Collecting Firewood: Tips for the Best Wood Stove

Wood Stove

My house is located right next to the forest and I enjoy the benefit of it in many ways. It provides me with a peaceful place to walk, the sounds of wildlife, the fresh air it produces, cool shade in the summer, and a little bit of firewood to keep me warm in the winter.

For whatever reason (you’d have to ask them), the groups that have the leasehold on many forest areas here in British Columbia cut down some trees and leave them on the forest floor. How they choose which trees to cut is a mystery to me, but I can benefit because they leave behind not only entire felled trees but they leave some trunk chunks that are short enough to fit in my wood stove. By collecting these small chunks, I save on a whole lot of log sawing.

I’m spending a few hours every week in late summer/early fall hiking into the woods with my wheelbarrow and collecting the small chunks that are randomly scattered throughout the forest. Yes, it’s quite a workout pushing the wheelbarrow over bumpy forest paths made of rocks and roots.  Who needs a gym when you have a forest?

The whole trees that are left on the forest floor will provide a home for microflora, fungi, moss, and insects as they decompose. Once decomposed they become humus which feeds the forest floor.

Humus, not to be confused with hummus the edible chickpea dip, is the organic component of soil, formed by the decomposition of leaves, wood and other plant material by soil microorganisms.


Best woodstove heat: Hardwood vs Softwood

Most of the chunks I’m collecting are conifers (cone bearing trees) which are softwoods. So far, I’ve picked up some cedar, spruce, and fir. The preferred wood stove woods are hardwoods because they burn longer – requiring less tending time. Softwoods work well for starting fires because they ignite and flame-up quickly.

I’m happy to collect softwoods for my woodstove though when its free!

Examples of Softwood





Examples of Hardwood




Populus spp.


Tips for Choosing Wood for Your Wood Stove:

Make sure its seasoned – meaning it was cut between 1-2 years ago. If wood has been recently felled it will still contain a lot of sap and moisture which makes the wood harder to ignite and cause the wood to smoke in the stove. Wood that is overly aged and starting to flake apart is still useful as fire-starting wood. As long as its dry, older wood will ignite quickly.

Aim for hardwood if you want it to burn longer without requiring attention.  Your choice of wood will depend on some factors which may be beyond your control though:  cost, availability, location.  Not to fret, a home can still be heated using softwoods.

Split –split wood will ignite faster than logs that are intact and its easier to fit them into a wood stove.

Dry – wet wood not only doesn’t catch fire very quickly but it creates a lot of smoke. Once they’re split, store your logs in a location that is well-ventilated, protected from rain and snow, and off the ground.

Sized – cramming oversized chunks into the wood stove prevents air circulation.  Make sure the logs are split and are the correct length for your stove.

Here I am in the forest, collecting wood, hanging out with dogs.  Life is good.

I guesstimate that the wood I’m collecting was cut between 1 to 2 years ago. Its not starting to rot yet but the bark and cut ends look a little dark and worn. It will make for some nice cozy fires this winter.

It’s a happy time collecting wood in the forest. Peaceful. Lovely. Mossy.

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