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Managing the flow of wood - brainstorm

 
Paul Cereghino
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Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
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So in my climate we can produce LOTS of wood fast... red alder, blue elderberry, cottonwood are all cranking out logs and branches, not to mention thinning the apple tree and miscellaneous clearing activities. I have over-planted several areas with red alder to prepare ground for food forest... essentially a woody cover crop. But I am finding managing the flow of wood laborious. I believe that if I had a better model for diverting the 'flow of wood' to different uses I'd find it more managable. Here are my ideas, but I'd enjoy ideas and labor saving ideas from others!

::Fuel - alder and apple prunings are my best, but lots of labor turning it into 18 inch stick, and I don't currently use wood heat, so this is more for pleasure and outdoor cooking, I am dreaming up a wood powered outdoor sauna/shower situation, but there is only so much labor I'm going to spend stockpiling fuel for this future vision.

::Mushrooms - inoculating logs is a good fate for some wood, but plug methods are inefficient at a small scale... I'd like to come up with a efficient method of inoculating logs without having to drill, and plug and wax.

::Hugelkultur - this is my current preferred approach. I find it is useful to have a trench open at any one time, and just process wood into the trench as I have time.

::Garden Trellis - certain large complicated tree branches make lovely ready to grow trellises, but I also have some remesh that I have been using for the last 4 years in the intensive garden, and so don't have much use for this .

::Brush piles - I have around 10 brush piles, a mix of the smallest branches and field cuttings with the scythe that are future tree planting sites. I figure after a year or two I'll have a nice fertile patch, and a pile of mulch for a new tree. I space them so I can scythe between them easily.

::Deer deterrent - I have had limited success with discouraging deer from eating unprotected trees by piling brush around them. I have created some pretty formidable heaps around a mt. ash and a chinese hawthorn, but the deer are too curious. Bone salve might be the better solution, but the trailing native blackberry does colonize them and provide a small yield for my effort.

::Brush fencing - If I had more erosion control situations, I'd be putting brush fencing on contour.. but I don't.

::Wattle fencing - This is the new project. I cherry pick thick long branches to make wattle fencing. A labor of love - purely decorative as far as I can discern.

::Scattered branch mulch - this works on my most wild places, but pretty much guarantees that I won't get through with the scythe again, and my largest animals are chickens, so I don't like it in places where I have any ambitions for strongly steering succession in herbaceous plants. Once the sod starts growing through the branches you have created a system very resistant to hand tools.

::Burning - the favorite of my neighbors, maybe some value in the ash, and charcoal.. maybe there might be some cost/benefit to this biochar thing but again it seems like a lot of labor for small scale weekend warrior work... but I hate loosing the nitrogen and sun energy lightly.

::Stockpile and chip - I have thought about developing a community chipper, as I don't like the rental costs. While I'll use big machines for install, I'd rather think through if there is an alternative to fossil fuels for this kind of routine maintenance.

Other thoughts or inspirations? it definitely seems advantageous to know what you are about, and process material green before they harden up, I have a Japanese brush axe that works wonders. A tool that I strongly recommend. I have been curious about the English version that I have seen Ben Laws using, but have not found a good source.
 
Craig Dobbelyu
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When I took over my property there was tons of over overgrown "brush", small ash trees and lots of grape vines in the trees. I cut it all out as best I could just to clean it up. Straight ash went towards trellises, fences, and a garden decor. Bigger pieces are fence posts, while the long skinny stuff went into a wattle fence that's soon to be complete. Really small bits were chipped and added to to paths for weed suppression as was anything that was rotten. I've used grape vines to make a trellis that was inspired by some of my drawings. It came out pretty nice, If I do say so myself. Anything that was too big to chip and too rotted to burn in the woodstove, went into some hugel beds.
I've piled some stuff up into critter habitat. Actually that's a pile I never got around to chipping, but it works for the snakes, mice, chipmunks, and all sorts of bugs.

Seems like you have a lot of good ideas. The wattle fence -if built tight enough- will hold quite a lot of critters at bay. I placed mine along the driveway about 3 feet from the drop off. It's seems like that little gap between the driveway and the fence helps keep the deer out. They could easily jump over it but the footing is difficult so they usually go destroy the neighbors' place.

If you drove some long poles in the ground around the vulnerable trees so that they stick out at a 45 degree angle, you might have better luck keeping the deer away. Especially if you tie a little fishing line between the poles. Deer run into the line and tend to freak out because they can't see it.
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Alder Burns
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Location: northern California
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A few loose ideas......

1. know anyone who burns or works with wood that you could let harvest some? perhaps they'd pay you something or offer something in trade?

2. what about a goat? When you coppice stuff down they will eat what you cut, and then continue to eat the sprouts, and give you a yield of meat, milk, and manure....They will come into a shed for the night so you will get the manure they leave there without having to go gather it.
 
greg patrick
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[quote=Alder Burns] 2. what about a goat? [/quote]

We have goats and we have a friend with a tree trimming business. We also have a lot of trees on our property, so wood management is a full time gig around here. Our usual drill is: Cut the branches, give them to the goats for a week. Cut up the branches. Little stuff becomes mulch/compost. Medium stuff goes in the ground or the (future) rocket stove water heater powered hot tub ($10ea for two barrels + $60 for a used sauna + $100 for pipes and pumps, etc.). Big stuff gets piled and heats our home and a friends' home in the winter.

In addition, the goat muckings make excellent tree fertilizer and closes the nitrogen loop.
 
John Polk
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[DISCLAIMER]: I have no idea if this guys contraption works or not, but it has piqued my interest.

http://woodgasifier.org/index.html

When you listed "Fuel", you specified it as heating. This contraption takes wood chips and uses it to run a generator. He has revamped his site, and some of the information previously given is no longer there. Previously, he stated that 8 pounds of wood chips would run the generator for one hour. The engine was driving a 65 amp alternator. Sounds like a viable way to turn a surplus waste into a useable resource.

If anybody has any feedback (positive or negative) about this, I'm sure that it would be appreciated here.

 
Leila Rich
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John mentions a gasifier generator. Here's plans for a biochar gasifier.
If I had spare wood and slightly less rudimentary skills...
 
tel jetson
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Paul Cereghino wrote:
::Mushrooms - inoculating logs is a good fate for some wood, but plug methods are inefficient at a small scale... I'd like to come up with a efficient method of inoculating logs without having to drill, and plug and wax.


it would take some time up front, but I think if you built up a lot of spawn in, say, sawdust or straw, you could do some faster inoculating of your wood. lay the wood down and bury it in spawn. larger logs would need some bark chipped off. never tried this, so I can't promise it would work.

there's also the "totem pole" method, but that's just for big logs, which doesn't sound like your biggest issue.


and Craig: that trellis looks great. I may try something like that out around here.
 
Brenda Groth
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that is a great list of things to do with wood..and very inspiring.

there are carvings and crafts and basket weaving that can also be done with wood..and lots of building projects esp things like rustic furniture and arbors and gazebos etc..
 
Tyler Ludens
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John Polk wrote: This contraption takes wood chips and uses it to run a generator.



My main problem with the wood chip gasifier is how to generate chips of the appropriate size without using more energy than you would get out of the gasifier....

 
Dave Miller
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Do you have water on your property? If so then I'd add "beaver food" to your list. I think the beavers prefer to coppice willows, but if there are not enough willows then they will cut down other trees nearby, and remove their branches. So if you want the branches you could steal them from the beavers. The beavers don't care about the logs. Of course this only works for trees near the water. But I bet you could do a sort of "beaver tractor" (ala chicken tractor) using some portable wire mesh fencing to direct the beavers toward trees that you'd like them to work on (and keep them away from trees that you don't want them working on). It is pretty easy to find people (USFWS, etc.) who want to get rid of beavers if you want to bring them to your property.

You can also attract cavity nesting birds and raptors by killing a tree via girdling or aggressive pruning and leaving it in place. I am trying to kill a douglas fir by girdling it about 1/3 from the top and removing most of the branches below that. The idea is to create a tree that dies slowly (from the top down), stays upright for a long time, and has a broken top. The cavity birds will use the parts that rot, and the raptors will use the broken top. Here is a good document on this: Snags – The Wildlife Tree
Girdling also works, but the tree will fall much faster.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Beware of making tall wattle fences with heavy wood. I made a wattle fence around two sides of my garden (about 100 feet of fence) using juniper/cedar but it toppled over due to being too heavy. It was a stupid amount of work, too. Not sure what I was thinking, except "I want a wattle fence!"

 
Cal Burns
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Brenda Groth wrote:that is a great list of things to do with wood..and very inspiring.

there are carvings and crafts and basket weaving that can also be done with wood..and lots of building projects esp things like rustic furniture and arbors and gazebos etc..


That's one angle I've looked at. Have 3 huge brush piles where some of the limbs are rather large pecan tree limbs. Found a local person who has a portable sawmill and can cut wood according to your wood project needs for $75 an hour. Have thought of having some limbs cut for use in replacing old 2x4s in my barn and to make a bed stand.
 
Sheri Menelli
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Guitar makers like Alder. You might be able to sell some of the Alder if you can't use all the wood on your property.
 
S Haze
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I'm really liking the ideas in this thread!

Here's one that's still in the planning/ idea phase at my place; next time I'm thinning the woodland or cutting paths or fence lines I'd like to build multi-functioning animal shelters. So far I'm planning on picking locations with a good south (sun-ward) exposure and doing sort of a sun trap shaped cordwood thingy covered in brush probably with timbers and brush lied over the top for a roof.

Seeds, tubers, and perhaps cuttings could be sown in or around it and by winter it should be ready to shelter critters and have some food for them. Some of the sown plants should be good bedding or mulch producers too.

This shelter could even work for poultry if enough protection from predators is provided somehow. This winter I'm keeping a few chickens outside and observed how they like to perch on cut branches in the sun all puffed up like little fur balls!

I'm also thinking that once the shelter has served its purpose the roof can be removed or collapsed and the whole thing buried to make a hugel mound.

Anyone tried this? Or do you think it would work?
 
Mike Cantrell
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Attracting delicious creatures: Last fall, I built a few brushpiles. Not for the sake of having brushpiles, but for clearing out some fences. The big one (about 12' diameter and 10' high) promptly turned into a rabbit hotel. Looks like someone tipped over a shopping cart full of Cocoa Pebbles outside of it. Just chock-full of rabbits.

I have three small kids, so taking a hunting trip somewhere is out of the question, but taking a 20-minute hunting walk, that's completely feasible.

Absolutely the best use of multiflora rose- turning it into rabbits.
 
R Scott
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S Haze wrote:I'm really liking the ideas in this thread!

Here's one that's still in the planning/ idea phase at my place; next time I'm thinning the woodland or cutting paths or fence lines I'd like to build multi-functioning animal shelters. So far I'm planning on picking locations with a good south (sun-ward) exposure and doing sort of a sun trap shaped cordwood thingy covered in brush probably with timbers and brush lied over the top for a roof.

Seeds, tubers, and perhaps cuttings could be sown in or around it and by winter it should be ready to shelter critters and have some food for them. Some of the sown plants should be good bedding or mulch producers too.

This shelter could even work for poultry if enough protection from predators is provided somehow. This winter I'm keeping a few chickens outside and observed how they like to perch on cut branches in the sun all puffed up like little fur balls!

I'm also thinking that once the shelter has served its purpose the roof can be removed or collapsed and the whole thing buried to make a hugel mound.

Anyone tried this? Or do you think it would work?


Yes, but we usually add some piece of "trash" to give a portion of it a more solid roof. A plastic barrel on its side in the middle of the pile is good, or a scrap of tin or plywood or something to make a roof. Something that degrades about as fast as the pile is best if you are going to leave it; but if you are going to dig it up to put the compost somewhere more needed, you can recover and re use the barrel.
 
Dale Hodgins
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At the beginning if the thread, it was mentioned that brush piles could be put around fruit trees to deter deer. In many places this would result in rabbit or rodent damage to the base of the tree. They prefer to stay hidden from predators. Now the crop tree is a much more attractive victim than all of the over abundant wild stuff.

One of the least labor intensive means of clearing unwanted trees is by girdling. They die and are slowly returned to the Earth by decay, insects, woodpeckers etc. Predators of those brush pile pests like to perch on dead snags. This is the simplest and most effective way to help beneficial wildlife. An artificial birdhouse gets hot in the day and cold at night. One carved from a woodpecker hole is mote comfortable and the dead trees provide a bug bonanza. Tree holes attract a disproportionate bomber of insectavores as compared to those who might eat your crops. One pair of nesting hawks will devour hundreds of unwanted creatures in a season. They often perch on their nest tree and decimate rodent populations in the vicinity.
 
Brian Hamalainen
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Tyler Ludens wrote:
John Polk wrote: This contraption takes wood chips and uses it to run a generator.

My main problem with the wood chip gasifier is how to generate chips of the appropriate size without using more energy than you would get out of the gasifier....
I don't know about the gasifier design in the link above, but there are many gasifier designs with proven reliability. Just need to match the fuel size you can produce to the gasifier hearth dimensions: Some are designed to run on 3 inch blocks of wood, some small chips, some even run on sawdust. Here's the kicker. With the right system and know-how, you could run the chipper from your gasifier to process fuel and then use your chipped fuel for generators or other small (4-stroke) engines.
 
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