Green wood is that which is still alive, and by default is not dry; or is from a dead tree that has died but not yet fully cured.
There are plenty of reasons one would not want green wood. Most notably for a homesteader (or anyone with a fireplace, really), green wood is not good for burning in your stove–and it’s not safe either.
While all wood will burn, before curing wood is extremely difficult to get to burn. It’s hard to start on fire, and it’s hard to keep on fire.
One of the byproducts from the smoke is creosote. Creosote is a black tar-like coating that formulates from the resultant reaction of moisture from the green wood and the smoke. Creosote is highly flammable once a thick enough layer develops.
The creosote layer in your chimney can combust during a future fire, and result in a chimney-fire. A bad chimney fire can ruin your chimney, or even burn down your entire home.
The chances of this type of chimney fire can be minimized by using fully dried (or cured) wood. Fully dried wood may still result in a creosote build-up, but at a much slower rate that can be removed every year during your annual chimney cleaning.
So knowing all this, why would anyone want to collect green wood?
To Be Prepared
Although you aren’t going to be burning green wood the year you get it, you’ll have it for next year. Collecting green wood will help you stay ahead of your homestead chores.
Should a medical emergency, funeral, or other unexpected interruption occur next year, you won’t be worried about how you’re going to stay warm that winter.
To face an unusually cold winter
Most people know how much wood they need to get through a typical winter and that is the amount of (dried) wood they collect every year. But what happens when you have an unusually cold or long winter? (This has happened to us before.)
Did you know that at very cold temperatures, green wood will cure faster? Having a supply of it may result in wood that is burnable at the tail-end of a harsh winter when your cured supply runs out.
Because it’s easier to cut
Green wood is easier for your chainsaw to cut. You will put in less effort cutting green wood for the next year, than you will cutting cured wood for the current year.
If you stay in the habit of cutting enough green wood every year to get through the next winter, you are going to save some effort in your cutting.
To have less wear and tear on your equipment
Because green wood is easier to cut, you are going to have less wear and tear on your equipment. You may not save much in gas, but you will save some on bar oil. You will also sharpen and replace your chains less often.
Because it’s more accessible
Often times, getting to a living tree or a felled tree that has not fully cured is easier than getting to a fully dried felled tree. I am not advocating cutting down perfectly healthy trees just for the sake of doing so.
Think about a newly downed tree somewhere on your property. Most people might overlook it in pursuit only of getting dried wood to burn that year.
Do you have a neighbor who uses electric heat, but a wind storm knocked down one of their trees? This is a tree that is likely in a place you could easily get to that you neighbor probably doesn’t want.
To waste less
Trees and branches that are cut down as part of regular maintenance tend to get left where they are, or stacked up in a pile and left to rot.
If attention was given to these trees and branches as they were cut down (or fell down), they could be cut and stacked in your wood shed to dry for the following year. This, in effect, wastes less trees.
To clean up landscape
If you are blessed enough to own wooded property, then you know how land maintenance can quickly get away from you. Trees and/or their branches can grow into or fall on fences, become a danger to your home, become partially diseased, or develop other problems.
At some point, it is likely that you will come across a tree that needs to be removed, whether it be alive or freshly fallen. Leaving the tree on the ground is wasteful and could become a hazard. Having a plan to cut up and store the wood for future use is a responsible way to clean up the landscape.
To have less rot waste
It is easy to see a tree fallen on the ground and think to yourself, That will be a good tree for me to cut up next year. If you’ve said this to yourself in the past, then you know how easy it is to forget about that tree or not be able to locate it again the next year. A few years later when you find it, part of it has already begun to rot.
You’re likely to either pick a different tree, or only use part of this one, and now at least part of it has been wasted.
By collecting green trees as you find them on the ground, or trim/remove them out of necessity, your waste is minimal.
To help your neighbor
We have a neighbor who does not burn wood. However, this family has trees that have grown so large near the edges of their fields, that they are now interfering with the irrigation system. They must be removed.
Since we can burn this wood next year, it’s beneficial to both of us if we remove the trees for them.
Think about an elderly or disabled neighbor who has a tree threatening their house. Perhaps you have electrical lines in your neighborhood that are being threatened by trees or their limbs? Removing them now before they become a problem is an excellent way to help a neighbor or multiple neighbors.
To have another bartering tool
No homesteader can have enough supplies on hand when it comes time for bartering.
In active homestead communities, bartering is a way of life. Not a month goes by when we don’t have some large need of ours met by bartering in some way. Having extra wood on hand gives you a supply of something most everyone in your community will need each and every year.
While green wood will most likely not be used the year it is collected, it is highly beneficial for man and the environment to collect a year in advance. This serves as a way to maintain land and work smarter, not harder.