Locust Trees

Electric Chainsaw, A Very Handy Tool!

Here at the homestead, saving money is always on our minds.  One of our biggest expenses (as most can relate) is energy cost.  Summer is hard because the house isn’t well insulated and Texas summers are brutal.  The best we can do there is set the thermostat up a little and deal with the fact that it is going to be warmer than we like in the house.  Any unusually cooler days in Summer will see windows open and the air conditioner taking a break.  Those days are few and far between in Texas.  We just suck it up and budget for high electric bills from June through September.

Winter is a different story in Texas.  We can get cold here, but nothing like the folks up north.  A really cold night will be in the upper teens, and single digit temperatures will set records.  We just came out of an unusually cold Winter, and my electric bill reflected that.  I posted an electric bill in December that rivaled the highest Summer bills.  Time to get serious on reducing that bill!

We have a fireplace in the house, and using it reduced the amount of time the electric furnace runs.  It’s a no-brainer… Use the fireplace more when it’s cold outside!  The only catch is a fireplace needs a steady supply of firewood.  That means tooling up with the proper equipment to feed the wood stack.  I have a McCulloch gas chainsaw already, but as it ages it is getting moody.  It’s hesitant to start sometimes and can be a pain to keep running at times.  I need a new gas saw, but this one will have to limp along until I can afford something better.

Here’s where the Electric Chainsaw comes in.  I was shopping around at Harbor Freight and saw a Chicago Electric 14 inch electric chainsaw on sale for 50 dollars.  I checked the online reviews on my phone and all seemed good.  I went ahead and picked one up with the idea that I could use it close to the house for small chores.  It came with a bottle of bar oil, and once filled it was ready to use.

I started out with some small jobs to test it out.  A few low limbs here, some saplings there.  It never missed a beat and did everything I wanted with little effort.  After I was satisfied with the performance, I moved on to a larger diameter tree that needed to come down.  The little chainsaw ripped through an elm tree with a trunk diameter of 10 inches or so.  It was slower than a gas saw, but it got the job down well.

A few weeks ago, I got started on the wood pile for next Winter.  I had already selected two Locust trees that needed thinned out close to the house.  I fired up the gas saw and got one felled.  Halfway through trimming the limbs off, my saw started acting up.  It would run for a minute then die.  After restarting it a couple of times with the same result, I set it down and walked away for a bit.  I debated on taking it apart to troubleshoot, but I had a tree down in the yard and partially in the driveway.  No time for saw repair!!

I strung out an extension cord and grabbed the electric saw.  Within an hour, I had the tree limbed and cut into firewood length pieces.  I was still feeling productive so I didn’t want to interrupt the workflow.  I drug the extension cord and saw out to the next tree and felled it as well.  Another hour and it was done.  My gas saw would have done it a little bit faster, but I didn’t want to waste a good working day trying to get it running again.

The wood is stacked and seasoning so I can split it later once it dries out.  All in all, these two trees provided about a rick of wood.  All of the cuts save the first felling cut were done with the 50 dollar electric saw.  I’d say this little saw passed its first real test with flying colors.

The downside to an electric chainsaw is that it obviously requires an electrical outlet.  It is limited by the length of the extension cord and the location of the nearest outlet.  I was lucky that both of these trees were within 100 feet of an outlet.  You won’t taking it very far into the woods unless you are willing to drag a generator along or have a 1200 Watt or larger inverter on a vehicle.

Overall, I can’t recommend this thing enough for small jobs or as a backup to a gas chainsaw.  There is no fueling, pulling a rope, or warmup times to mess with.  It also weighs half as much as my gas saw, so I can use it longer without fatigue.

 

 

 

A Great Firewood… If You Are Brave Enough!

Here at the homestead, we are situated right where the prairie meets a creek bottom.  Wildlife is abundant and the scenery is very pretty.  It also means we have some great soil for growing.  One of the downsides, however, is that we don’t have many of the typical “firewood” trees around.  Most of us in the south instantly think of Oak as the firewood of choice.   It burns slow and hot, and one tree usually contains enough wood for a winter of fireplace use.  Folks in other parts of the country have their own first choices for firewood.  I don’t have any of the “favorites” on my place at all.  I’m not even sure where they nearest Oak tree is.

One tree species I have an abundance of is very wicked and hateful Honey Locust.  How can a tree be so wicked and hateful?  It all has to do with natural defenses.  This species has thorns.  Big, ugly thorns that will pierce right through the sole of work boots and car tires.  It cares not for your denim and cotton duck clothing or leather gloves.  The goal of this tree is to make you bleed, and it achieves the goal frequently.   Most thorny trees have thorns on the branches.  The Honey Locust has them too, but it also grows thorns up and down the trunk.  Vicious, multi-pronged thorns that can grow to 8 inches in length.

Most sane people would ask the question, “Why would you mess with a hateful tree like that?”  The answer is simple.  The wood is very hard, straight growing, and the trees have very few branches.  It really makes for some beautiful firewood.  Because of the lack of branches and the straight grain, this wood is probably the best splitting wood I’ve worked with.  It burns slow and hot, which really helps heat the house on frigid nights.

So how do I deal with getting this tree from a thorny mess to the woodpile?  I’ve developed a couple of different approaches.
The first approach is the easiest.  The second takes a little more time, but will save you some bleeding.

The first approach is to fell a tree where I can back my Jeep in close enough to strap on to the trunk.  Once the tree is down, I will cut the branches off and leave them be for the time being.  Then I run a chainsaw across the trunk, which will send all the thorns flying.  Once it is de-thorned, I’ll pull the main trunk to another spot to cut it up.  This leaves the thorns well away from my new work area.  Just remember to be careful if you walk through that section of woods in the future!

The second approach is what I have to use when felling these trees close to the house where I expect foot or vehicle traffic.  I try to drop the tree to an open area if I can.  This time, I de-thorn the trunk using an axe, so the thorns fall straight to the ground around the trunk.  This will keep the work area from becoming a minefield of pure pain.  Once the trunk has had all the thorns removed, I take a leaf rake and rake them all to one spot.  The rake does a great job of gathering all of the thorns up from the ground.  Now I have a safer area to work on cutting the trunk into firewood sized pieces.  At this point, you can go back to the thorn pile and shovel them into a box or bucket.

If you get creative, you might come up with some uses for the thorns.  I’ve thought about using them in specific areas to deter the local wildlife.  Since they are extremely hard, they would probably make for some excellent primitive fish hooks.  If your creative side is lacking, they burn completely and very well.