"Just a few years ago our lives looked pretty different," says Kaylen Janes. Back in 2014, she was working full-time in the environmental and mineral exploration industry while her husband Luke worked in the oil field - both jobs that required frequent travel. But these days, their work is firmly rooted in the ground since they became the proud owners and operators of Firewood Factory, a certified wood vendor located on Torbay Road in St. John’s, NL.
The seed was planted two years ago, when the couple welcomed the birth of their son. When Kaylen’s maternity leave ended, the couple decided it was best for their young family if she stayed home. Luke took on the mantle of breadwinner, while Kaylen did consulting work from home and cared for their child.
“That situation worked well for several months but then, unfortunately, due to the downturn in the oil industry, [Luke] was laid off. And anyone who knows my husband knows that he finds it difficult to sit still,” says Kaylen. “So the unemployed phase didn’t last very long before he was pitching an idea to me: that we should start a firewood business. And here we are today.”
Firewood Factory sells wood at its woodlot on Torbay Road, online at firewoodfactorynl.com, and occasionally at the St. John’s Farmers Market. They also deliver to the Northeast Avalon but can also help arrange tractor trailer load deliveries throughout the province.
For Luke (pictured here as a child), the new career brings back fond childhood memories.
“I’ve always had a liking for it. I’ve enjoyed cutting it and I’ve enjoyed splitting it and found it relaxing,” says Luke. “Anyway, it eventually just evolved from a hobby to a profession.”
But not just anyone can grab an axe and march off into the woods to cut down trees for a living. Kaylen and Luke did their research and in early 2016 bought equipment from a firewood company that was shutting down. That same week, they applied for a Timber Purchase Licence and started the Firewood Factory. Since then, they’ve been putting in long hours to make the business grow.
“We’ve been working over the last eight to nine months to retain a lot of the customers from the previous owners, but also to attract a whole new customer base within the Northeast Avalon,” says Kaylen.
Like any new business, Kaylen says they’ve had growing pains in their first year, but she says growth has been steady and they are continuing to attract new customers. The couple hopes to further that growth and be able to support their family entirely on firewood.
Perhaps because the cost of electric home heating is predicted to rise in this province over the next few years, there have been many people dropping by Firewood Factory’s lot looking for a cheaper way to heat their homes, says Kaylen.
For now, it’s just Kaylen and Luke working at the Firewood Factory, and in many ways, they make the perfect team for this particular business.
“My husband, he used to work offshore, so he’s very mechanically inclined. So he manages all the outdoors side of the business, in terms of cutting the wood and delivering the wood and maintaining all of our equipment,” says Kaylen, whose past career involved knowledge of forestry management, making the new venture a natural fit. (She also manages finances, marketing and web presence for the business.)
“It gave me that background on how the forestry resources in the province are managed and how the annual allowable cut is determined, and the different forestry districts in the province,” says Kaylen.
All of Firewood Factory’s wood is sustainably sourced from harvesters in Central Newfoundland, “which means that the wood that is cut is accounted for through the provincial annual allowable cut, which is a limit that they determine to be the sustainable volume of wood that can be harvested within the province each year,” says Kaylen. “And in turn, more than 8.3 million seedlings are replanted each year.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, the Janeses’ own home is heated solely through burning wood. And Kaylen says that has benefits that go beyond cost savings.
“It’s a sustainable, renewable resource,” says Kaylen. “And also the fact that it helps support rural industries in rural Newfoundland.”
And then there’s that…feeling.
“There’s nothing quite like wood heat,” says Kaylen. “It’s a really nice heat.” - By Elizabeth Whitten
Tips for Better Burning
from the experts at Firewood Factory
• It’s best to buy firewood during spring so it can be dry in time for the fall.
• Pieces of wood should be about 3" shorter than the length of the woodstove or fireplace.
• When buying wood, make sure the vendor has a valid Timber Purchase License. This helps ensure the wood was legally cut.
• Request a load slip from the vendor, which is proof the wood was legally sourced.
• Don’t leave wood directly on the ground for more than a few days. Stack it on wooden pallets or in a woodshed, instead.
• Wood should be stored somewhere well-vented. During the summer it can be stored outdoors, but move it out of way of rain and snow in fall and winter.
• Don’t stack wood more than four feet high.
• Birch wood burns hotter, making it a good choice. It’s pretty common to burn a mix of spruce and birch.
• Use a moisture meter to make sure wood moisture content is less than 20-25%. Wet wood leads to a build up of creosote in chimneys, which is carcinogenic and can start chimney fires.
• Regularly have your chimney or fireplace inspected by a WETT-certified technician.