If you've read the posts about last fall, you'll know that we jumped in half-assed, and didn't fully know what we were doing, not to mention racing against the freeze. So we ended up with a lot of log piles sitting on the ground, logs getting moldy, wet weather creating a lot of mud and slime, and Poplar's own natural tendency to turn black and slimy all on its own.
I had some real concerns about the condition of the logs we were stacking up, but we didn't have a whole lot of choice - as it was, we finished stacking and covering them in the snow.
Over the winter we have a lot of thought to how we would clean them up, and how we would do the Borax treatment. We did read about how some people trimmed the ends to clean up before they used them, and as you can see from the photo above, ours would really need that. So that eased our minds about not having gotten to the Borax yet because we'd be trimming off the treated ends anyway.
So this spring we bought a really good quality sliding chop saw (Scott is loving this project because it gives him practically free reign to buy tools).
We also figured out a set up using a drill with a nylon brush attachment to quickly and easily brush off all the dried crap, slime, ick and dead mold.
It's hard to see in the photo, but that log is a little fuzzy. The brush cleaned it off really nicely. We tried using just a regular scrub brush at first, but was clear by about the second wagon load, there's no way we could keep that up, even switching off jobs from time to time. So we drove to the Mercantile, and found the nylon sanding pad you see above. It did a nice job, but wore down in the second day. So, during the week, we went to Menard's and found a brush like this:
That works really slick, and the two we bought have lasted the rest of the job (for this year. More about that later). This is really easy and takes just a couple minutes to buzz off a log and toss it in the wagon for re-stacking.
In some ways, this process seems really stupid and at first I was kicking myself that we were so stupid in the fall, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the Poplar was going to do this anyway. Sure, there'd be less mud to knock off, but they were still going to go black and fuzzy, so we would have ended up doing all this anyway, most likely.
Also, as I look at the first rank of logs that we trimmed and cleaned over two months ago, I feel really good about the trimming, because the most those logs have done is turn a little more golden on the ends. So far, they don't look like they are going to turn black again. Now...who really knows for sure. But it kind of makes sense - now that they are dry, and don't have all those fresh sugars seeping out, there's just less stuff to actually TURN black. We'll see, but I'm feeling pretty good about it so far.
Here's how they look when we're done:
MUCH NICER, YES???
We came up with a pretty good assembly line style of trimming the logs, cleaning them and then hauling off to be stacked.
We even had my mom come up three or four weekends now, to help
(She also helped me put bigger fences around the fruit trees to help protect them from deer, and it seems to be working really well. The orchard looks great.)
For a little while, we had to pull the wagon of cleaned logs either by hand or with the lawn mower to the various places we were re-stacking the new logs. But after about 8-10 ranks moved, we'd cleared enough level ground - AND found out the guy doing the septic could get in around the back end of the stacks (not that he has actually done that yet) - that we were able to start stacking right there, so now we just have to pull the wagon a short way, and everything is working really slick.
We've gotten about half our logs cleaned, and recently, as we've taken stock of just HOW FAR behind we are, we figure we've probably already cleaned at least as many, if not more, than we can actually cordwood this year. So, we've eased up on that project. We're still picking our way through during this foundation time when there's not a lot else we can do, but we're not in a panic to get it all done before we have to start building. Which is really nice, because I want this project to be a fun journey, not a tense panicked rush.
Yesterday, Mom was out again and we hit the point we'd decided was our hard goal line - the point we had to get to before stopping or slowing down. That was the end of the rank on which we'd stacked all my peace signs. Those being logs that we split specifically to make the shape of a peace sign as an exploded log. (Which just means using the log ends in the same pattern but with mortar in between them to create a peace sign image)
With those all cleaned up (and now stacked back on one of the saw bucks so they are available at any time), we believe we have more than enough logs for the cordwooding this year.
The next step is to get them all treated with Borax and let that dry off in the next couple of months while we finish the foundation, timber frame and roof.
We had a nice long conversation about that with the guy who supplied our timbers. He runs a log home company, so he is always in need of protecting logs as well, and he highly recommended Bora-Care. I know that I've read about that product or similar ones in some of the cordwood books and blogs. Because we still have no water at the property, and were very concerned about how to get an actual Borax solution to properly dissolve, etc...we decided to give that a try and ordered a jug of it. It's more expensive than Borax, yes, but it was only about $120 and will make six gallons worth, which is plenty to do the logs we have ready. We will be doing that next weekend, so when I have some photos and an experience to report - I'll come and add them to this post so it's all in once place.