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Saying "No."

Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane

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Saying no has come up a bit recently. That time of year...
I sell firewood. So I realize there is an expectation that, I actually sell firewood.
Some will ask, "Do you have any firewood left?"
And in the summer, there is an added expectation, that firewood sellers also stack the firewood they sell to customers.

I used to stack at a few rental places that were managed, and they have had a lot of 1/3 cord deliveries for weekly rentals, fire pit burns.
Pretty easy right. Not so fast.
Some of them have broken down wood racks, tipped and tilted, way around back, and 1/3 full of rotten crap and uglies.
Some of them have hills, narrow paths, and stepped terraced yards.
Others wanted wood stacked on porches. Aside from the multiple steps, they had no idea how much a cord of wood is, size wise, or what it weighs.

I love "Doing firewood..."
No so much "Selling firewood." But that's changed. I've changed, seasoned maybe...the bark is loosening.
Now, I having made several foolish sight unseen commitments in the past, it's a blanket no to stacking.
Said more politely, "I no longer offer stacking."

As for selling, I have not sold firewood in a year, due to Covid and my copd.
I could have sold 14 cord this past week.
The answer is no to each person, I wish things were different.
If they don't take no for an answer, I tell them the truth.
I'm on The List, the "Oh Crap list, I have copd, a mild, chronic lung issue. Until I get a vaccine, no sales." (first shot scheduled for this Wednesday)
They offer to load themselves.
They offer to leave their trailer and pick it up later.
Their furnace is broke down.
They have wood but can not access it.
They just need a little.
I live on your road and drive by every day.
All good offers and comments.
But the answer is. "The answer is the same to everyone, and that is, no. I wish it was different."

If I say I'm sorry, then I feel bad... So I don't say I'm sorry anymore.
There is enough other stuff to feel bad about, like half the state of Texas this week without water, without heat. (excluding their politicians).
They say put me on your list and call me when your selling.
I don't do lists, but that's another two track dead end.

What am I actually sorry for?
If you heat with wood, and some still do, then am I sorry...you didn't plan ahead?
I'm sorry you made other choices when the weather was nicer? What ever those might be...
I'm sorry your furnace broke down. That's unfortunate of course. But you don't have any wood at all for your wood stove for a week?
I'm sorry you did not plan a head for winter? And you may have to buy bundled wood when you get your groceries?
It's 20 degrees out. You want me to go dig around in the snow quick a minute... and help you out?

I finally got the number for someone else on my road that sells firewood. He bought thirty acres and is putting up storage units a few miles from here. The land was cleared last spring. I was walking along the road, and driving by he stopped to talk. He said yes he is selling firewood.
The problem he has is, once the trailer is loaded, they can't pull it out.
They do have heavy equipment however to do so, but a pickup isn't going to do it 600' off road behind where they're working.
Yep, that's a problem. And I could have similar issues with my own new dump trailer. Maybe I should have chosen a gooseneck?
He gave me his number, which should shorten my phone conversations considerably.

And I have other real world excuses.
I wish there was a better word than "excuses".
My pallets will be froze to the ground until the Tulips come up.
Below twenty degrees I really dislike starting the forklifts diesel. There is no plug in, and for twenty minutes run time, it would never warm up. It is just hard on it. The battery doesn't recover well in the cold. I don't think my customers care about that. I'm thinking if I have winter breakdowns, I'll have to pass that cost to the customers. Another dead end.
I can't even see the pallets to find them with the forks. Yes I can dig each one out, but it's still froze down to a clump of dirt 200x the size of the moon.
The industrial tires pack the snow to a glaze. I need two walking sticks just to get to the machine the second day. If there is even a mild slope to the side, that's where I'm going, even with three wheel drive mode. Steering by gravity.
Add more snow, the rear steer wheel also being the primary drive wheel, I can't steer on a flat spot, unless the load on the fork carriage is completely sucked in. And the top tier of pallets needs full extension, plus 6' extension forks to reach. Sucked in with extension forks is not, sucked in. Me, trying to put the seatbelt on with carhartts is sucked in.
Not that anyone really cares about the particulars.

I have always sold out before winter hits, but I have typically seventy cord seasoning for the next year.
So previously, I'm sold out and what you see is not for sale, it's seasoning.
You have wood and it's not for sale? Me, "It's seasoning." That's like saying, "I'm watching... paint dry."
This is probably the same customer three month before wanted nothing short of "at least two year seasoned wood" for the price of raw logs, saying he is going to keep looking.
Who sells that? Really... (He passed on price, but there are those seekers)
In January/February they offer to buy green wood.
I don't sell green wood.
Now some folks just puff up and start crowing about how stupid that is, which is what, a persuasive argument?
Go start your own firewood business. You have some good ideas.... I've got wood to watch.

I'm speaking of the fringe.
95% of the people say, understandable, I've got copd too, good luck, enjoy your day!, I'll get back with you, or some such thing.
Which makes me smile...
The other 5%, just makes me smile...
 
dave_dj1

dave_dj1

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Don't put too much faith in the shot! I would sell the wood in a safe manner. Take CC over the phone, back up and dump, go back and load next load, no intermingling with clients. If CC doesn't work for you have them leave the cash in an envelope at the dump site, sterilize it when you pick it up, a quick spray should do it.
 
Big_Eddy

Big_Eddy

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Eastern Ontario
Typical phone call at this time of year
“I usually buy wood from Fred, but I seem to be a bit short. Would you happen to have any dry wood? I only need a 1/2 cord to get me through.”

What I hear
I never bought wood from you before and probably won’t again
I can’t plan my way out of a paper bag
You must keep your wood under cover, or it’s magic wood that snow and ice doesn’t stick to, cause dry in Feb is a laugh. (Seasoned and Dry are not the same)
I’m a cheap bugger and don’t want to buy a whole cord.
All of which I interpret as
“Please plow a path through 2 feet of snow as close as you can get to your pile, whack each stick loose from the massive frozen lump, pick it up and trudge over to the trailer one at a time through the snow to load. Then drag your trailer through sand and salt slop to our place to get stuck in the snow in our driveway (which has not been cleared) , all for about $50”

Saying No is easy enough

Now if it’s a regular customer, I will sell a full cord, after explaining that they will be paying a winter premium due to the extra effort required. Which they are always willing to pay.
 
Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane

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dave dj1:
You are correct, there are ways to deliver firewood safely.
The world does keep spinning.
My understanding is:
The shot does not prevent Covid.
The shot does not prevent transmission to or from a person.
So far, it is said to prevent premature death, if there is such a thing.

Big Eddy:
Spot on.
I have a lot of great customers. Each time they purchase I encourage them to buy as early in the year as possible, as first split in April is first out the following year. Which means if they are burning inside, the following winter they have six month additional seasoning to go, or 18 months total. If they buy n November, they are getting wood processed the November before. I'm usually sold out by November however. If someone actually heats with wood, I encourage them to buy twice as much the first year, and start keeping an extra year a head that way. Doesn't matter if they buy from me or not. Winters fluctuate a lot. We started burning very early this year, even though winter (snow) did not start until the well into January.

I have a great appreciation for those of you on this forum that make a living doing firewood, completely or as some portion of your income.

YouTube video of doing firewood probably makes way more coin than actually selling firewood. Especially those channels that get equipment donated to showcase. That's a pretty good deal all around. And it's a huge bump, as even used equipment has taken me years to acquire.

It's kind of surreal.
New shiny everything, every month. Tractors, attachments, splitters, conveyors, saw mills, trailers, and even buildings to put it in. All the latest thing they have wanted to try out. Makes it look pretty easy. They should all be wearing action figure capes and masks like Zoro, and the Lone Ranger... In truth I enjoy watching many of the channels, holding back a tinge of envy at moments. Then again, good for them. I've switched however, to RV channels, and live aboard sailors, couples exploring the world.

I have a small niche, and customers learn my irregularities. If it works for them, good. If it doesn't, they will find something that does.

No. And a short simple reason suffices.
Or, as with stacking firewood on site, a polite, I no longer offer stacking.
I do not have firewood for sale at this time due to Covid. I appreciate your call.
If they ask further, or suggest safe options, I agree with their offers, but until I get a vaccine, I am closed.
 
Ax-man

Ax-man

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Well said. I hear you because I have been there. I don't sell wood anymore because I have retired and I don't miss it one bit especially during the winter. I only did it because it did provide a little money around Christmas time and did help pay the small bills during the winter . I always thought of selling wood as a sort of working unemployment considering the time and effort it took to do a proper job at it to keep people happy .

I also hear what your saying about the You Tube crowd and for the most part agree with you. Getting views and subscribers is probably making more money than the wood does . I dunno. Selling wood as a hobby to friends, relatives or your neighbors isn't the same as being listed publicly as a wood seller. Also trying to make firewood from salvaged trees is much harder than going out in your private woods and and cutting down small straight little easy splitting Cherry trees and having all the toys to process it to make it look easy just isn't realistic to me.. Like so many others I never made enough money at doing firewood to buy any thing new except a nice log splitter. Anything else I bought was always used and abused.

I'll get off my high horse for now. I am probably looking at things from the wrong point of view.
 
ChoppyChoppy

ChoppyChoppy

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I've decided to just do it as hobby/side work after 10 years at it. May end up not even doing that.

Had some stuff happen this spring/summer... basically neevous breakdown/bipolar depression and it really shut me down.
The stress and 80hr weeks just isn't worth it for $15-20k a year "take home", especially when needing $75+k of equipment to make that $$.
I'm tired of living nearly like a college kid when I need to be able to put $$ away for retirement in ~20 years.

Plan to just load the truck when I feel like it and that load is for sale. No preorders, no holds, first come, first served.

Was -15* a few days ago and had several people wanting wood.
They seem to think it's like a fuel oil delivery or something.
 
Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane

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ChoppyChoppy: I completely understand.
I have had small personal loans specifically for firewood processing for the last seven years, and just started another. Pay it off and get something else. I bought the conveyor outright. Then a loan for the forklift. Then a truck for delivery. Paid for the SuperSplit. Loan for the TW-6. Loan for container. I spent double what I figured for a one-time use container, and doors both ends. Glad I did. Loan on the PackFix and netting. Now a loan on the dump trailer. These were all back to back, and not doing enough volume to cover completely. I also spent money building 70 cord worth of wood racks, and now switched to buying pallets. Had stumps grubbed out and hauled off. Crushed concrete brought in. Later a mud hole dug out and filled in the drive. And of course maintenance on the truck and equipment over seven years. Buying logs and building up 120 cord in inventory. I've never paid myself more than a couple hundred a year. Paid out $500. last year to get taxes done, including llc. Been paying state sales tax, so 6% off the top of each cord. I charge $300./cord. It's really $283. and tax (6%).
Having a loan payment is a choice. Means I can't do some things I might like to at times. I'm retired, and live pay check to pay check. I'm pretty lucky to have a retirement check in the mail each month to do so.
The cost of logs; cost of processing; cost of delivery; cost of taxes, maintenance, insurance, fuel, and an under valued product...doesn't leave a lot.
Starbucks, and premium alcohol. You make more buying stock in a lot of things.

Edit: The reason I have so much in stock this year is because I did not sell wood last year. The two year average will be 60 cord. The profit from 60 cord in sales does not pay off equipment very fast. The out of pocket keeps it going until I can hit 100 cord. Hopefully next year I will do 100 cord and do an early payoff. If so, I'll consider a processor.
I could have had one load of logs delivered yesterday, but two things. One, I drove 60 miles to get my first Covid shot, so I would not have been here. Two, he would have had to chain up to get out of here, to get over a 20" snow covered rise, a good size hump really. Not a big deal, as they put the grapple out riggers down and lift a drive axle, but no need to on/off chains.
It can wait.
 
rancher2

rancher2

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I haven't sold wood in around 15 years. Have sold a few loads of logs. Back when I sold a fair amount of wood for our area. I had a buddy and his boys help me and we cut on my farm. They sold wood too and his boys learn what hard work and money was about both good lessons. I was working nights in the city and would take a cord every night to work and unload in the morning so no extra trips to town. On the weekends after grain harvest we would load the grain truck and deliver to apartment complex's We made some good money back then. His boys grew up he moved and I slowly backed out of the wood business. Now days its all I want to get the 15 cord I need to keep my Garn going. Its back leaking and shut down so I might very well be completely out of the wood thing. Its funny even after all these year have past when we get a cold period like we just went threw I still get some calls for people looking for seasoned wood. Its simple to say no I don't have any.
 
cantoo

cantoo

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I had a guy wanting some firewood and asking about my firewood price, he figured that since I had bought a Processor I could sell wood cheaper now. Nope, he never bought wood off me and I doubt he ever will. Has a guy 2 weeks ago ran out of wood and needed wood right away. My pile is 1/8 mile at the back of my place and 2' of snow all the way. Took hour to put blower on ( 1st time in 5 years) and 2 hours to move snow, get conveyor setup and get trailer back there. Then hand load it onto conveyor. We sell by the trailer load (approx 3 face at 16") . My son pulls in to the guys place and he only wants 1/3 of it. If it was me I would have just driven away. My son made him pay for the load. That's it for the year no more firewood sales from me. It'll just be more seasoned next fall.
 
ChoppyChoppy

ChoppyChoppy

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ChoppyChoppy: I completely understand.
I have had small personal loans specifically for firewood processing for the last seven years, and just started another. Pay it off and get something else. I bought the conveyor outright. Then a loan for the forklift. Then a truck for delivery. Paid for the SuperSplit. Loan for the TW-6. Loan for container. I spent double what I figured for a one-time use container, and doors both ends. Glad I did. Loan on the PackFix and netting. Now a loan on the dump trailer. These were all back to back, and not doing enough volume to cover completely. I also spent money building 70 cord worth of wood racks, and now switched to buying pallets. Had stumps grubbed out and hauled off. Crushed concrete brought in. Later a mud hole dug out and filled in the drive. And of course maintenance on the truck and equipment over seven years. Buying logs and building up 120 cord in inventory. I've never paid myself more than a couple hundred a year. Paid out $500. last year to get taxes done, including llc. Been paying state sales tax, so 6% off the top of each cord. I charge $300./cord. It's really $283. and tax (6%).
Having a loan payment is a choice. Means I can't do some things I might like to at times. I'm retired, and live pay check to pay check. I'm pretty lucky to have a retirement check in the mail each month to do so.
The cost of logs; cost of processing; cost of delivery; cost of taxes, maintenance, insurance, fuel, and an under valued product...doesn't leave a lot.
Starbucks, and premium alcohol. You make more buying stock in a lot of things.

Edit: The reason I have so much in stock this year is because I did not sell wood last year. The two year average will be 60 cord. The profit from 60 cord in sales does not pay off equipment very fast. The out of pocket keeps it going until I can hit 100 cord. Hopefully next year I will do 100 cord and do an early payoff. If so, I'll consider a processor.
I could have had one load of logs delivered yesterday, but two things. One, I drove 60 miles to get my first Covid shot, so I would not have been here. Two, he would have had to chain up to get out of here, to get over a 20" snow covered rise, a good size hump really. Not a big deal, as they put the grapple out riggers down and lift a drive axle, but no need to on/off chains.
It can wait.

2018 and 2019 were my best years, did in the 350 cord area each year.

~12,000 miles each year on deliveries.

My take home after JUST covering the logs and fuel was less than min wage. Like $20k area for ~3500hrs of work.

After factoring maintenance on everything, paying a part time hired hand, wear on machinery (IE, each hr it's running it's further toward needing replacement).
It's less than 0.
Sure in real life it's not $0. But that's not factoring stuff like needing a new skid steer when it's reached 5,000 hrs, or truck tires after 4 or 5 years.
Or heaven forbid something major like a blown engine, or if I'm hurt and can't work for a while.

Enjoyed it, but have nearly nothing to show for it. I have a bit each month rom my VA pension and a roommate and that's prettt much been my "profit".

Have barely 5 digits into a retirement account.
Vehicles mostly 15+ years old, furniture in the house is falling apart, etc, etc.
60-80 hr weeks, 6-7 days a week.
Last "vacation" I took was 2 years ago for a funeral.

2020 I worked 3.5 months doing snow removal and made more there in 40hr weeks than a year of wood with 60-80 hr weeks.

I enjoyed it and I guess was able to I guess lie to myself that it was worth the hard work. That it'll improve with growth.

Looking at OTR jobs now. One I had lined up was 3 weeks out, 1 week home, but it fell through.

Another I'm working is 8 weeks on, 1 week home. Pay is around $50k after taxes 1st year. 5x what Im making with wood.
About the same hours, but at least mostly in a warm or cool cab. Not busting hump out in the sun, rain, wind, dirt, etc.

Haven't fully decided at this point to keep doing wood as a hobby or sell it all. Either buy firewood for my house or just heat with gas. Will depend on what I find for work.
Have considered moving out of state as well. Be closer to family.
 
Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane

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People assume at $300. a cord it is good money. Assumptions are just that, assumptions.
ChoppyChoppy...start a YouTube channel.
I'm 67, and besides flair ups of lung issues, often at in opportune times, my hip is telegraphing some hints at whether to keep doing this. It reminds me in the mornings, that the cord I did the day before weighs 5,800 pounds. That's why I rotate cutting/splitting; wrapping bundles; loading log decks. It's also why I got a dump trailer. But the truth is as ChoppyChoppy said, it's a lot of hours, it's a lot of equipment, it's a lot of money in and out, and not a lot of money left on the table. I just upped my delivery to $30. Time will tell if that's going to sell. The price of gas is going up quickly as well. Texas deregulation is costing everyone in the US that buys gasoline.
 

sb47

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When I started out I delivered with an added charge. Until I started running into all the pitfalls that netted me no extra money.
Then I changed to pick up only with limited hours from 10am till 5pm winter time and 10am till 7pm in the summer. "If you build it, they will come"
 
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