Woodburner "log envy"

Wife had a woodburner installed a few months back, and since then I've been collecting and splitting the stuff down for drying. No idea why, but she loves the fire but has no interest in the process at all, right down to actually lighting the fire or refuelling it in use. So processing fire wood in the first place? No chance there. Anyway, there's an innocent enough past-time thought I, collecting and chopping wood, crack on with it. How wrong can a man be. For a start my initial assumption was that people always went for free wood where possible, hence my three days spent last week splitting down the top half of an Elm tree. A friends' daughter saw me sharpening an axe mid process, and looked at me as though totally stupid. "We just buy it" was the response. Oh, people buy wood to burn? So I started to ask where people got their stash from. Whole new world.....

You see a lot of people people actually do buy wood in, and do it by the log around here; a log being roughly the size of a small thigh or large calf. And here's where log envy comes in to play. People no longer seem to talk about how much their house is worth, rather how little they spend on logs, both in terms of pure cost, but also in processing time. Losers like me get free wood then spend hours splitting it down and finding places to store it. Winners buy a thousand logs for less than £100 each time they need a burning. I've no idea who is right. Just in our little road of 100 houses we have our neighbour who dumpster dives and is happy with any old wood full of nails or covered in paint; another who does a 24 mile round trip to collect his for £50 a go, and the builder with a near constant supply of good quality tree rounds. Certainly buying it in reduces the cost of processing substantially - you don't have to buy things like a splitting maul for a start, and neither do you have to learn how to sharpen an axe. Actually there does come a point when buying it in is silly; have you seen the price that some retailers sell at? Spotted ten logs for £7 the other day. Sheesh. But somehow just buying a load in seems like cheating, doesn't it? Real men split wood.

For now I'm content to find my sources of free fuel, and process it down myself. For one it's cheap, and I like cheap. Secondly I've learned a smidgeon more about wood - for instance I never knew that new wood was 70% water, or that only the only living bit of a tree is three cells deep. Humping, hauling and then chopping is a pretty decent work out. I'm still 90% flab, but can sense muscle down there somewhere for the first time in years. And finally there's few more pleasures in life than getting an axe or maul stuck in a log.... Er?

Rather oddly I've been very adept at sourcing free wood. That one Elm tree, for instance, has perhaps supplied us with enough wood fuel for the whole of next winter - there must be an easy 2,000 logs there, and I've yet to process the final, knotty third [although here I suspect once I've got my maul stuck for the umpteenth time I may well give up on this bit]. Going by current rates that's £300 or thereabouts, which isn't bad for three wet Saturday's work now is it? In addition I've collected perhaps another 400 logs for processing this winter, which we're currently burning our way through right now. It lasts for ages as we only use it when the central heating is off. My only issue being that all of my wood is stored outside in shelters that don't get huge amounts of ventilation. Always slightly damp when I bring it in.

Right, I think I've exhausted my own, and quite possibly your interest in wood for fuel now so I'm off to fix a puncture on my bike. Of which I've had a few this week thank's to the wind blown Hawthorn all over the trail.