Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Firewood Harvest

Managing a forest is more than planting trees.  One of the tools is timber stand improvement (TSI) in which selected trees are removed to allow improved growth of desirable species and creating spaces for young trees to find sunlight for the next generation.  Openings in the forest are also beneficial for deer, turkey and other animal species.

TSI and selective timber harvest leaves a lot of wood on the ground, as does Mother Nature when she has a tantrum such as wind storms, tornados and the 2009 derecho event which passed through the state.  We lost more than 60 trees over 12 inches in diameter in that event alone.

Derecho wind damage
Several years ago I contacted Frances Main, our MDC forester, looking for some way of using the downed wood.  Most of it was a half mile up a rather steep trail, a challenge to most vehicles.  She got me in touch with Ed Hultgren and a crew of volunteer wood cutters which does charity wood harvests.

They donate their time to cut, split and deliver firewood to families which heat with wood but have neither the source or the financial resources to obtain fuel at the present.  They have been collecting our wood now for several years.  This year he and Steve Prine planned a big charity harvest.

Cut up and ready to split
Saturday was the big day, with around 14 wood cutters arriving from Cabool, Carthage, Arkansas, Mississippi, and four "Okies from Muskogee," many of whom were professionals.  I use the term Okies with the greatest respect as they were great guys, big, strong and all were holding chainsaws.  They brought four powerful wood splitters, a UTV with a power dump back, and an unbelievable collection of chain saws.  Four of them brought their kids who worked hard hauling wood to the splitters and moving the split wood onto the six big trailers Ed had borrowed.

Young work horse
Homemade splitter

When Steve said he would bring a "collection of saws," Barb said he just meant backup saws as "no one would collect chainsaws."  Knowing "men and boys and the price of their toys" in a world where Harbor Freight acts as an adult Toys-R-Us, I respectfully disagreed.  It turns out that for once I was right.  Steve alone has over 90, most of which are operational. Almost everyone there collected to some degree and all had several brands on hand, both modern and historic, switching between them just for fun.

A man's chainsaw

We had a lot of logs previously hauled out of the woods by tractor, enough to keep them busy I thought.  This backlog lasted until about 11 AM and from then on we were dragging logs out as crews plunged into the woods with abandon. Several dead trees were felled, always leaving lots standing as future housing for wildlife.

They harvested 7 huge trailers full of split firewood as well as other large piles which will be loaded onto the trailers once they are emptied.  By late afternoon several loads had been delivered to families which heat with wood but don't have the resources to obtain wood or buy it.  With a sudden shortage of propane, the timing couldn't be better.  For that reason, to my surprise, KY3 showed up to film the event, arranged for by the organizers of the cut, Steve Prine and Ed Hultgren.

Ordinarily I enjoy running a chainsaw and cutting up logs but Saturday my role was as the greeter, photographer, and chief log-dragger using my tractor to back into the woods and drag out logs to the cutters and splitters.  Besides, I was a little embarrassed displaying my "little" Stihl 260 saws which looked like they were made by Mattel compared to their monsters.

The boys were cute and hard working, hauling cut logs that I would find intimidating. Each had his dad's work ethic with a little mischief thrown in.  There were undoubtedly a lot of snoring kids headed toward Muskogee and Cabool that night.

By Tuesday morning, 8 loads had been delivered to families in need and the wood pictured below is some of the next loads which are being scheduled.  Ed's crews have delivered 693 pickup truck loads in the last 5 years as the program has grown and I can't guess at how many they packaged Saturday.

We are planning on some other charity cuts soon.  If you are interested in helping or if you have a lot of downed wood on a wood lot, consider helping to warm a neighbor in need.  You can get in contact with Ed Hultgren by emailing

Below is some of the wood that hasn't been delivered yet.  You can see more pictures from KY3 here as well as at this video news report.  There is one error in the video- no firewood was sold, only delivered by volunteers to those in need.

1 comment:

  1. 693 truckloads! That's phenomenal. Wish I had known about this for last month's issue of Missouri Life magazine. We covered Share the Harvest and other charitable organizations, but this seems especially unique and close to home. As always, thanks for sharing!