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This question is about firewood options on private land, in the Parry Sound region in Ontario, Canada

I've had loads of camping experience but always bought my firewood, now I have some land and am looking forward to having a nice seasoned woodpile at my disposal.

Knowing that rotted wood doesn't make for good burning, I'm wondering about deadfall as a source of firewood. Is it worth cutting, splitting, and seasoning deadfall for firewood, or should I plan to bring down some living trees?

If deadfall has been laying around for a few months, does that give us a headstart on the seasoning process?

Assuming some deadfall is suitable, what should I be looking for to identify good trees for burning?

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  • Generally, anything dry works. Not sure what you mean by seasoning. – Tomas By Oct 7 '20 at 13:47
  • Updated the question to include the location. Seasoning is the process of leaving stacked wood to air dry for six plus months, it's quite important if you want good firewood – Cameron Roberts Oct 7 '20 at 14:21
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    Okay, but wet or dry is the relevant question. This is not hard to tell by looking, or touching it with your hand. Then there are differences between "soft" (easier to light, burns quicker) and "hard" (opposite) woods, plus other things if you want to e.g. smoke meat. The anwser to the question is "absolutely". – Tomas By Oct 7 '20 at 14:39
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    If you do decide to fell trees to burn, be strategic about it – take trees that are dying, falling, stunted, overlooked, hemmed in etc. – Weather Vane Oct 7 '20 at 16:36
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Dead, fallen wood can be good firewood. It depends on whether it's wet or dry. Wet or dry depends, not on rainfall, but on contact with the ground. It also depends on how long the log has been lying on the ground. The longer a log has lain on the wet ground, the more waterlogged and rotten it will be.

A log lying on the ground will likely be too wet for good firewood. If it has fallen recently enough that the bark is still well-attached, it may be be possible to dry it out and use it. The easiest way to dry out a log is to prop up one or both ends off the ground, in situ. If you prop up one end, of course the end still on the ground will stay wet, and not make good firewood. Use a convenient rock, or another log (keeping in mind that if the other log is rotting, the newer log will likely not dry very well at the point where it makes contact with the rotting log), or the crotch of a nearby tree (only if the tree is large and sturdy enough to support the weight of the log without damage).

A log with one end propped up will be relatively dry at that end, and relatively wet at the end on the ground. Logs often end up partially propped off the ground, either because one end is still attached at the stump, or they fall across other trees or logs, or because some of the attached branches support the log off the ground. Any branches on the ground will be not good for firewood, but branches still in the air can be good for firewood.

As you get more practice at collecting wood for fires, you will get a better sense of how dry wood needs to be to make good firewood. As you develop this sense, I recommend having your fires in an outdoor firepit, rather than an indoor fireplace. You could do an outdoor test burn of each "batch" of firewood to make sure it's suitable for indoor use. Mediocre firewood is more prone to smoking (which may cause chimney build-up, which eventually causes chimney fires), and popping (which can send sparks out of the fireplace). Keep in mind that conifer trees have pitch in them, which makes them burn easily, but causes lots of popping and flying sparks. If you have conifer wood, save it for outdoor fires.

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  • Great info thank you, makes perfect sense that staying up off the ground and getting airflow all around the tree is critical. Good to know about the pitch, we have some mixed bush areas but the vast majority is coniferous. We won't be building anything for a few years so I'll have plenty of time to get acquainted via outdoor fires for a while. When we do move indoors we'll probably use a woodstove inside, and keep the open fires out. – Cameron Roberts Oct 7 '20 at 16:36
  • Happy to help. If you start your fires without any lighter fluid or other firestarter (like those wax-coated wood shaving things), you can learn faster how to tell which woods are dry enough to burn well. Just start with kindling (pine cones and dry pine needles work well) and a match or lighter. Add small twigs, then larger sticks, gradually increasing the size as the fire gets established and creates hot coals. That slow start makes it really obvious which sticks are dry and which ones aren't. – csk Oct 7 '20 at 17:30
  • Circling back on this just to say thanks again, we've been out twice now and I've had good luck finding deadfall both good and bad for burning. It's the kind of info that seems obvious in retrospect but I know I would have had a tougher time identifying good logs without it. And you weren't kidding about the conifers, we've had some wild "pops", keeps things interesting even outside. – Cameron Roberts Oct 20 '20 at 14:26
  • I'm glad it was helpful. I do remember the first time I tried to gather wood for a campfire. "Get dry wood" seems so simple until you actually try to do it. At first, all the wood looks the same. Then once you learn how to tell what's good and what's bad firewood, it becomes such second nature you forget it was once a thing you needed to learn. – csk Oct 20 '20 at 14:50
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    @CameronRoberts Fallen logs can also be used for growing mushrooms, like oyster or shitake. It's a way to get some extra cash out of your forest without reducing the capital (IE, cutting down trees). – csk Oct 20 '20 at 14:53
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We have a small patch of land (about 2 hours from Parry Sound) that is full of trees, a mix of deciduous and conifers. We regularly have campfires in a stone circle on the lawn, and we have indoor fireplaces also.

Outside, you can burn pretty much anything, including live trees you just cut down, should you want to get rid of them. We have brush piles and log piles, so if we cut a tree the trunk of it will spend a year in the log pile and then we'll burn it - less smoke and less popping that way. The branches might spend a year in a brush pile to rot the leaves off, or we might cut them up small and add them to a hot fire that is burning well. We can also burn pine cones, pine needles, dead leaves and other junk raked off the lawn, but be warned it's a very smoky thing to do. That's not about providing a nice fire, it's about cleaning up. For sitting around a campfire in the evening, pine or similar softwoods that have been in the pile for a year burn fine. The easiest way to manage this is start a new pile each year when you're clearing up fallen trees and whatnot.

Inside, it's a whole other story. Hardwood only. If we take down a maple or an oak or whatever, we'll stack that wood separately so we remember what it is and can use it inside after a year of seasoning. We also buy wood to burn inside (a cord at a time) if we don't have any home grown hardwood.

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