooling off, no wild swings of temperature from 5 degrees below the set point to 10 degrees above it. (Of course, if we lived in a house with a modern furnace instead of one that is over 30 years old we would probably not have these problems either. But it is what it is, eh?) It is so nice knowing that when it is -25 outside, we can throw another log in the stove and crank it up to 85, put our shorts on, make margaritas and sit around listening to Jimmy Buffet.
Up here, it is said that there are only two seasons in Montana—winter and getting ready for winter! So our first summer we decided to — “TAH DAH”— cut our own wood. So there we are, permit in hand driving down a gravel forest service “road” south of Red Lodge, looking for dead trees. As you might expect, everything within easy walking distance of the road was already taken. Park the truck, get the gloves, get the gas can, get the chainsaw and start walking. Finally, after about 45 minutes of searching we found a still standing, nice sized dead tree. Fire that sucker up. Varoom. Timbrrrrr! Now limb it out and cut it into pieces 6 feet or so long. Stack up the slash. Hoist one of those puppies up onto our shoulders and hike over hill and dale back to the truck. Walk back for another one. Repeat until all logs are in the truck. Getting dark by now. Back into the woods for the gas can and saw. Drive home. Next day. Cut each piece we already cut yesterday into usable lengths. Then take the maul and split those pieces in to burnable sizes. Whew. Maybe enough wood for 3 weeks?? Won’t do that again!
Called a friend of ours who builds log homes. He always has logs and pieces that just will not work for him. So every week we drive to his place, load up the truck, come back home and saw and spilt those logs into usable pieces. So, that worked fine until he decided to get out of the log home business.
And then, we discovered the Holy Land of Wood Heat. The B&J sawmill in Reedpoint, a little town about 35 miles to the west of us and famous for its annual Running of the Sheep over Labor Day. They sell rough cut lumber for barn and fence construction. (Get a 2×4 here and it is actually 2” x 4”) They start with very, very large logs and what are left over are pieces about 18” to 24” long and anywhere from 1” to 8” thick. Perfect for stacking and perfect for burning without any further preparation except for moving it from one location to another. We figure each piece is handled at least 10 times. Pick it off the pile at the sawmill and throw it near the truck, pick up off of the ground and put on the tailgate, then stack it in the bed,(drive home), throw each piece off the truck or to the tailgate where it can be reached, pick it up and stack it, (winter comes), pick up pieces and put in wheelbarrow, unload pieces into rack in entry way, pick up pieces from rack and carry into house and set down, finally pick up pieces and put into wood stove and burn, every two weeks or so remove ashes from the woodstove and sprinkle on the garden. This way we can have our wood and eat it too. Ahhh , the simple life.