Firewood Saga: Part 7: Mission Accomplished / Math Works

I’d started out with the intention of spending money to save time. Did I save time? Maybe, some. Not a lot.

I wound up making eleventy zillion phone calls to various dipshits who, inexplicably, seem to be in the firewood business without appearing to make much headway in the whole “sell firewood” arena. This is all you need to know in case you’re wondering why rednecks cut their own firewood.

I theorize the market is a mess due to three factors:

The first is the total dissolution of capitalist society, doubt me? Try to pay a doctor in cash. Then ask six insurance agents to explain how to insure a car. Then get on an airplane and realize everyone crammed in those uncomfortable seats paid a different fare. Prices, the signal of the market’s invisible hand, are terribly disconnected from their core product.

The second is an “industry” that is easy to enter and almost exclusively “inherited”. All you need is a skidder and a chainsaw, but everyone who owns a skidder got his first skidder from “grandpappy”. If it were any other way I’d buy a skidder, start selling wood, sell it in honest cords ’cause that’s the right thing to do, and have a new career.

And finally we’re a populace that has been trained by Costco and Exxon to assume that the guy who says he’s selling a “cord” is actually selling a “cord”. He’s not. One can verify “a cord” with a tape measure and 4th grade math but apparently I’m the first guy ever to do it. How a nation where six year olds play a mean game of monopoly turned into chumps… that’s a mystery.

At any rate I was willing, able, and eager to pay the going market price for firewood that was fairly measured in the official units of the product (cords). Instead I paid half price ($100) for an “industrial waste product” that was advertised as real firewood and sold in cords (but I only got a cord by standing up to a guy who probably rips off half the people he meets in a day).

A strange world indeed.

Remember that I was told nobody had “a fuckin’ clue” about a cord? Well the “cord in my truck/trailer was when I told the loader guy to call it quits. I wanted to buy what I’d been sold; a single cord.

A cord is 4′ x 4′ x 8′ = 128 cubic feet.

I went home and stacked the wood. Because that’s how I roll… I checked the results with a tape measure and crude geometry.

The “stovelength” wood was about 16″ long. My resultant stack was about 15′ long and a little less than 6 1/2 feet high. (It’s a stack of wood, not a brick wall, there’s some variation.)

If it had been exactly 6 1/2 feet tall that would have been a little more than a cord: (16″/12″)*15’*6.5′ =  130 cubic feet.

If it had been exactly 6′ tall it would have been a little less than a cord; (16″/12″)*15’*6 = 120 cubic feet.

I was a little less than 6 1/2′ tall so I call it as close to an exact cord as you can get. Yay me.

In the end, I bought from Frank, precisely what I’d requested and precisely what he’d promised. I’m sure he’s home fretting about it but that’s between him and his Scrooge tendencies.

A pony trailer loaded with chooped up bridge mats for use as firewood.

A pony trailer loaded with chopped up bridge mats for use as firewood.

Stacking firewood... the poor man's exercise machine.

Stacking firewood… the poor man’s exercise machine.

About Adaptive Curmudgeon

I will neither confirm nor deny that I actually exist.
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9 Responses to Firewood Saga: Part 7: Mission Accomplished / Math Works

  1. MSgt B says:

    Still miserable…
    Wandering around in Alabama with my “Damn Yankee” accent and living near enough to a large city obviously means I must be perfectly happy to pay upwards of $500 for a cord of wood.


    • Not part of the “social scene” eh? I can sympathize. I’ve move often. No matter where I move, the new round of rural hicks assume I’m a rich pretentious city asshole… even though I’m just a rural hick moving from nowhere to nowhere.

      $500 a cord is pretty much God’s way of tellin’ you to enjoy fossil fuels? At least you’re in the south, you’re not blowing the cost of a used car every winter just to keep the pipes thawed.

      I did notice that firewood seems to come with social cachet. Once I started stacking wood my UPS guy complimented me and the neighbors (who never stop watching noticed it). I was elevated to slightly less to be ostracized than before. Also, I never use the word cachet locally.

  2. Joel says:

    Fourth factor: A cord of wood that originates from actual trees that you actually need to cut down, cut, season, split and stack is worth a lot of work, as you well know. Frank got off easy. He was selling waste material he’d have had to pay somebody to haul off, and he probably never touched a saw. I’d refuse to go near the job for $180 a cord unless no other paying work was ever coming my way again. Then I’d do it, but I’d whine.

    The going rate for firewood here is $350/cord, and even at that price I’ve seen every dodge you described. A “cord,” to some, means a pile in a pickup – no matter the size of the pickup. Or it’s stacked loose. Or it’s green. All the tree-shaped firewood around here is either local juniper or pine from cutting leases in a national forest and it still goes for nearly twice what you pay for hardwood because that’s what there is – also what there is is so small that you need to cut a lot of wood to make up a cord. Two years ago I was offered $300 for a cord of seasoned juniper, and it’s the only paying gig I ever refused. I know my limits, and an honest cord of juniper is a helluva lot of work.

    Loved your story.

    • Damn… $350 would put me on a diet of fossil fuels. On the other hand almost any price is still too low to justify shipping wood (which is heavy stuff). Wood and water; it’s a desert thing.

      Even here, where wood is coming out of our ears and I can barely keep the forest from overtaking the lawn, it’s a hell of a lot of work to cut a cord. Even more so because I work alone. Every now and then a particular chunk of wood or angry tree or stuck equipment will make you wish you had an extra pair of strong arms. Provided nobody is a lard butt… which will be sorted out right quick.

      The pricing thing is mysterious to me. I don’t know if otherwise honest people are induced to pull bullshit with firewood or if firewood sales attracts jerks. Nor can I tell if this is a recent thing or been that way forever. You’d think an honest dollar for an honest product would be good enough.

  3. cspschofield says:

    Do you have reason to think the former mat will burn less well than wood purpose-cut for burning? Just curious. I’m not an enviroweenie, but one of many reasons I despise them is that by babbling certified bullshit on a variety of topics they have rendered common sense (like re-purposing/Recycling those materials for which it makes sense) socially toxic. You can’t talk about whether it makes any goddamned sense to “recycle” paper (it mostly doesn’t) or whether some clever form of re-use is better than whatever Sierra Club Approved method of disposal the High Priests of Gia endorse.

    Let us know how it burns, eh?

  4. Ruth says:

    Pretty much everyone here sells firewood by the face cord instead of a full cord. Whats screwy is that they advertise it as a “cord”, but its priced as a face cord. I don’t get it, but as long as they’re not going to charge me a “full cord’s” price for a face cord I’ll take it. Oh, and for once Upstate NY is apparently on the low end of the price range, running between $60-$80 for a face cord!

    • I don’t mind paying for a face cord to buy a face cord. By my reckoning a face cord is 1/3 of a full cord when you’re using 16″ stove bolts (which is common) and 1/2 for the folks with outdoor boilers who like 24″ bolts.

  5. Southern Man says:

    Hmmm. Wood here (it’s soft wood, mostly pine and such) is basically free for the work (Craigslist is full of “Free firewood if you cut ’em down yourself” postings) and if you keep your eyes open there are woodpiles at the curb where someone took an old tree down or where the utility folks have trimmed around the power lines. It’s enough of a glut that the tree-trimming services often give it away rather than try to sell it. Mulch is also free, the utility tree-trimming trucks will dump a couple yards in your driveway if you just ask them when they’re in the area. Of course then you have a couple of yards of mulch in your driveway…

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