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How to get oodles of shredded leaves

 
pioneer
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So I'll start by stating that I will absolutely canvass the neighborhood asking for shredded leaves if anyone is fool enough to give theirs away. That said, if I can only get my hands on autumn leaf fall, is there a relatively simple way to shred them into fine leaf 'confetti' absent a gas-powered carbon machine? I would like to avoid burning dinosaur juice whenever I can, but if it's going to take me 6 weeks of manual chopping, that's obviously not a time-efficient solution. So I need something quick and dirty if possible. Anybody out there have some creative ideas percolating? Bonus points if you've implemented it and found that it works well.

Much obliged!
 
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I know of two options, I'm hoping there are more.

1.  Put the leaves from the neighbor's bags into an enclosed run with chickens and let them tear through them all winter.  Downside is that they'll kind of compost and may not be as confetti-like as you want.  Upside is that they'll be like compost.

2.  Some people that put their leaves in bags collect them with a shredding mower or leaf vac.  So when you wander around town looking for leaf bags, go for the dense, heavy ones since those will be the shredded leaves.  Also check to make sure they have clover/dandelions/weeds in their lawn so that you know they don't do much weed and feeding.
 
D.W. Stratton
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Mike Haasl wrote:I know of two options, I'm hoping there are more.

1.  Put the leaves from the neighbor's bags into an enclosed run with chickens and let them tear through them all winter.  Downside is that they'll kind of compost and may not be as confetti-like as you want.  Upside is that they'll be like compost.

2.  Some people that put their leaves in bags collect them with a shredding mower or leaf vac.  So when you wander around town looking for leaf bags, go for the dense, heavy ones since those will be the shredded leaves.  Also check to make sure they have clover/dandelions/weeds in their lawn so that you know they don't do much weed and feeding.



Thanks Mike. And hey, kudos on the numerous badges! Serious badge-envy over here! Hoping to hone my skills in woodworking soon and start earning, but got to get basic stuff down first. Definitely need to check to see if there's a badge bit for making a compost bin system because woah buddy do I ever deserve one after the excavating I've done!

1. This would certainly work in an objective sense. Subjectively, however, we are vegan and are ethically and philosophically opposed to the use of systems predicated upon domestication and use of animals. I'm down with natural wildlife processes, so if there's a way to get the native birds of my region to shred some leaves, that would be peachy, though I rather doubt they'd be so kind. Anyway, it is not my purpose to get into sparring over veganism in this thread, simply indicating why this would not be a viable solution for us. I will make the caveat that if we have the opportunity to RESCUE some chickens, this might be an option, but that raises a host of other concerns such as providing birth control for the chickens or pulverizing eggs and feeding them back to them to avoid calcium depletion and early death. That sounds more time consuming too.

2. I will for sure check for the dense bags of leaves! We do not have curb-side pickup out in the hilltowns though, so I wonder if I can put up a sign at the transfer station (it's not the dump, it's where they haul stuff away from to take it to the dump) asking for leaf dumps at my yard instead. Probably we could build a skiddable structure with a large, covered bin that could hold many hundreds of gallons of leaves that could be kept relatively dry.


I'm wondering if it would be possible to take the basic concept of a nut mill and scale it up much larger and have a hand-cranked leaf shredder. It would have a hopper up top and a series of spinning blades at the base of the hopper, the axle of which would be connected to a hand crank. There could be a large bag or storage crate below such that the shredded leaves would be extruded into a tidy container. I imagine, however, that either this would necessitate multiple passes through my shredder OR more than one set of spinning blades, perhaps 3-4 layers, such that a sufficiently finely-shredded output was generated in a single pass.

I wonder if something like this is already commercially available or if I'd have to gather parts and cobble them together my own-dang-self? Time to go ask DuckDuckGo (which is a search engine that uses Google's search engine via proxy such that your search results cannot be tracked and marketed)!

Edit: I found this gem while searching for a manual leaf shredder... https://www.lowtechmagazine.com/2011/05/pedal-powered-farms-and-factories.html  It's not an outright solution, but it is a full-throated embrace of pedal-powered systems and I'm all about getting exercise while gettin' stuff done. :)
 
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D.W. Stratton wrote:

I will make the caveat that if we have the opportunity to RESCUE some chickens, this might be an option.

I tell people, "I got into chickens for a really shitty reason - I wanted the manure for my garden." Most rescue chickens are too old to lay reliably and if you don't have a rooster, birth control won't be an issue. If you've got multiple paddocks to rotate them through, they will get many of their micro-nutrients while doing pest control for you. If you grow them some kale and toss a leaf or 2 to the ground every day or so (they seem disinclined to do self-service on kale from local experience), that will be a good source of calcium also. When they die of old age, they are a great addition to the middle of a compost heap which completes the circle of life. If you do get the odd egg you can choose to either compost it, or use it to barter with.

I also say, "My chickens are my employees, not my slaves." If you do not wish to "hire" some rescue chickens to help you on your property, that's your choice, but the entertainment value as you learn to speak their language and learn their personalities and watch their excitement when they spot a choice bug, makes them very valuable employees in my opinion.
 
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If you're patient enough, you could let time do the work for you.  In our climate, a pile of leaves becomes crumbly "leaf mould" in about 2 years without intervention.  I use a bin which is just an encircled hog panel.  It's about 2 cubic yards.

What volume/scale are you thinking of?  Tens of suburban leaf bags, or cubic yards?

If gas engines are precluded, I can't imagine any human-powered shredding being practical, unless you're a glutton for repetitive manual labor.

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