When I was a boy of nine or 10 in the mid-1950s, my father bought a heavy wooden manure spreader from a farmer who had it for sale. My father never got to use it much as it broke down right away and it was too obsolete to fix. My parents often spoke negatively about the man and never had anything to do with him again.
That incident stuck in my mind all the years I was growing up and instilled in me if you’re going to sell something, make sure it works well, that it’s in good shape and never sell anything that you’re not proud of.
Looking back at 50 years of farming, I never sent thin poor-looking animals to the livestock sales barns. If a cull cow was thin, she would be kept until she fattened up. Stockers were shipped when they looked their best and made me proud to see them in the ring. It always surprised me that some farmers would ship poor-looking rough cattle, and cattle with horns.
For many years most of my 350 acres of land was in hay and I sold a lot of hay. This is great hay country. The summers are usually dry in this area of Renfrew County and I would make hay from June until around Thanksgiving. I had different kinds of hay: hay for farmers with beef cows, alfalfa hay for dairymen and special dust-free hay for horses. Hay for the market was cured well before storing it inside my large sheds.
A school teacher I’d sold horse hay to for a few years was always pleased with the hay. Then one year he saw my large tightly baled beef hay and said he would take 10 of them to try. I told him the hay was baled directly from the windrow and not fluffed up and it could be a bit dusty. I will not sell that as horse hay, I told him.
He said he’d bring the hay back if it wasn’t suitable for his horses. “That’s why I will not sell you the hay,” I retorted. “It will give me a bad name if it’s dusty and you bring it back.”
He got mad and said he’d go and buy hay elsewhere and left with the empty wagon. I lost a sale.
That brings me to the point I want to make. For the past couple of years I cut firewood to sell from my small hardwood bush. I use the same principles when selling firewood as when I sold cattle, hay and machines I no longer use. I sell firewood that is dry (and dry on the inside) and stacked in tall rows in my sheds. If you want cheap firewood, I’m not the guy to call. I sell an excellent product and most of my customers come from a distance. Many come back every year.
The interesting thing is that most new customers are not out of firewood. They bought firewood from someone who said the wood was dry, and it wasn’t. I’d say 60 per cent of the calls I got for firewood this winter are from people who were sold damp wood. That’s a very sad fact.
Recently, a man called me who lives an hour and a half away. I asked why he couldn’t find firewood closer by. His answer was one I’d heard many times. “The wood I bought from a local guy looked dry on the outside but it isn’t dry on the inside.”
He needed dry wood for his sauna. I was able to provide that and he came the next morning for the wood, not minding having to drive such a long distance.
To season firewood properly, I use the same technique as drying hay — sun and wind. Place the firewood where the sun can warm it and the wind can blow through it. Sun and wind will dry your wood in one season. Season for a season!
Unfortunately, there are unscrupulous people selling firewood. Honesty isn’t just about being honest for the sake of it. Rather, honesty is a sign of respect. When you are honest, it means that you respect people you do business with.
Maynard van der Galien no longer sells hay but keeps busy in his firewood business, which he loves working at.