When it comes to firewood, the tree species is not as important as whether it has been properly seasoned before burning. Green (unseasoned) wood contains high levels of moisture, which makes it extremely frustrating to use. It will be hard to light, it'll smolder and keep going out, and it won't put out as much useable heat as when seasoned.
Properly seasoned wood produces the hottest and cleanest fire with the least amount of creosote build up in your chimney. Luckily, all you need to create the best in seasoned firewood is a little space and plenty of time.
First, create an open airy space such as a woodshed to store your split wood as it seasons naturally. Be sure that the area is covered and at least one wall is open for air circulation — three or four open walls are even better. In a pinch you can create an airy stack of split logs and just cover the top of the pile with a tarp or some plywood — what ever you do, be sure to leave the sides of the stack open.
Locate your woodshed or stack so that is gets full sun for at least half the day. Avoid the north side of your house or barn if you can. Second, when placing wood in a woodshed with walls, build stable stacks off the ground on a pallet-like platform and leave a few inches between the walls and the split wood. Likewise when building a pile, you will save wood and time if you build the stack on pallets so that air can circulate beneath, as well as around the pile.
Third, splitting wood is key to effective wood seasoning — even relatively thin branches should be split in half. The splitting process helps release trapped moisture and offers additional surface area for heating the billet to combustion temperature.
It takes about a year minimum to create good burning, well seasoned firewood. Two years is even better, but you don't generally want to season beyond 4 to 5 years as the wood begins to deteriorate.
Watch the full episode! Hank shares hints like these in each episode of Tough Grit. Visit Tough Grit online to view this episode and many more. The hints above appeared in Episode 3, "The Buck Stops Here."
Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper's Farmer magazines. Connect with him on Google+.