free Western hemlock?

Riteway

Member
Jul 27, 2020
102
Kitsap County, WA
My neighbor is having a big, dead Western hemlock tree taken down as we speak, and I'm pretty sure he'd just give me the wood if I asked. I know hemlock isn't the greatest firewood but...it's free! Worth it?
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
87,129
South Puget Sound, WA
Heck yes. Hemlock burns fine once fully seasoned.
 

vwmike

Feeling the Heat
Oct 7, 2013
323
Chilliwack, BC, Can.
Yup burn lots of hemlock here. Heavy and wet when green but dries just as fast as anything else. I also used to favour it when I did all my splitting by hand as the 2nd growth that is plentiful here for firewood splits really easy!
 

Highbeam

Minister of Fire
Dec 28, 2006
18,730
Mt. Rainier Foothills, WA
It’s noticeably lighter than Doug fir when dry but denser than cottonwood. Very white wood for an evergreen.
 

vwmike

Feeling the Heat
Oct 7, 2013
323
Chilliwack, BC, Can.
It’s noticeably lighter than Doug fir when dry but denser than cottonwood. Very white wood for an evergreen.
I’m always amazed how light some of the second growth fir I cut is when dry. We have a lot of giant cotton woods here, there’s got to be a couple dozen business’s with cottonwood in the name..... Some of the big ones that are 3+ feet across at the butt I find to be really good firewood as they are actually just as dense as most of the other wood around here and most people drive by them. I don’t really notice a difference in the princess as compared to any thing other than the small amount of primo birch I find.
 

Highbeam

Minister of Fire
Dec 28, 2006
18,730
Mt. Rainier Foothills, WA
I’m always amazed how light some of the second growth fir I cut is when dry. We have a lot of giant cotton woods here, there’s got to be a couple dozen business’s with cottonwood in the name..... Some of the big ones that are 3+ feet across at the butt I find to be really good firewood as they are actually just as dense as most of the other wood around here and most people drive by them. I don’t really notice a difference in the princess as compared to any thing other than the small amount of primo birch I find.
I’ve burned a lot of cottonwood and red cedar in my cat stove and I also found that the stove does just fine with them. Maybe something to do with the cat or the thermostat. Sure, it’s not quite as long lasting at a given burn rate but that just means reloading a bit sooner.
 

Riteway

Member
Jul 27, 2020
102
Kitsap County, WA
Thanks for the advice y'all...my neighbors seemed pretty happy to have me haul the hemlock away. Looks to be around 2 cords, and it's been standing dead long enough that its already pretty dry. Seems like the general consensus around here is that the best variety of firewood to burn is "free and dry."

My neighbor also had 4 monster Douglas fir trees cut down earlier this year, that he's processing at the rate of approximately 1 round per 2 months. His wife mentioned to my wife that she REALLY wants the wood gone, but I don't think my neighbor is quite ready to give it away yet. I should probably stop gazing lustily at it...isn't there some commandment about not "coveting thy neighbor's woodpile"???
 
My neighbor also had 4 monster Douglas fir trees
Oh man the good stuff! Give him some hints, lol.

Im almost done splitting 3 cords of hemlock that was ill and too near the house... should have been 4 but there was about a cord of rot. The good news is that while some parts of the tree are really light(when it was young it was skyrocketting with growth rings half an inch wide - must have been amongst the tallest trees in the second growth after WW2), where it tried to heal up around its wounds over the last 20 years or so, it feels really dense and the rings are close together. Those go in the big splits/overnights pile!
 
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Riteway

Member
Jul 27, 2020
102
Kitsap County, WA
Whew, finally got all the hemlock rounds moved to my backyard. Took 7 trips in my pickup truck. There's two trees worth there...each was about 2' diameter at the bottom. That's at least a year's worth of wood for me. And I gotta say, especially with all the craziness going on right now, I've really been enjoying just zoning out for awhile and chopping some wood. Excellent for physical & mental health.


wood.JPG
 

stoveliker

Minister of Fire
Nov 17, 2019
696
Eastern Long Island NY
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moresnow

Minister of Fire
Jan 13, 2015
1,667
Iowa
Time to bust those up and get it stacked and drying. Great haul for close to home. How's the 1800 i working out? New if I recall?
 
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Riteway

Member
Jul 27, 2020
102
Kitsap County, WA
Time to bust those up and get it stacked and drying. Great haul for close to home. How's the 1800 i working out? New if I recall?
Yep, I'm working my way through it and stacking a holz hausen. Since I won't be using the wood for quite awhile, I figured the holz hausen would be a more-attractive alternative to my plastic-covered stacks at the other end of the yard. Building a proper wood shed in now on the "to do" list.

The 1800i is working out great! My family is really enjoying it. This is my first time operating a modern wood stove, so I'm still getting a handle on how to operate it. I'm kind of looking forward to getting a cold snap, so I can really let 'er rip.
 
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Riteway

Member
Jul 27, 2020
102
Kitsap County, WA
Oh man the good stuff! Give him some hints, lol.
Well...my neighbor got a look at the holz hausen I stacked with his hemlock trees, and told me to help myself to the Douglas fir rounds in his backyard. He said to take them all if I could, otherwise they'll probably just rot. Holy moly it's a lot of wood...four 100-year old trees worth. I think my scrounging days are over for the next several years. I took down a section of our shared fence and started rolling them in...this is only about 10% of the wood. Kind of an embarrassment of riches over here!

IMG_20210320_172801075.jpg


Problem is there's a bunch of monster rounds back there that would take 2 or 3 people to roll out, and busting them up with a wedge and sledgehammer would take forever. Probably a good excuse to buy a bigger chainsaw...

As much as I love free firewood, I also like live 100+ year old trees. Turns out some previous homeowner had all the trees topped around 20 years ago, so they all had multiple leaders (not a good thing for conifers) and major rot where the topping occurred. An arborist assessed them as hazard trees and they were fairly close to his house, so my neighbor paid a tree service to cut them down. I'm sure that was a pretty big chunk of change.

I thought that tree topping had really fallen out of favor, but I noticed somebody else in my neighborhood recently had a bunch of Doug fir trees in their backyard topped. Kind of makes me angry...it's horrible for tree health and just causes problems for somebody else down the road. Might as well just cut the whole tree down and replace it with something with a shorter growth potential. I kind of understand why somebody wouldn't want a tall tree right next to their house, but I sure don't see the logic in transforming an otherwise-healthy tree into something that's going to be a hazard in 10 years. OK...I guess that's enough ranting for now....ha ha. But seriously...don't top your trees!!!
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
87,129
South Puget Sound, WA
That is several years of primo firewood now.
The power company regularly tops trees heading under the lines. Soft maple doesn't like it and will rot, Doug fir however, seems much better able to heal. There is one in the neighborhood that was topped about 12 yrs ago. It just kept growing fatter but looks quite healthy.
 

Nealm66

Minister of Fire
Sep 25, 2020
879
Western Washington
That is several years of primo firewood now.
The power company regularly tops trees heading under the lines. Soft maple doesn't like it and will rot, Doug fir however, seems much better able to heal. There is one in the neighborhood that was topped about 12 yrs ago. It just kept growing fatter but looks quite healthy.
Ya, if the top is slanted and sprayed with pruning tar and the sap isn’t spring time heavy, not usually a problem for many years. I’d like to see the rot that arborist said was present.
 

Montanalocal

Feeling the Heat
Dec 22, 2014
420
Helena MT
Out in the woods I see many pine trees that are naturally topped because of lightning or wind. They invariably look greener and healthier.
 

Riteway

Member
Jul 27, 2020
102
Kitsap County, WA
Ya, if the top is slanted and sprayed with pruning tar and the sap isn’t spring time heavy, not usually a problem for many years. I’d like to see the rot that arborist said was present.
I'm not sure how the rot was originally diagnosed, but the presence of fungal conks is usually a dead giveaway. Since the trees are down now, it's kind of interesting to do a postmortem. Here's the spot where the tree topping occurred on one of the trees; counting the rings on one of the leaders indicates that the topping was done about 30 years ago.

top.jpg


Looking at the underside...trunk rot.

rot.jpg


It's hard to tell from the picture, but the rot extends a ways past the gouged out part, and it extended down the trunk of the tree.

So my point is, somebody basically started with a healthy tree and converted it into a hazard tree, and a big removal expense for the next property owner. Ordinarily, Douglas fir trees can live for 500+ years, so this tree's life got dramatically shortened. And considering that the new leaders (which were at least 50+ feet tall and attached to rotting wood), aren't nearly as stable as the natural tree top was.

I can understand needing to top trees if there are overhead lines, but in that case, the power company would likely come ever few years and keep topping the trees (at their expense). Your average homeowner is unlikely to pay a tree service to come prune the leaders off their topped tree every 5 years or so.

As much as I love some free firewood, I guess I'm just a tree hugger at heart!
 
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Nealm66

Minister of Fire
Sep 25, 2020
879
Western Washington
It’s not always a death sentence. There’s more than a few school marmed old growth that lost they’re tops when they were little. But yes, making wind corridors is much better. Best not to have any large trees close to houses is probably the safest
 
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