Our winter briefly came early with a snowfall in October, so we knew we had to get moving on stockpiling wood for the winter. We figure we will go through more than our normal amount because I am working from home so there will be more days that we will be burning.
Usually, we would have gone out in the late summer or early fall with some friends to collect our wood. A day in the woods falling a tree that will give us more than enough wood for our winter burning. It make for a great way to spend the day. Unfortunately, this year we had so many projects on the go this summer and fall that we couldn’t seem to lineup a time with our friends to get out and collect the wood we needed. We also usually help them get the wood they need in the early spring but because of COVID that also didn’t happen and we didn’t get a chance to help them out.
The bad news is that because it is so late in the season, the areas we usually go are mucky, and in poor shape for driving heavy loads of firewood out of the forest. The good news is that our friend was kind enough to lineup some trees that a neighbour cleared from a job site. Not only was it at his house ready to be cut into rounds and chopped into manageable pieces, but he also had an excavator to help lift the logs for cutting.
We met up with our friends at their place and we all headed over to tie neighbours from there. By neighbour, I mean their friends on the other side of the mountain. Haha. Once there we got to work. We setup the hydraulic chopper in an area close to where we were cutting the logs and the excavator was moved into place. The first log was lifted and the boys got the saws going. There were about 5 logs about 12’ long. K and I didn’t need that much but we chopped it all anyways because another neighbour also needed some wood.
Once the first few rounds were cut, we got the hydraulic chopper started and got to breaking them down. These logs were not light and it took two people to load the chopper each time. After the first log, we decided to break down the logs into halves and quarters using the hydraulic in the standing position rather than the table top position. Although easier on our backs, still just as difficult maneuvering the large heavy slabs into place for those initial splits.
Two of us man-handled the logs into place and then stacked the pieces to the side to be chopped smaller. Working with a hydraulic chopper you have to be very aware of where your fingers are at all times. It is so easy to get them pinched while the ram is splitting the wood. If you are unfamiliar with these tools, it is a large narrow curved trough that the log sits in with a ram that has a fat axe head. The ram pushes against the wood forcing it to split. It uses pressure rather than a sharp cut. So squished hands and fingers are a very big chance if not paying attention. Luckily we have not had that happen.
We did however have a squished finger. I was helping one of the guys maneuver one of the large 100lb plus log into place for the initial split. I had helped with a bunch of these logs already, but this one was dense, heavy and slippery. The bark keeps peeling off and we needed to lift it up slightly to get it into place on the chopper. I stupidly put my fingers under the slab to get better leverage and while I did that, the bark peeled off the other side where my partner was holding it resulting in the log dropping the 4” we had lifted it. That is all it took…smoosh. It got my index and middle finger but I was quick to jerk my hand away. My fingers hurt for a minute or two then went tingly/numb so we continued working. My partner asked if I was ok, and I said I was fine. The fingers were tender but they were moving so I knew they weren’t broken. I didn’t want him feeling bad for my stupidity.
In the meantime, K had started loading the previously chopped pile into the truck with some of the other crew. As my partner and I finished splitting the large rounds, K also finished loading the truck and we were ready to take our first load home. The rest of the crew were going to flip the hydraulic chopper back to tabletop and start breaking down the halves and quarters into smaller pieces. As I got into the truck, I told K what had happened. I slowly peeled my gloves off and took a look at the damage. My index finger wasn’t too bad. It just pinched the tip of the finger and burst some blood vessels. It looked like I had dipped the tip of that finger in some red stain. Not too bad. My middle finger though was a little more colourful. From the top knuckle to the tip was swollen and the pad was already starting to turn blue/purple. I had also pinched a bit of skin off the one side. The pain wasn’t bad, it barely hurt, but as we drove home it started to throb a little bit. Still not bad.
Once we finished unloading at home, we grabbed a bite to eat and headed back out for another load. Two of the guys got called away to help the neighbour who had run into some mechanical issues on his way back to the house from running an errand. Once we got back, we loaded another truckload and headed to drop it off at home. The amount of wood we had at this point was already more than what we usually have for the winter and we debated if we would need anymore. We headed back out to at least help with the remainder of the chopping and the cleanup of the area we were working in.
When we got back to the pile, we were convinced that we might as we’ll do another load. Better to have too much wood than not enough. Plus the wood is beautiful. Very straight, almost no knots and dense. It will burn for a long time. I was also eyeing up pieces for some shop projects. It is a beautiful red colour and being so straight I can plane some of it down and make cutting boards, spoons or other items. So we loaded up another load and started the cleanup. There was a large firepit beside the area we were working so we lit a fire and burned all the bark. We left a nice pile of wood for the neighbour who needed some and packed up all our gear.
As a thank you to our friends who really help us out with all this wood, I made their dog a dog bowl stand. They would never let us pay them for their equipment and time, and we usually repay them by helping stock up the wood they need, but we hadn’t had a chance to do that for them this year. They seemed really happy with the stand and we plan to be back out with them in the spring to help get their wood for next winter.
My finger is now a multicoloured mess, but luckily it doesn’t hurt unless I bump it. The bruising spread down tot he next knuckle and all the way around the finger. I definitely did a good squish and am very lucky that the damage wasn’t worse. Hopefully I have learned my lesson and will not put my finger in stupid places when chopping wood next time!