I received this question in episode 4 of the Ask Brian Boggs Show:
I have a large walnut tree I will be dropping next week. Would I be better off busting out parts or part-sized pieces green or trying to store the log?
Well, it’s the wrong time of year to try to store a log. Walnut … heartwood is pretty resilient to decay, but the sapwood is not. Now, there’s a couple of things you can do. One is, you can split the parts out now and if it takes a long time to get to them and they’re just stacked, they’re going to dry out and be a lot harder to work. So you lose that advantage in terms of the working efficiency with hand tools. Another option is, you can split the parts out, leave them a couple inches extra long, and you can leave them oversized just into manageable portions for handling. But you can store them underwater if you can get a tank, or if you’ve got some kind of a wooden box or something, you can fill trash bags with water. You can store these sticks underwater, not just wet, but they actually want to be completely submerged. Submerging them in water does two things. One, they’ll hold their moisture content. They won’t crack at all. They won’t warp except from the stress in the tree. If the tree was leaning, they might warp anyway. But also, once you start working with them, the wood will dry out much more readily without cracking.
Walnut is one that can be tricky to dry. I don’t really understand why soaking wood makes it easier to dry. It’s a little bit counterintuitive, but I used to experiment with this years ago when I was trying to store green wood, the same reason you’re considering it, because I had more wood than I could finish working with and I didn’t want it to dry out. I just bought stock tanks from the local farm store and stored them under that. You’ll want to change the water at probably once a week, because you’ll start growing anaerobic bacteria and it starts to smell like a hog pen. So, you don’t want that. But soaking it is a great way to store it and it’ll be much easier to dry once you do pull it out.