Foraging for Firewood
Free fuel for Solid Fuel Stoves & Open Fires
For ease of work's sake, the contest between having Open Fires, Wood Burners, Rayburn's or even Aga's and Electricity or Gas is a no brainer, a flick of a switch compared to emptying out Ash, preparing a fire and keeping it going is far more tempting - and cleaner on yourself, but when it comes to frugality, the tables are turned and solid fuel rules the day.Why? because if you live somewhere with access to a wood, or pass one every day on the way home from work, there is free fuel in abundance.
There are very many roadside woods or rough land areas which aren't managed and these are a wealth of fallen trees and branches. You're in Frugal Heaven!!
Sure a good fire will need some coal or smokeless fuel to keep it going, but by using the coal as a base, then throwing the odd piece of wood on here and there, you're saving money.
Wood from two trees cut down over the Lane
Last Winter (2011 - 2012) I got through from October to mid March on £120 worth of smokeless fuel for the Rayburn and £40 of coal for the Sitting Room. This was done by collecting all the rest from around and about. The equation was £24 per month, £5.70 a week, less than £1 a day.
Even if you're not getting the larger wood, a pkt of Kindling from a Garage or DIY Store will cost you about £3, enough to last maybe 5 days. To do the same I can gather enough twigs from a wood in less than 10 minutes - That in itself can save over £100 !
Another option for kindling is to call in at a Roofers Yard and forage off them!!. They will often have loads of beading from an old roof. It's the old 'if you don't ask you don't get' and many of these places are just going to have a big bonfire anyway.
I gather my wood into three categories; very small (kindling), medium (putting on above kindling and giving it enough flame before the Coal base and logs.
With logs I'm lucky, the people in the house opposite are always controlling their woodland and many a tree is cut down and left to rot. I just take them, trim them, find a chainsaw and hey presto, I have heat! Needless to say they need to be weathered for a while first.
The best logs from more common trees for burning are
APPLE - Great, probably the best, burns slowly, good heat and usually no spitting
ASH and BEECH - Similar slow burning, but watch out for knots which will spit
BLACKTHORN (very common) - Slow burning, lots of heat, little smoke
HAWTHORN - Same as Blackthorn
The above applies more to Open Fires where spitting and smoke needs to be avoided more, in a Rayburn such as my 1952 model, almost anything will burn because it's closed in of course. If in doubt, ask a Coal Merchant or someone else in the know.
Lastly, the other and probably the greatest benefit of collecting your own fuel is the exercise and oneness with the countryside you are going to achieve. There is nothing I like better on an Autumn's day to wander down to the woodland nearby and gather my treasure; it gives you time to think, to see things you may normally miss and be in the knowledge that any creature watching will give you a bit of respect for like them, using the resources around you.