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THIS GATOR EATS WOOD

alligator chain saw tool on top of wood logs

AS THE JAWS TAKE HOLD AND GRAB THICK BRUSH, tree limbs and large branches, the chain saw cuts through the wood. This handy tool is appropriately named The Alligator. If the landscape at your home or business is cluttered with trees and shrubs, you need to know how this Alligator can help maintain your property.

While the tool is great for managing your tree-trimming and foliage needs, it also cuts up firewood too! I use it specifically for cutting kindling wood for all my fires. It is not often I recommend products to my friends, but I have had successful experiences with using this tool. I’m proud to recommend it as one of the most practical and handy tools in my arsenal.

The Alligator offers (2) options for power: battery-operated or the electric (AC) model. I ‘ve owned the battery version for years and the tool still kicks butt.

THIS IS WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE and alongside some of its work. As you can see, it really can saw cut larger branches up to 4” in diameter. I’ve cut even bigger limbs with it but it’s best to know when to use a chainsaw.

The Alligator with saw cut firewood

THIS IS WHY I BOUGHT IT:

I needed a portable tool that would cutup small branches, logs and trees on my property…WITHOUT HAVING TO POWERUP MY CHAINSAW.

It really comes in handy for the aftermath of a storm, or heavy winds and rain. With the bad weather, I often find large branches blocking my driveway or cluttering up my yard…the alligator to the rescue! The Alligator is conveniently more capable of cutting up the smaller, fallen debris.

THE ‘PROS’ CLEARLY OUT-NUMBER THE’CONS’

Here’s an honest take on using my Alligator…

The PROS

SAFETY first – the chain is protected by metal guards on a retractable jaw that moves in co-ordination while expanding/retracting the handles. It also protects the chain allowing for easy storage or for when not in use. Another important safety feature is you need 2 hands grasping the unit at the same time in order for the chain to move.

CONVENIENCE – Grab and go. I always have a need for the Gator somewhere in my yard and at any given time I can simply grab the Gator and get the job done. No need to spend time gassing-up my chainsaw and donning all my safety clothing and gear.

LIGHTWEIGHT – I find I can use this tool without getting fatigued. It’s easy to transport to any location whether it’s in the woods or out your backyard as it can be tossed in the back seat of a car or truck or easily strapped to your ATV.

CUTS SIDE TO SIDE TOO – With a scissors-like action, there’s no more dulling the chain by hitting the dirt. The pic below demonstrates how I cut short, stubby tree trunks close to the ground. Also, it’s easier to cut and trim branches from a tree using this method.

Saw cutting trees/brush close to the ground

PATENTED – Black and Decker patented the jaws on the Gator and rightfully so. The clamping jaws work very well at grabbing and holding limbs, larger branches and even small trees making for an easier cut.

QUIET- I own a few chainsaws, and while they do have more power than the Gator, they are much louder too…not so with the Gator.

KINDLING WOOD – This is one of my favorite uses of the Gator. I often gather kindling wood for my fires, whether they are indoors at the wood stove or outdoors at the fire pit. The Gator is perfect for cutting up small branches and limbs for use in fires! Below is a pic of me cutting dead branches off a Hemlock. I use the branches to start my fires, plus I remove the hazard of branches protruding on the property.

Cutting small limbs for kindling wood and safety

The CONS

*The chain is a bit cumbersome to remove/replace. But like a chainsaw, the more times you do this, the more efficient you become.

* If using the battery-operated version of the Alligator, it may be necessary to purchase (2) battery packs (more $$$) in order to make sure you don’t run out of power.

       *If using the electric model, you are restricted on how far you can use the tool and of course you will then have to deal with the cord. I would recommend the electric model if you plan to use the unit close to an AC outlet near your home/garage etc.

The electric model gets great reviews on Amazon…a 4 ½-star out of 5 rating! CHECK IT OUT HERE.

FINAL WORDS FOR THE BLACK and DECKER ALLIGATOR

I totally agree with all the positive ratings it receives, in fact, it’s an AMAZON’S CHOICE (See it HERE). Even if you own a chainsaw (I have a few), I still highly recommend this tool, as it really stands on its own for cutting smaller limbs and branches. The jaws of the Gator are the trick – they grab and hold the wood while making the cut.

I am always happy to recommend a quality product that I personally own knowing it could be helpful to my friends and fellow wood burners. So I’ve done some homework and researched pricing for the Alligator. I’ve concluded one of the best deals (including free shipping) can be found HERE.

Happy saw-cutting.

Be safe.

BZ

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BEAT THE BOREDOM BLUES Feed Your Inspirational Fire!

orange and red flames of fire

10 Activities for Having Fun

During these unprecedented times there’s so much worry: our health, family and friends…our future. As we continue to stay at home as much as possible, why not use the time to improve our physical and mental well-being?

KEEP YOUR SANITY!

Try engaging yourself in some type of creative adventure while waiting for life to return to normalcy.

Your spare time is a gift. Use it productively!

Use the list below as a guide and make a commitment to having fun.

1. START A NEW HOBBY – BE CREATIVE

hands on table painting flowers in watercolors
Discover something new about yourself

Fishing, golfing, knitting or painting. The list is endless. You may discover a hidden talent!

2. WRITE A LETTER

…a simple text message or email will do.

Keep in touch with family and friends or even better, contact an old acquaintance. Let them know you were thinking of them…make their day.

3. WATCH A MOVIE

…and more! Don’t forget there’s some great documentaries and concerts available too. What better way to experience a ‘live’ show but from the comfort of your own living room.

4. SPEND TIME OUTDOORS – TAKE A WALK  

mom and son walking along path through woods with sun shining
Teach. Learn. Enjoy.

Breathing fresh air is not the only benefit of time spent outdoors. There’s so much more to see and experience when being outside. A simple walk through your neighborhood or a local park can be invigorating. Take the kids on a hike through a State Park and let them experience firsthand, the beauty of nature and wildlife.

5. TRY A NEW RECIPE

chef squeezing juice onto exotic foods cooking over an open fire
Open fire cooking of exotic foods

Whether you’re grilling outdoors over an open fire or using the microwave in the kitchen…try cookin’ up something new. Search through that recipe box or take a chance with an online recipe. Either way, stepping out of your food comfort zone could be a pleasant surprise for your taste buds. Have a s’mores for dessert!

6. START A HOME PROJECT – DE-CLUTTER THE GARAGE

Since you’re going to be home for a while, why not save some money and paint the house or at least one room. Remodel the bathroom or install a new kitchen floor. Cleanup that garage and you’ll be sure to find things you forgot you owned!

7. GARDENING – LANDSCAPING

plants and vegetables in  a raised garden
Eat what you grow

Enjoy the fruits of your labor…literally. There’s something about planting seeds and watching patiently as Mother Nature brings to life wonderful, fresh foods. Add trees, plants and foliage to your landscape. It’s not only great exercise, but it also adds value to your property.

8. READ

With all the gadgets available today, there’s no excuse for not reading. Your cell phone, a tablet, Kindle, ipad, laptop and yes, an actual book – they all offer a means for becoming engaged with words. Be captivated by an action thriller or fall in love with the characters of a romance story. Reading reduces stress!

9. EXERCISE

girl on yoga mat exercising
Exercise – good for both mind and body

Keep your body (and mind) active (and lose a few pounds too). Starting a simple routine such as stretching in the mornings and at night before bedtime has been proven to improve muscle tone and mental awareness too! Do something healthy for yourself.

10. START A FIRE

feet with sandals by a roaring wood fire on beach
Dream…

Relax, unwind and become inspired…enjoy the dancing flames of a fire.

When you’ve had enough of the bad news from the TV and things seem to be out of control, stop and make the time for a bit of slow living and enjoy the companionship of a traditional wood fire. You’ll feel compelled to dream, escaping from the stress of the day. Nothing beats the familiar crackle of an open fire and it gets even better when you’ve got the camaraderie of friends and family to share it with.

So there you have it…no more excuses for boredom, only ideas for inspiration!

Keep your mind healthy and active by trying new things. Hopefully they may serve as a foundation for other beneficial activities.

What other ideas are there for spending time creatively? Feel free to share. I would love to hear from you.

Enjoy your spare time. Use it wisely.

Stay safe,

BZ

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UNUSUAL TIPS FOR STACKING FIREWOOD – Plus one awesome benefit!

firewood neatly stacked

If you burn wood for heat or food, you need to respect your wood supply.

Whether firewood is delivered to your homestead, or if you’ve taken on the task of cutting and splitting yourself, the wood needs to be stored properly for it to burn efficiently. It’s not just wood. It’s a fuel, an energy resource, a precious commodity.

I have 2 simple goals when stacking my firewood

First, the wood needs to dry as quick as possible

Second, the wood stack has to be sturdy and never fall apart

I also follow these simple rules

1. Provide adequate ventilation to the wood

2. Keep it free from moisture and off the ground.

3. Stack where it receives sunlight.

4. Allow for easy access to the pile.

But there’s much more to consider…Below are a few guidelines that will help you get the best from your supply. I’ve included a few unusual tips that I use consistently with excellent results.

1. Stack the wood in narrow rows, one stick wide. This allows more wood surface to be exposed.

               a. Have the row stacked east-west, so that one of the long sides is facing south. Sunlight greatly helps in the seasoning process.

               b. Wooden pallets are a good choice for holding your wood supply. I cut my pallets in half with a hand saw. This allows me to line them up end to end allowing for long, narrow firewood stacks.

long pile of stacked firewood on pallets along treeline
Single row of firewood stacked on wooden pallets

2. Make separate piles for lopsided, chunky odds and ends. Be selective when stacking the logs.

stored pile of odds and ends of split wood on wooden pallets
Stored pile of odds and ends of split wood

3. Know what wood species you are dealing with. Some hardwoods take much longer to season than others.

               a. Make notes of when the wood was cut, of what species and when it was stored.

               b. Don’t mix green wood with seasoned wood. Keep track.

4. Stack in a place where prevailing winds can pass through the widest part of the wood pile.

5. Be careful if stacking between trees. If you do, make sure to provide a good base for the firewood.           

a. Remember that trees move and that will definitely affect the stability of your pile.

Firewood stacked between two trees on a wooden pallet
Pallet providing a good base for storage between trees.

6. Protect the wood from the elements. Rain and snow will not only soak your supply, but wreak havoc on its stability too.

               a. At the least, always cover the top of the woodpile and keep the sides open for ventilation.        

               b. I cover my rows with a piece of plastic that folds down each side, covering one or two layers of wood. With this method, I’m always sure to have sticks that are completely dry and read to burn. Plus, with the plastic down over the sides, it’s easier to secure the plastic to the ends of the logs. I use small tacks.

               c. If you haven’t anything to cover the wood, at least make sure the top few layers of the stack have the firewood’s bark side facing up. The bark will help deflect rain and snow.

Plastic cover keeping top layers of wood dry.

7. Keep all firewood stored off the ground. Moisture and mildew are more likely to attack from the ground up.

8. Don’t stack it, build it! There’s nothing worse than having to re-stack a pile that toppled over! Try this: Get yourself a 2×4 and a 2’ level. After every few layers of wood, step back and give your pile a visual and use the 2×4 to knock in sticks that are way out of place. Then use the level, at various locations, to make sure the stack is straight and plumb.  Check your stacks often.

MORE TIPS BELOW…keep reading

9. Support both ends of each row of wood. Two vertical supports, spaced approximately 10” apart will stabilize the logs more effectively. I’ve used one support in the past and it just doesn’t cut it. One support allows the wood to move…because it will.

2 rows of firewood supported by 2x4's on the ends
Two supports for more stability

10. Use the ‘cribbing’ method for stacking. It may take longer to build, but the benefits are more than worth it. Here’s how: Lay the first row of sticks side by side to each other (I usually use 4 pcs.). Then add another layer of sticks but perpendicular to the first. Keep adding layers this way, while being selective as to keep each layer as flat and even as possible.

Stacking this way offers 2 benefits:

               a. The wood will season quicker, as there is more surface area exposed to ventilation.

               b. The columns, when built properly, become self-supporting. Even better, the columns can be used as ‘bookends’ for long rows of wood, eliminating the need for end supports.

Piles of  firewood stacked on wooden pallets using the cribbing method
A sturdy method for stacking

11. Woodsheds and open structures offer the best storage locations. This is my ultimate location for storing firewood. It meets all the criteria for seasoning wood effectively. It offers a reliable cover, open sides for ventilation and you have better options for re-stocking. Plus, the firewood is all in one location.

HERE’S THE AWESOME BENEFIT…

Fun and good times with family and friends!

That’s right. Use the stacking task as a means for bringing family and friends together. It’s possible an entire family can take part in storing the wood supply. After all, most of them will eventually enjoy the comforts of the wood heat or at least the inspiring flames from the fire!

Look at it this way, a large pile of wood sitting recklessly on the ground is an invitation for… fun. Plan a wood-stacking party and enjoy the camaraderie. When the party is over, the memories of good times will live on as you admire, with pride, each time you walk by your stacked work of art.

Each and every split log of firewood holds much more than energy for burning…it’s a library of enjoyable memories.

Happy stacking!

BZ

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START A WOOD FIRE IN 3 MINUTES! HERE’S HOW

campfire wood burning flames

This fire-starting method will work for all wood burners using a woodstove, fireplace, outdoor firepit or campfire. Where ever you enjoy the flames, get them up and running without a hassle.

But why start the fire so quickly? What are the benefits? Is it safe?

What sensible reason could any person have for starting their fire in 3 minutes or less?

In all my years of burning wood for heat, food and fun, I’ve created a lot of fires. In that time, I discovered a technique that enabled me to get a fire going as quickly as possible, hot with flames, indoors or out. And my reason? I wanted HEAT or FOOD, or I was simply impatient for FUN while waiting for a fire to take hold.

CONSIDER THIS…

You get home from work, you’re tired and the house is chilly. You need a fire started in your woodstove…like NOW.

You are on a camping trip and your family is hungry and cold and they need a fire to sit around…they want it…NOW

ALSO,  DON’T FORGET ABOUT THIS…   Survival!

FIRE-starting is an essential survival technique for which EVERYONE should have some knowledge. Fire can purify water, cook food, provide warmth, light and more. If you are ever in time of need, knowing how to start a fire can be a matter of life and death. 

Ok, I get it. If you’re starting a fire for the only reason of having ‘fun’, like in your backyard firepit or Chiminea, well then, have at it. Enjoy. There’s obviously no pressure to get that fire blazing as quick as possible, after all, half the fun of a fire is watching how its various stages evolve.

But if you’ve got other stuff to tend too, fussing with a fire is just wasting your precious time… You’ve got better things to do.

KNOW THIS…

The first few minutes of starting any woodfire are the most crucial and potentially the most frustrating. It’s a process that must be respected and should never be rushed, as a wood fire needs time to take hold and grow in stages.

But there IS a way to get your fire heated up in a rather quick manner, and without the constant tending and feeding that seems to be the norm for firing up a wood pile.

SO HERE IT IS

…my ‘go to’ method for starting a fire that not only burns efficiently, on its own, but also eliminates the frustration that often accompanies the chore of starting fires.

FIRST – THE ESSENTIAL MATERIALS (You’ve got to have these on hand)

Essential Materials

1. Your actual fire starter…a match, a lighter, a flame!

2. Tinder…newspaper

3. Kindling…various sizes/diameters

4. Small pieces of split firewood

5. Larger pieces of firewood

Does this sound like a lot? It isn’t! It’s what you normally would use to get a wood fire going anyway, right? Just make sure all the materials are dry, dry, dry! No moisture allowed. This is important.

SO HERE’S THE TRICK…

It’s all in how you ‘arrange’ the materials that will make or break whether your fire evolves into wondrous, glorious flames…or not

Below is my time-tested method for building a fire that starts every time, with little to no maintenance.

Here’s how I build ‘the house’

Once you’ve got the everything in its place, put a spark to that bad boy! I light the paper in a few different spots but definitely light the top and bottom rolls first. This way it will burn from both areas and surprisingly, this method seems to create less smoke too.

Of course, no one situation is exactly the same as another, so you may have to adjust for some of the materials and/or the way you stack them. But the basic method is there to work from.

Here are some benefits…

Once you get the hang of this method, you will be using fewer materials to start your fires, less smoke will be present, and it if you are doing things right, you won’t be fussin’ around as much every time you start your fires. Plus, because using this ‘boxed’ foundation method, the fire has less chance of falling apart while making it easier to ‘stack on’ bigger logs as the fire gets hotter.

REMEMBER, WITH NO FIRE

…there’s no heat for warming our bodies – no cooked food for hungry appetites – no camaraderie around a campfire. So get that darn fire started as quick and safely as you can – the kids want to roast marshmallows!

Burn safe!

BZ

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