A Magazine about the Hudson Valley’s local economy, published by Hudson Valley Current.

Good Firewood

by Rebecca Shea

The suburbs have their lawns, the countryside has firewood. Firewood is important and expressive business here in the country. Both suppliers and buyers are busy all year long handling this valuable resource.

Suppliers are constantly managing woodlands, felling trees, splitting wood, stacking wood, making deals, and transporting wood here, there, and everywhere. This is why it takes them a so long to return your phone calls. Don’t stress that much, it’s not too personal. They are busy people.

On the other side of the transaction, firewood buyers are just as busy assessing and managing their wood piles. Do I have enough firewood? Should I get more? Is now the right time to buy? Is this wood ready to burn? That firewood needs to be split and stacked!

But to the important—finding a “wood man.” Firewood suppliers can be located through newspaper advertisements, hand written announcements posted on community boards and by word of mouth. Your neighbor with all that firewood may have a great supplier.

It is necessary to be aware that New York State regulates transporting untreated firewood to protect trees from deadly invasive pests. It is illegal to bring untreated firewood into the state. Untreated firewood cannot be transported more than 50 miles from its source and within that 50 miles, firewood must carry proof of source (such as a receipt). Treated firewood which has been heated to eliminate pests can be moved without restriction.

Another important issue firewood buyers face is understanding the quantities of wood that are actually being offered for sale by firewood suppliers. The simplest measure to deal in is the cord. A cord of firewood is a measure of volume of stacked wood that is eight feet, by four feet, by four feet, or 128 cubic feet. Of course, there is the face cord, pick-up truck load, dump truck load and or the “Picker Load” that you could order, but the cord is a legal definition that carries in most states. Make your life simple and deal in cords. A minimum order for delivery is usually 2 cords.

The price for delivered firewood depends on the quality of the firewood, the quantity you buy at any one time, your location, and the time of year. If you’re buying wood late in the winter, prices are going to be higher. If you buy in the off-season, prices are discounted.

You want hard wood or mixed wood. Maple, oak, ash, beech, birch, etc. are all good. You’ll get more heat per weight with hard wood than you will with softwood. Soft woods like popular burn up fast and don’t produce as much heat. Pine, spruce, fir and other evergreens produce large amounts of creosote and are not good for burning in the house. However, they are great for using as kindling, if properly dried.

It is important to learn the difference between dry wood and green wood. After wood is cut, some time is needed for the sap to dry out of the wood before burning it. This process is called seasoning. Six months is about minimum and 1-2 years is much better. Seasoned wood is dry wood. Green wood is unseasoned firewood.

While the wood is seasoning, or being stored for later use, it needs to be organized and kept dry. Stacking wood is the public and expressive part of firewood management. Since firewood is omnipresent in the country, it is hard not to compare, contrast and wonder. So it seems a hardworking and reliable man stacks his firewood square and straight, while a lazy or let’s be kind, just a busy man leaves the wood in a covered pile or “rick”. A Scandinavian tradition has the firewood pile arranged in a round. Either round, straight, or thrown in a pile to give the wood as much wind and sun exposure as possible for seasoning.

After responding to all that firewood demands, it is the fire and smoke that thrills and nourishes this time of year. Burn smart and enjoy!