Friday, 26 September 2014

How to Properly Cut Wood... with a Chainsaw

The first factor that you must determine when cutting fire wood is whether or not to use an axe or a chainsaw. For the purposes of this blog post I am going to assume you chose the chainsaw (which in my opinion is the much better option anyway). We're going to take you through finding a place to cut to general safety advice.

Finding the best location to cut your wood

The best location to up your wood is somewhere that there is an abundance of woo (duh!) that has already been felled or is dead. The reason for this is felling a tree is a very difficult skill in itself and should only really be attempted by someone with experience in the industry. It is not an impossible skill to learn on your own but having help as a first timer would definitely be a huge help and will help avoid property damage or bodily injury.

Chainsaw Safety

  • Wear safety glasses to protect against sawdust and flying debris
  • Wear hearing protection, especially if using a loud saw
  • Make sure clothing (overalls, hats, gloves, boots) do not obstruct your ability to operate the saw.
  • Cut with a partner if possible and keep a cell phone nearby in case of accident
  • Identify any tree limbs that might be under tension. These limbs will act as a spring or catapult when the tension is released by cutting
  • Keep hands and other body parts away from a running chainsaw.
  • Wear hearing protection if the saw is particularly loud
Follow these rules in order to avoid or limit any accidents! Chainsaws may come with a lot of safety features but they are still dangerous pieces of machinery. The best advice is to exercise caution and follow the instruction manual to a tee!

Cutting the wood

Stance: You need to stand in a way that provides upper-body support and prevents fatigue. Your feet should be spread slightly further than shoulder-length, which will help your upper body support the saw. Be careful of loose footing, such as cut pieces of wood, branches, and animal holes.

Technique: There are generally two directions to cut, upwards and downwards. Most wood is cut best by placing the saw above the wood and cutting down through it (above left). Gravity will usually pull the cut piece away from the log and you can continue cutting in this fashion. But in some cases when the log or branch is under tension, cutting from the top down will cause the wood to pinch causing the saw to become stuck within the cut. In this case, it is best to cut upwards (above right) by placing the saw beneath the wood and cutting up through it.  Using the plastic wedge can help keep larger logs from pinching the saw chain

Branches First: With most fallen trees, it is best to begin cutting at the branch end first. Start by cutting off all branches that are too small for firewood. Place the saw at the base of these branches and cut them off smooth at the part of the limb or log where they are attached.

Balance: Look for branches that may be holding the trunk above the ground. These branches act as props and can be helpful in keeping the trunk elevated for easy cutting. You should observe the complete structure of the tree and plan your cutting in a logical order, removing most props last.

Trunks: As you progress from the top of the tree towards the trunk, the diameter of the wood will gradually thicken. You will still be cutting upwards or downwards, only it will be necessary to work the saw at different angles. Cut the wood at two 45 degree angles, or in the form of an A-framed house. When both sides of the logs are evenly cut, you should finish the piece by cutting directly downward or upward.

Dirt & Debris: Nothing will cause your saw to dull quicker than cutting into the dirt. This is why you should allow branches and other natural props to keep the wood lifted above the ground.

Half-Cut Technique: If a trunk is too heavy to lift from the ground, try cutting it into smaller sections of about six feet in length.  Pre-cut each section to the size of firewood you want, leaving about two inches of each cut unfinished. Then roll the section over, exposing the uncut side. Carefully place the saw into each cut and finish the pieces of firewood. This will make cutting trunks easy and will keep your saw chain from hitting the dirt.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

5 Quick Ways to Get Rid of Garden Weeds

5 Quick Ways to Get Rid of Garden Weeds

1. Pull them…
Sure this sounds simple, but anyone who has tried to keep up with weeds by pulling them knows that it’s not always so easy. For weeds close to your herbs or veggies in raised beds and containers, it’s often the best way to go. The best time to pull weeds is when the soil is still moist from watering. Pull slowly from the base of the weed to get the best chance of pulling a root out and make sure to use garden gloves for spiny plants like thistles.

You can collect all the weeds you’ve pulled and add them to your compost pile, so they’re actually contributing to the health of your garden. Some weeds, like Dandelions, Purslane and Miner’s Lettuce are edible and can be absolutely delicious. If this interests you, find a foraging guide that was written for your area and make sure you’ve positively identified something before serving it for dinner.

2. Suffocate them…
Just like the plants you actually want in your garden beds, weeds have a hard time surviving without adequate sunlight. You can kill existing weeds, prevent new ones from growing, AND help keep moisture in the soil for the plants you do want using a little bit of old newspaper and some garden mulch. Simply cover the area with several layers of large newspaper strips (newspaper is biodegradable), then put enough mulch on top of the paper to cover it completely. If some strong weeds manage to push through your first attempt, just add another layer of newspaper and then some more mulch.

3. Mix up some homemade herbicide….
Get a good quality spray bottle and fill it with 2 c. white vinegar, ½ c. salt and a tiny bit of dish soap. Make sure you mix it up very well so the salt dissolves as much as possible or the spray bottle might get clogged up. Be careful using this remedy near your garden beds because it could kill your veggies as well. If you’re having trouble with the sprayer getting clogged you can also try a 50/50 vinegar and water solution.

4. Scald Them…
Next time you’re boiling potatoes or pasta, instead of dumping the water down the drain, dump it right onto the weeds growing in the cracks of your sidewalk or patio or along garden paths. Don’t try this method with garden beds as it will damage the quality of your soil and kill anything it touches.

5. Salt Them…
This is another method you need to be very careful with and is best for areas where you don’t want anything to grow again, ever. But a simple sprinkling of salt along the edges of your lawn, between cracks in the sidewalk or in garden pathways will kill weeds. Be careful though, it leaves the soil barren and can damage concrete. At the end of the snowy season you can usually get a pretty good deal on rock salt, which works great for this, but any kind of salt will do.