I agree with the original post on this; firewood is downright expensive!
I have heard this argument before, and will say from the start I am a farmer and have hundreds of acres of woods at my disposal and as I type this, I have 9 full cords (4x4x8 foot cords) stacked and ready to burn. But do not tell me any of it was cheap. If you really look at firewood's hidden costs, it is actually a pretty expensive way to heat your home.
First you have the land costs. I know of a homesteader who raises beef cows, and has 27 acres. He has to buy his hay because his place consists of woodlot which he uses to heat his house. He would actually be better to clear his 27 acres and put it into grass, that way he would not have to buy hay. He would be able to buy tree length firewood off someone else and be WAY father ahead money wise. And owning land is expensive. Here in Maine it is about $10 per acre for land taxes alone. If you get 1 cord per acre per year to be able to perpetually sustain you, that is $10 you would have to calculate into your "free" firewood per cord". And do not forget, those trees do not just appear there, it took 40 years to grow or more. Someone payed for that; either you in taxes if you have owned it a long time like I have, or you bought the value of those trees in the purchase price of your land.
Then there is the cost of equipment, even buying a small chainsaw will run you 400-500 dollars. Add in a wood splitter and a tractor, and you have at the minimum, $12,000 dollars in equipment costs. Granted you can do other things with a chainsaw and tractor, but all this can be broken down by hours which is what I have done.
With my chainsaw and tractor, I can fell, limb and twitch about a cord per hour, so it would take me about 10 hours to harvest 10 cords of wood. The Maine Dept of Transportation figures my tractor is worth about $29 per hour, and a man with a chainsaw is worth $12.50 per hour. These are not inflated numbers, they were calculated for a lot of hidden costs. Now taking those figures, you can easily see that 10 cords of firewood is equivalent to $515.
Now you have to process that tree length wood into firewood fit for the stove. It is going to take another 2 days to cut the wood into block lengths, split it and move it to a shed of some sort. That requires the chainsaw, tractor and woodsplitter. Figuring the same labor rate of $12.50 per hour for chainsaw/splitter use, assuming half the time is spent cutting/splitting, and the other time moving it with a tractor, you have added another $415 to the cost.
You still have to get it from the shed to your stove, plus chimney cleaning and other messy issues with wood, so you should add 15 minutes per day for all that. With a 150 day heating season in Maine, you must add another 37 hours for that. Because there is no skill involved in that, Maine Department of Transportation figures labor rates of $9 per hour. So that is an additional $337 per year.
But there are additional costs. For one we have the added cost of insurance since solid fuel heating sources have more risks then do propane, oil or electric heating sources. Because of that, homes with wood stoves pay an additional $150 per year on average.
With simple math, we can calculate that to get from stump to stove, we have an annual heating cost of $1417 for 10 full cords of firewood. For the average home owner, when you figure in all the hidden costs of heating with wood, it costs just about the same as heating with oil or propane. That is a lot of work for no real net gain.
There is an additional issue to consider too. That firewood could be sold for hardwood pulp, so if you did not use firewood at all, you could sell it as stumpage, never touch it, and make $33 per cord. Or you could do what I have done for years, taken the same amount of time to cut up firewood, (3 days) and cut it tree length wood and sell it. Since that would be 30 cords of wood at $75 per cord, I could buy $2250 in propane/oil/coal etc and have more then enough heat my house for the year, in the same amount of time I could do it working up firewood.
No matter how I calculate firewood, it always comes out expensive.