It was not until, I moved into a commune in rural Florida in the middle 1970’s that I had a stove that burned wood. Just before the first cold season arrived a truckload of wood was dropped off by the local electric utility. They were constantly clearing right of ways for electric lines to pass. Since not many people heated with wood, they most often dumped and buried tree trimmings to get rid of them. They were willing to drop wood off to anyone who requested it, provided it was not out of the way and on route between their cutting and dumping places. There were no choices and you had to accept what they brought. Our first load was a boon. It contained several sizeable limbs of dead oak that was well seasoned. The bulk however contained sizeable pieces of camphor tree. It seemed the whole tree was brought to us. Burning it provided the nose clearing scents that camphor is noted for and was a special treat to add to our fires.
After Florida, many of us moved to the Ozarks in Arkansas. This area is the timber capital of the Southwest. Much of the oaks were cut off in the early part of the twentieth century and now second growth was being harvested. Besides oak substantial stands of hickory and cherry were being felled. Logs were hauled to the mill and sizeable branches were left laying around. Landowners were glad to have a hand getting rid of this debris which contained sizeable pieces of firewood. Usually the parts being offered were not near roadways. This meant considerable efforts had to be expended getting them onto our vehicles. Normally, our crew would head into the forest with chainsaws and buck up large limbs into carrying size pieces. Once these were loaded up we took them back to our living sites. Here saw bucks, chopping blocks and wood stacks were worked on all through the year in order to have wood for both heating and cooking. Firewood came cheap but considerable effort gathering and preparing it.
After Arkansas, I moved to New England. Firewood was just as abundant but it was also much more desirable and had a larger demand. Winters were colder, and population greater. Wood was sold for a dear price. However, with ingenuity, it was available for the price of labor or trade. Land clearing, just like timbering resulted in large quantities of branch material. To have this cleared, folks were willing to let it be hauled away gratis. Other opportunities presented when part of the payment for firewood involved a work exchange to provide cutting, splitting and stacking services. This type of work was pleasant in cold season when work also heated and provided something to do when other outdoor opportunities were drying up. I felt especially grateful to have steady work exercise prospects.
Additionally, everywhere trees are susceptible to storm damage. When this occurs, owners not only welcome help clearing their property of debris, but are often willing to pay to have their wood hauled away. Sometimes large storms turn into blessing. Hurricane Bob wrecked havoc on the trees in southern New England in August 1991. Luckily flood damage was minimal, and property damage mostly confined to vegetation. I was fortunate to find considerable paid work clearing away remnants of this damage. As a bonus, I garnered over 12 cords of hardwood for future fires. By mid fall, I had this hauled home, stacked it up, ready to be split, brought indoors and used. This provided all our heat for the next four years.
I just moved to upstate New York and do not have a good woodstove for heat. My current residence has a fireplace that is more suitable for providing atmosphere than heat. It seems there is enough firewood around the neighborhood that can likely be obtained using my previous wood gathering techniques. This will also give me time to scout out the area finding other sources toward the day when I can again possess an efficient wood burning stove.