Homesteading and Livestock

Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.

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Make Use of Fallen Trees With a Wood Mill

7/19/2013 9:01:00 AM

Tags: lumber, wood mill, Bruce and Carol McElmurray, Colorado

Authors Bruce and Carol McElmurray used a wood mill to make new steps for their home.Being a homesteader means that you are self-reliant, can make do with what you have available and sustain yourself mainly by your own efforts. A good example of homesteading is our purchase of a wood mill to make use of the standing/fallen dead trees we have on our property. We have put our home up for sale, and I would not sell it with a set of steps that would have to be replaced in a few years. That is just my nature, and if I were the purchaser, I would not want to replace steps — I don‘t believe anyone else should have to consider doing that either. Our steps going down to the room over the garage were starting to show some wear and would certainly need to be replaced in a few years. It was time to put in a new set of steps. Total time from log to finished steps was three days working at my leisure only part of the day when it was cool.

Our property has many large fir, spruce, pine and aspen trees that seem to die on occasion or blow over in a wind storm. One at the other end of the property blew over in a wind storm last fall, and, being the conservationist I am, I could not allow it to go to waste. So I cut it into 8’ and 10’ sections and set up the wood mill. In about an hour and a half, I had plenty of lumber to replace the aging steps, and still had lumber left over. The wood mill is so efficient, in no time I had the lumber needed for the project. Nothing goes to waste as we have people who covet the residual culls for firewood. 

From the log to the lumber to the project itself — all was accomplished in no time at all. If you can’t afford a wood mill but have available trees, you can contract someone with a mill to convert them into lumber for you. If you have a neighbor or friend with a mill, maybe you can exchange services to produce some lumber. Building lumber does come from lumber yards, but it all starts with trees. When they blow over or die it is wasteful to allow them to remain on the ground until they rot. We have built a garage, wood shed, picnic table, deck, support timbers, board walk, furniture, garden boxes, fences, and now new steps with the help of our wood mill. I like this particular wood mill because it breaks down and stores easily, is easy to put up and take down, and does not require much space for storage. I can take it to the tree if the log is too big to move. Coupled with the fact it will cut precise lumber, its speed and efficiency are bonuses that make it a practical homestead investment. It paid for itself in no time at all, and the lumber it produces in my opinion is superior to commercially produced lumber. I treat my lumber with wood preservative and paraffin paint to protect it from the elements. If a board or two has to be replaced in the future, it is no problem to set the mill up again and cut a precise board replacement. All I need is another log from a downed tree, which we never seem to run out of.  

I consider this a perfect example of being self-sufficient and using the materials available much like we used the native stone as a stone exterior on our home. The material was readily available and there was no cost, so why should it go to waste? In the case of lumber, I can mill the lumber to the precise size I need and don’t have to compensate for nominal sizes. While I was purchasing nails to finish the project, I heard the sales clerk tell a customer that a 2-by-4-by-8’ was $3 per board. That would be a nominal size 2-by-4, and mine are actual size; I don’t have to sort through a stack of lumber trying to find one that is straight. I also don’t have to drive to town to purchase lumber. I don’t believe the project cost me more than $12 total, including nails and cement for the posts. My mill has paid for itself many times over. The 13 HP Honda engine will run for many hours on a gallon of gasoline, thereby producing each board for just pennies. These examples seem to demonstrate modern day homesteading and self-sufficiency at its best.   

For more on Bruce and Carol McElmurray and modern day homesteading, go to and

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