The chainsaw will always be the first tool the farmer will reach for when collecting firewood. However, smart use of a tractor can make the task safer and easier.
Dead trees that are still standing can be a potential hazard. If you choose to take them down yourself, using a tractor can be a good alternative to felling with a chainsaw.
Only small trees can be pulled over this way but the advantage is you can keep your distance when doing it. The other advantage is you won’t be left with a stump as that will come out too if you are lucky.
Safety is Paramount!
Use common sense and good judgement and keep the following in mind.
Pulling down a tree means getting close to it to attach the chain. Be aware that it isn’t so rotten that it could fall over simply through hitching a chain. Also watch out for falling limbs.
You need plenty of suitably rated chain. DO NOT USE rope or cable. If it snaps the backlash could be dangerous. The chain MUST be comfortably longer than the height of the tree so that when you pull it towards you it doesn’t fall on you.
ALWAYS use the drawbar to connect the chain to the tractor. By having the pulling force applied below the axle, the risk of flipping the tractor over backwards is reduced. ALWAYS use a roll over protective structure. If your tractor has 4WD, engage it to maximise pulling power. An already fallen tree in an inaccessible location such as a gully can be pulled out to a safer location for chain sawing.
A tractor fitted with a 4-in-1 front end loader can be useful for grabbing and lifting a log up off the ground to make it easier to saw.
Your tractor can also be used to take the back breaking work out of wood splitting. The splitter pictured is driven by the tractors’ hydraulics and can apply eighteen tonnes of force.
The front end loader can also be handy for carting a quick load of wood.
For bigger loads a trailer is ideal. And a tipping trailer (connected to the tractor hydraulics) can cut manual handling. Just back up the trailer to your storage area and tip it right in.
Firewood Collection Tips
Don’t just collect any old wood. Some species burn much better than others. Gums are generally pretty good. Redgum, iron bark and greybox are renowned for their long burning, high heat output. Watch out for burning too much pine. It burns up pretty quickly and it also gives off high amounts of sparks.
Your local government may have regulations regarding taking down trees – check it out.
Watch out for termites in the timber you harvest. Don’t store affected wood near your home or you may cause an infestation.
Making a simple saw horse as pictured is another way to make firewood cutting easy.
Allow enough time for wood to dry out before burning. Old dead wood that is simply wet needs a few weeks. Wood that is still green needs a full season.
If you have an old rain water tank lying around put it to good use by cutting it in half and turning it into a wood shed.
Safety is always the highest priority. Always use a tractor that complies with Australian Standards, including Roll Over Protective Structure, seat belt and protective covers. Only take on tasks within the capability of the machine and operator. Follow all relevant safety warnings, instructions and regulations. Wear appropriate safety equipment and use common sense.
* This article is a general guide only. Conditions vary from site to site. Judgement relating to your individual conditions must be exercised.