Logs, dogs and cogs

We gather logs like squirrels gather nuts – for the winter.  But logs are heavier and sad to report, Sal’s not getting any stronger.  So, we have had to adjust the BTU collection process somewhat to suit our fading abilities.  So, this is the ‘ropes-on-logs’ piece mentioned in the last blog.

Just a typical OTG article. I’ve written it before.  This the elderly couple version.

First step is to find a floater log.  To us, a floater is a freedom-seeking runaway from some logging camp up the coast that managed to slip away unseen in the night or during a storm.  Typically these rovers are pretty small in diameter and represent no major loss to the clear-cutter who falls all ‘fiber’ that is ‘in the way’ but who also knows the skinny pieces are barely worth anything.

But we like ’em.

The reference to ‘floater’ is defined by us as the amount of log floating above the surface. We can see high or low floaters from our lofty perch.  And we prefer high.

There are a lot of successful escapees out there on the beaches and afloat at high tide but some of them have been free a long time and they have become waterlogged.  A log almost fully saturated becomes a deadhead with only one end protruding above the surface. We ignore ’em.  They are simply too much work to deal with.  They eventually just sink. There are tons and tons of super-soaked cut trees on the bottoms of the channels and in large lakes with logging operations.  It’s an incredible waste.

Usually we can spot and corral a dozen or so 30-foot logs in a year.  A perfect harvest year is 20 logs averaging 10-12 inches in diameter.  The biggest might have a 14 inch diameter, the leanest comes in at 8 inches.  We have only had one perfect harvest year so that knowledge keeps us on the lookout.

In a cold year where the fire-in-the-stove first starts say, October 1, and remains on pretty steady through until May 1, we would burn approximately 600 lineal feet of 8 to 12 inch diameter wood.   I am guessing at three or so cords.  Since we are always more than a year ahead in our wood inventory, we can burn what we need and still have the next year half to fully ready.

But then we have to ‘get head’ of the curve again.  “Time to get in some wood!”

By the time we are ready to actually work…..well, Sal has usually spotted, chased, corralled, towed and tied up at least ten before we consider it worth the effort to get going fer-real……so she has already worked.  We will now have at least two days of work ahead of us.  First I go to the lagoon where the ‘little dogies’ have been tied up and cut them into ten foot lengths.  So, in this example we turn ten 30-footers into thirty 10-footers.  And that requires more rope-tying and herding and bunching.  That did not use to be the days work.  It is now.

We now have 30 ten footers at the bottom of the hill approximately 120 feet from the top of the hill where we need them to be.  The hill is almost a cliff at 35 degrees. If you fall from the top, you get hurt before you come to stop a third of the way down. It’s a steep hill and haul.

I have a DIY-type winch setup that I did not do myself.  My friend, Warren did it.  He ‘married’ a 5 hp Honda to an old winch and I bolted it to a made-in-place steel frame that I cobbled together at the top of the slope. Connected together with v-belts working like a clutch, I rev up the engine and engage the winch. The 120 foot cable rides on a block rolling along on a fixed-in-place highline. It will haul 500 pounds up the hill easily.  It can’t do 750.

But before the winch does it’s work, Sally has wrapped a choke on the log (a heavy nylon belt), and then, using a block and tackle lifts one end of it so that it is free of getting caught as it is dragged up the hill.  And therein lies the reason for cutting the wood into 10 foot lengths.  Sal can lift ten footers – from one end, the other in the water.  Even twelve footers in a pinch.  Fifteen footers have her just hanging off the rope with the log refusing to get off it’s butt.

And then we haul.  A few minutes later the log is at the top, I lower it with the block and tackle, roll it out of the way and send the line back down to Sal for the next one. Fifteen or half the inventory did not use to be a full day’s work.  It is now.  So is the second batch of fifteen.  With the frequent breakdowns from the jury-rigged contraptions, the work may be stretched over three or four days.

When we get all the logs to the top, we are about 1/3 done.  There is still dragging, bucking, carrying, splitting and stacking to get it put away but we leave a vacation of time before we get back on that job.  We tell anyone who asks, “Well, letting ’em dry, eh?”

Is it a horrible job?  Not really.  It is always a bit nerve wracking until we have enough logs gathered.  It is an increasingly difficult chore for Sal to block and tackle the logs up and dragging logs and bucking them is a noisy and tiring affair with wood chips everywhere – especially my socks.  But, generally speaking, it is just one of those satisfying chores where you start and work and, when you finish, you have something essential stored away for future use.  We think like squirrels.

The dogs in the title of this blog is the term given to the spikes we drive into the logs so that tying a line to the log is easy. The cog?..well…mainly I just liked three rhyming words in the title, but technically the winch is a bunch o’ cogs, so all three terms apply.    ,

12 thoughts on “Logs, dogs and cogs

    • Yeah, they are saying ‘snow’ soon. I can ‘feel it’ in the air, too. But that doesn’t mean it will be a really cold winter…still, it may not be a bad thing to get some snow-pack and all…kill some bugs, that kinda thing…
      We’re pretty soft, really. Three cords is full winter for us. Four on a really cold full winter. If we had a bigger house, if we hadn’t insulated well, if we had ‘staff’…that would all change. We have some nearby neighbours that lived in an old house for years while they built their own. They went through three wheelbarrows a day in the winter! And they were still cold! New house? Toasty.


      • I hear ya.
        My uncle wants to sell the old family farm house(built in 1865 and about as energy efficient as a 3 sided barn) and property.
        I’d love to buy it and gut the place( asbestos, lathe, plaster, exposed wire with ceramic insulators….a major job.) and rebuild over 5-10 years but I’d dread the relatives……

        Every fricking cousin, aunt, etc will stop by and put their 2 cents worth of annoying , useless suggestions all while tsk tsking what ever I do….
        Relatives, cant pick em…. cant get rid of them.
        Or do I let the place get sold off in an estate sale to someone who will bulldoze or burn it?
        Galls me to no end.


          • Yeah I talked to him today.
            70gs for the house, sheds, tractor, and 10 acres.
            Surrounded by farmland. Nearest neighbor is 2 football fields away.
            Possibility of buying up most of the farmland around and renting it out for hay, soybean, etc.
            It would be very quiet and private with more than enough land to hobby farm, bee keep, etc.
            I cant lose


  1. Lotsa work to get that wood up the hill ….let alone bucking it up…..
    I dont envy you.

    I talked to a friend in Quebec a week ago. He lives in rural Que.
    Snowing already.
    Last year was record setting warm and he only burned 4 cords.
    In a normal winter he burns 18.
    This year is shaping up to be an unusually cold one…..


  2. Our floating woodshed holds a bit more than a cord, but that will usually last us until about February unless it is really cold or if we don’t take a few suncations along the way. Once we get a bit of room we cut some more wood to stack in the front where the sun (if we get any) will help dry them out for later spring burning. So far it has worked well. We too get floaters, but we also have a full raft full of cedar decking from a neighbours cabin to cut up. It burns fast but hot and makes a good mix with our round pieces. Our friend John devised a hand winch and skid to get logs up on the cliff at his cabin. It was ingenious to watch him lift massive logs, turn them on a dime once up top, and place them where he wanted. If only we had those skills. – Margy


    • You do have the skills…it’s the mindset that is wanting. We have a friend out here who has lived alone most of his life in the forest. Whenever there is a problem I cannot even dream of solving, I call him. He approaches things from an outside-the-box, parallel universe perspective unhindered by even the possibility that there is an expensive machine-professional way of doing it. He just ‘invents’ stuff using rocks and Xmas trees and rope and always some kind of lever….somehow….and it works! Truly. It is a different WAY of thinking. NOT skilled in the able-to-make-violins or machined-steel kind of way. Just ingenious.


    • got to see the carnage “live”.
      People abandoning their cars in the middle of the road……everywhere.
      Fruit flies would have more common sense behind the wheel.


      • Lower mainlanders always seem to be shocked and awed by the first snowfall. But this time, it has been about five years since a white Xmas, no?


        • Yeah, I think so.
          It’ll be a green christmas for the Autobody shops

          ICBC rates goin UP UP UP….they now have their excuse.


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