I'm considering buying property near to a town where there are a lot of fruit orchards. It seems like standard practice for everyone in the area to cut down trees that are no longer producing well and then to pile them up and burn them. Everyone has a burn pile in their yard. Its an enormous waste, especially when many people use wood heat for their homes.
Since we're talking about an orchard town, that means a lot of spraying. Would it be safe to use these trees in hugel beds considering they have been drinking pesticides and herbicides their whole lives? Do these chemicals become concentrated in the wood itself?
My impression is no, yet I feel there has got to be a better use for all of this wood than a burn pile.
You said that a lot of people in the area use wood for heat in their homes? Seems really strange that they would waste the wood - maybe they're not burning it due to pesticide contamination? have you spoken to any of the orchard owners?
I live in a fruit growing region as well. When a mature orchard is taken out, usually the large wood is chainsawed up and sold by the cord as firewood. The small stuff, what I call 'slash' is just impossible to safely cut up in an economical way. When I first started working my apple orchard, I cut up every last little twig for firewood. It burns great, but it is really pretty dangerous to cut up in large quantities. As I get older and value my physical wellbeing, I too now cut up the large stuff (larger than 2" in diameter), and then burn the rest. The burn pile areas revegetate quickly, and the surrounding pasture seems to benefit from the fertilizer value of the wood ash. Compromise.
To your point, if you dont want to burn the slash, this stuff would be good in a hugel bed. Save the large wood for heating or barbequing, and use the smaller twiggy stuff in the hugel bed. Fruitwood is very dense, so even the small branches would take a while to break down. Additionally, the small stuff with lots of bark and buds has the majority of the nutrients. Being younger, it also would have had less exposure over time to the chemical sprays.
As far as buying property surrounded by commercial fruit orchards, you might want to think seriously about the amount of chemical spraying that will occur. There is a lot of over-drift from ineffecient spraying, and it is really nasty stuff. Your commercial farming neighbors will likely not be too sympathetic to your more organic sensibilities. Pros and cons for sure.
I did not speak to any orchard owners about this. I don't believe they are concerned about contaminated wood being burned in their homes. If they've got an exhaust leak that is allowing smoke into their home, I think pesticide contamination in that smoke would be a secondary concern. And again, they are burning it out in their yard and spreading the smoke around for the whole neighborhood.
Location: Surrey, British Columbia
posted 5 years ago
Thanks for the info. The reason I ask is that it may be worthwhile to come to an agreement with some of the people in town to remove the wood from their orchards for them at no cost. If I were to buy in the region it would not be in the valley bottom with the orchards for exactly the reason you mentioned. I stayed in town a couple days with a relative and for one of those days we were stuck indoors because a neighbor decided to spray in the morning. The schools in town are surrounded by chem-spraying orchards. Can you imagine: "Sorry kids, no recess today".
At this point it's really still a dream. I'm nowhere near ready to be buying a property. I'm just gathering ideas.