If you’re going to take down a tree yourself, key safety gear includes work boots, gloves, goggles, a hard hat, and ear protection. If this is a regular cottage chore for you, you’d be wise to invest in protective chainsaw pants. They start at about $100 a pair.
Anything taller than about 18” in diameter should probably be left to the pros. You’ll also want to limit yourself to shorter trees where you have enough space for them to fall without causing damage. To roughly measure a tree’s height from the ground, use the stick method.
Ideally, you’d pick a tree with an obvious lean that will drop into a safe area. Make sure there are no buildings, power lines, other trees it can get caught up in or, it should go without saying, people or pets laying in the path that you plan to drop the tree on. Plot out two clear escape routes you can run along in case the tree does something unexpected.
There’s a common mantra to “season for a season” before using firewood. But a full year or more is even better to allow the wood to dry out and burn cleanly. You want the moisture content to be less 20 per cent. You can pick up a moisture meter to test your wood for about $100.
Pine and other softwood make great kindling because of their high sap content, while hardwoods, such as oak and maple, burn slower and longer. Also, if you’re chopping a lot of wood, you might want to buy or rent a log splitter.
It’s best to store your main supply of firewood somewhere well away from the cottage, otherwise, insects will set up camp in the woodpile and then they can migrate inside. Doing so also eliminates a fuel depot you don’t want next to the building if there’s a fire. If you stack a small supply against the building, leave at least a few inches gap between the wood and the wall to allow for airflow.
Firewood should be stored off the ground where it can be exposed to the drying wind and sun. It should be sheltered from rain, but not wrapped in a tarp or anything that can trap moisture. You want an orderly stack to allow airflow, but don’t fit the logs together puzzle-piece tight.
To avoid the spread of invasive species, do not bring firewood from home to the cottage or vice versa. Cottage commuters should be familiar with signs like this one when they head to the lake.