My husband and I live in a forest and enjoy harvesting our own firewood, although we call it “lumberjacking.” He does the cutting, and I do the hauling. You may think I have the easy job, but I have to haul all of the firewood uphill, and it is one steep hill!

Believe it or not, this is truly one of my favorite ways for us to spend time together. The weather outside is always cold, it is good exercise, and builds great camaraderie. At the end of the day, we have a big pile of firewood to get us through some grand fires.

If you cut your own wood on your land, fine, just use the chainsaw safely, use safety equipment, and never do it alone. If you do not have land with trees, always, always ask for permission and double-check boundary lines wherever you are. Standing dead trees are the best because they have had time to dry out and have not lain on the ground to begin rotting.

However, ensure they do not have nest holes or cavities before you start cutting. These are called “snags” and are very important for wildlife nesting, and winter cover. Next best are fallen dead trees. They also have had time to dry as long as they are not “punky” (soft and spongy).

I’ve had many wonderful experiences around a fire and cannot fathom living in a house without a fireplace. To me, a fireplace is the very heart of the house. Whether you are enjoying fires inside the house or outside around a campfire, you may want to be aware of some of the differences between the woods and the qualities they offer.

Most people know that if properly dried, hardwoods such as oak and hickory provide more heat because they are denser. (Contrary to popular belief, walnut does not burn well.) I found out this year that burning hardwoods is also best for your chimney flue. They create less creosote, thus reducing the chance for flue fires. If you buy wood, this alone may justify the price for hardwood logs.

Not only do hardwoods burn hotter, they also split more easily and don’t spark or smoke as much, making them safer and more enjoyable. Nothing is worse than sitting around a campfire that is smoking so much you cannot even enjoy it.

Although fireplaces create the charm we all desire, when it comes to adding heat to the home, they lose. In actuality, more heat goes up the chimney than into the room. Adding glass doors can help a lot, and a good fireplace insert can maximize your fireplace’s energy efficiency while still being able to enjoy the ambiance. For true heating, a good airtight wood stove is the way to go.

Remember, firewood is one of Missouri’s natural, renewable resources. There is a lot of satisfaction when you toss on the log that you cut. It is also the best way to make some good memories. I hope you are able to go lumberjacking some time with your favorite person. Then you can enjoy fires this year with family, friends, or just a good book.

Lynn Youngblood is the executive director of the Blue River Watershed Association in Kansas City, Missouri. You can reach Lynn at TheGreenSpace@sbcglobal.net, or follow her on Instagram at TheGreenSpaceKC.