Fall has traditionally been a time to harvest, gather and prepare for the oncoming cold and unforgiving winter. In my family, fall is a time to gather firewood to prepare for the oncoming high natural gas prices. My mom has gotten into the fall habit of inviting “the kids” over for an afternoon of chainsaws, handsaws and lasagna.

She owns a small stretch of wooded land that she keeps thinned and well cared for. It consists mostly of young cross timbers-type forest with post oak, blackjack oak, some elm, hackberry, persimmon and a small pine plantation that was put in by the previous owners. We walk through the woods thinning out a few competing small trees, older partially rotted trees, and those that mom wants out for “mom reasons.” By carefully choosing those trees to remove, we imitate the natural fires that would’ve moved through this area thinning out the same trees.

It doesn’t take long to have enough wood cut for three families to offset a small portion of their heating bills. We each usually go home with about one half cord of wood. It’s not enough wood to use to heat your entire house for the winter, but it’s enough to be able to put a log on after dinner and drink hot cocoa next to when the occasion warrants.

Many people get confused about wood measurements and can easily get ripped off by unscrupulous people if not careful. The terms “truckload,” ‘face cord,” “rack,” “rick” or “pile” will differ in dimensions depending on the area of the state and country you are in and the person you are dealing with.

There are only two measurements recognized by the State of Oklahoma for firewood sales. One is the cord or partial cord and the other is the package. A cord can be measured two ways — 4 feet wide, 4 feet high and 8 feet long (4 feet x 4 feet x 8 feet = 128 feet) or 2 feet wide, 4 feet high and 16 feet long (2 feet x 4 feet x 16 feet = 128 feet). Both equal 128 cubit feet of wood.

Packaged wood is the kind you get from the grocery store. It is a bundle wrapped in plastic. Packaged wood is sold by the cubic foot.

Most Oklahomans buy wood by the “rick.” Technically speaking, a rick is considered a 4 foot x 2 foot x 8 foot stack or basically half a cord. The problem comes in that most folks don’t like 2-foot long logs. They will get a log anywhere from 12 inches to 24 inches. So, a rick can look very different depending on who you buy it from.

Other general things to consider when buying firewood include the species of tree you buy. Generally oak and pecan are considered premium firewood. Elm, Cottonwood, and willow, are considered low value firewood, but it’s really about preference. Pine burns quickly leaving few coals and tends to creosote up your fireplace making it critical to clean your fireplace frequently for safety. Cottonwood tends to smell bad and not leave many coals to continue burning. Elm, and many resinous trees like cedar tend to send coals flying because they have pockets of trapped gas that tend to “pop” while burning. Dense woods give off more heat than softer woods.

Also, be very careful to look for poison ivy when buying firewood. Poison ivy does travel in smoke. A good idea is to find a wood dealer you trust and stick with them. Don’t always go for the low-priced wood that is possibly unseasoned (cut less than 3 months ago and too wet to burn properly) and could be a waste of your money. Also get your chimney professionally cleaned out at least once a year. Even a small amount of creosote can ignite and cause a house fire.

For more information, visit http://pods.dasnr.okstate.edu, OSU fact sheets F-9440 and F-9439.

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