Saturday, January 19, 2013

A New Technique for Harvesting Firewood

A few days ago Grandpa and I decided to grab up a load of firewood from close to the end of the trail.

This proved to be much more difficult than we had anticipated.

I managed to get the tractor up the ravine by disconnecting the trailer, driving through the difficult incline, chaining the trailer to the tractor, and then dragging the trailer up the same incline until they were both on level ground. We then could back up to the trailer and reconnect it directly to the hitch.

This is getting hard on our runners and trailer. On the previous trip we broke the tang on the trailer hitch completely off, and I had resorted to just resting the trailer tongue on the tractor hitch, dropping a bolt through the holes, and then dropping the three point hitch down onto the trailer tongue to hold it down. This worked fine for the time being.

The tractor and trailer then got stuck going up another incline further in the bush, previously an unproblematic spot, but now things were definitely showing up as more difficult than before. We used the same technique of disconnecting and dragging the trailer to work through this bottleneck.

Grandpa took the tractor right to the end of the trail, and with lots of finagling, we managed to turn both the trailer and the tractor around. We drove a bit back up the path to avoid the worst of another tricky incline, and then loaded the firewood in. This proved to be too much weight. The tractor groaned trying to drag the trailer up even the slightest incline; the runners began to twist and dig into the snow, cutting ever deeper until they hit roots or rocks or other immoveable objects.

Finally we unloaded half the wood, and managed to get the tractor to the highest point on the trail. Then we carried all the wood up the trail to repile the trailer there.

Of course, even on the way back the tractor got stuck again and required the disconnect and drag technique. It took us a half a day for one trailer load.

The trailer was in bad shape. Our runners were twisted and cracked and one support board had finally popped off.

It was at this point that I realized how much nicer it was when we were just skidding logs for beams - the tractor climbed inclines more easily and there wasn't a big implement on the back to account for when turning around.

I posited the notion of skidding out even the firewood and cutting it up back at the yurts. Grandpa was a bit lukewarm to this idea, but agreed it may be better than what we were currently doing.

 

The next day I dusted off my small generator. After a few pulls, a loud "bang" and bits of plastic coming out the side, I realized that I had somehow cracked/broken the pull wheel.

People with electric start generators truly are blessed!

I, on the other hand, spent the remainder of the day trying to fix this pull wheel, accomplishing said task, reassembling everything, and having the same part break on the first pull.

On to the next day, where after 200 pulls, I managed to get the large generator to start. Never again! I hooked it up to the tractor's block heater, as well as my spare battery, and managed to eventually get the tractor started.

Then I attached the generator to the solar battery bank and washing machine and pump.

The well was frozen.

I headed off into the bush with the tractor and chains and saw, and was able to bring in almost three trees to the yurts (usually a tree represents a load) completely by myself, as well as cut up another tree that likely is too green to burn.

Next I will likely get out the chain saw and try to render down these trees into useable wood. The sustained temperatures of -20 to -30 that we have been experiencing have quickly taught me that splitting the wood down smaller is a better use of it than larger chunks. I previously thought that large chunks would burn longer - that may be so, but they also don't burn warm enough to heat the yurts. Now I am splitting the wood down into pieces that burn easily and hot. This morning I was able to take the yurts from 10 degrees to almost 40 in about 40 minutes. (40 was too hot - I left the larger yurt to finish typing this in the smaller one).

I also upgraded my tractor's PTO shaft cover from the whiskey bottle (which kept falling off) to a more right-sized chocolate milk bottle, which I fastened in place with a cable tie.

Donna is so happy with the new wood texture that she took a picture of her "perfect fire". I hope you too can feel the warmth vicariously through it.

 

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