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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Four Ways to Find Free Firewood

This time of year, there are few things that I like more than having a cozy fire in the fireplace on a chilly evening. Yes, I live in Arizona, and our chilly evenings are not the same as the frigid nights that we had when we lived in Chicago, but nonetheless, I like fires. Crackling logs, the fragrant smell of the wood burning, the flickering glow of the flames. It is the perfect background for reading a book, watching a movie, cooking, cleaning, or doing just about anything.

But I'm cheap. For years I would buy cords or half cords of perfectly cut and stacked firewood. This wood was usually more than what I wanted to spend on something that would just be burned up in my fireplace. Then I turned into Scrooge, putting as few logs on the fire as possible. Just enough to give me the glow and the smells and the feeling, without actually being a roaring fire. But this didn't satisfy my desire to have regular fires in the fireplace. So I started looking for cheaper ways to enjoy everything that comes with a fireplace fire.


I have discovered several ways to build my supply of firewood for little to no money. So here are some things that have helped me have a substantial fire whenever I want, without breaking the bank.

All of this wood was free, but it took some work to be usable.
1. Freecycle - For those who haven't discovered this gem, Freecycle is a group of people in a community that give things away for free. It is so much better than throwing everything away in the trash. I have gotten several loads of firewood from Freecycle from people who have cut down trees and need the wood hauled off. Usually it is in rounds, which means that I get the added pleasure of splitting the wood (no sarcasm here; I love splitting logs).

2. Landscaper piles - I recently discovered a vacant lot that I pass on my way home from work. This is an area where landscapers drop their green waste. They have a pile of free wood mulch for pickup, but there are often logs or larger pieces of wood available. Again, it typically needs to be cut up, but the price is right.

3. Community parks - Often, after Arizona storms, each city has several parks with trees that blow down. Landscapers will often come through and cut up the large limbs and trunks. A quick call to the city public works department will often land a homeowner some firewood, as city's would prefer to have the logs picked up for free, rather than paying landscapers to remove them.

4. Self Service - I have removed a couple of trees for neighbors and family, often after a storm has blown the tree over. While cutting up the wood is time consuming, it provides me with a truck load or two of wood while helping a friend.

A couple of notes on the firewood. Freshly cut wood doesn't burn well, so it is best to season it. In Arizona, that is nothing more than leaving it stacked to dry out for a summer or two. It will also dry out quicker if it is split in smaller pieces.

It also takes work to make the wood usable. As one who enjoys cutting and chopping wood, I would much rather spend the time working and save money. I also really enjoy chopping wood with my kids as audience members, as my four year old often shrieks after a perfect cut (which isn't often), "Wow, Daddy! You're the strongest person in the universe!"

And who doesn't need to hear that every once in a while?

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