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What should I do with all these Cedar fence rails?

 
Travis Philp
gardener
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Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
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So as not to highjack the hugelkultur thread I thought I'd start a new one...

Basically, I have have thousands of half rotted cedar fence rails that are too far gone for use as fencing, or firewood.

Any ideas on what I could use them for?
Just incase you're not familiar, I am referring to  p3-5 foot long pieces of eastern white cedar logs that have been stripped of their outer bark.

I had thought of using them in hugelkultur mounds but Paul Wheaton mentioned that they have alleopathic properties making them unsuitable for this so at the moment I'm at a loss as to how to utilize this resource.

 
Joel Hollingsworth
pollinator
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Location: Oakland, CA
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It is a rare chemical which harms every sort of plant. It might be worth scraping together some of the most rotten material and trying to establish a wide variety of plants you're interested in, just to see what plants can handle it. I'm having a hard time finding information on how allelopathy works for this species, or for which other species.

You might also look around (perhaps even beyond your property) for dead stumps or more-rotten logs of it, to see what grows there.

Any toxins are unlikely to survive composting, so layering them with soil for a couple years, or until something begins growing on top, might be the easy answer.

Another option would be to try growing fungus. I understand button mushrooms can often overwhelm existing cultures in partly-rotten material.

You might also use them as wildlife habitat, placing jumbles of them near the margins of wild spaces.

I imagine they'd be decent as foot path material. I'm imagining them laid out along the length of relatively flat paths, and cut or broken to fit perpendicular to the path (or perhaps to follow contour) when the slope is great enough to justify the effort.

 
Matt Ferrall
Posts: 555
Location: Western WA,usda zone 6/7,80inches of rain,250feet elevation
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The cedar here makes great kindling esp if its old growth.I have also used old rails under my firewood stacks to keep the wood off the ground.I keep a pile of partialy decayed ones for said purpose.When they are too rotted,I cut them up for mega-mulch(tm)under acid loving plants. Ive noticed some of the wealthier retirees that move to the country have a sentamental attachment to an idea of rural life that often includes a bucolic rail fence along their driveways aparently to keep their SUVs in line.They might be willing to pay for that look.
 
                              
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Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
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If you have any chickens or ducks, you lay the logs on the ground in their run so that when you flip it over, the birds get a treat of the bugs that always congregate under longs.

We use log pieces and stuff to weight down the edges of the chicken paddock fencing or netting.  We also use such things around the edges of frost blankets when trying to keep stuff alive through the coldest part of the season here though in your location it would be to get a jump on the start of the season or extend on the end of the season.

I think using them as supports for firewood or anything else you want to keep just up off the ground is a good idea.  Edging pathways is good too.

And as I said over in the other thread.  You might go ahead and do a trial with some of the most rotted stuff.  Allopathy I think is largely a function of the living plant giving off chemicals.  If the mulched up stuff was really so toxic to plants, then why would so much of the country use cedar chips as mulch in their ornamental garden beds.
 
Jordan Lowery
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could you grow mushrooms on them? inoculate with an eatable species.
 
Travis Philp
gardener
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Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
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Some great ideas, thanks!

I will be using floating row covers quite a bit this year and never thought of the rails to weigh them down as I've always used the wood chips in paths or nearby rocks but the rails is a good call.

We don't have any chickens or ducks yet but we'd like to. Maybe I'll try that bug-attractor method with our potbellied pigs and see if they like it.

And using them under firewood stacks is something I thought of but figured the cedar rails would be too wet and transfer that moisture to the lower logs. I'm using skids right now but I could better use the skids to prop up hay bales and replace them with rails.

There is an ornamental nursery on the edge of a nearby town who sells cedar rails at $8 per rail. Though I drive by their pile often and I don't think its become any smaller this year. Which is not to say I shouldn't try. I also think that maybe calling some landscapers would be worthwhile, to see if they'd be interested in buying some. SUV's have gotta be kept in line somehow

I would NEVER throw anything organic out to the dump. Worse comes to worse I'd simply let them rot into the ground where they are currently laying.

As for using htem in paths, I could see it working but also forsee problems with tripping hazards or getting a wheelbarrow stuck.
 
paul wheaton
master steward
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Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
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I suspect mushrooms would not do well.  As indicated by the ability for cedar to last so much longer outdoors than other woods. 

I wonder if they might be of some benefit in a pond.  I remember talking to a fella at WSU that knows way more about this than I know.  In fact, he was able to list of the top four allelopathic agents found in cedar duff.  Just off the top of his head.  And .... I seem to remember something about how a dead cedar in water is somehow good for fish.  But I cannot remember how.

As in the other thread:  I think the most obvious use is as a mulch for more cedar trees

While it can be used in pathways as a sort of natural plant inhibitor, there are two problems I see with this: 

1)  slivers from cedar usually end up stinging like crazy and then get infected.

2)  The plants around your path will be a little sadder than if you had used nothing.

If you were building a wofati, I would think this stuff would be excellent for the insulating "wood duff" layer.  Perhaps this is a good time for a wofati root cellar or freezer?
 
Travis Philp
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Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
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I like the wofati root cellar idea as we do need a cellar here. We've got a stand of fairly straight scotts pine that we could use for the poles, and cedar for the duff layer. Thanks Paul.

It's still too frozen here to do any construction but things should thaw out in about 2 months which gives us time to plan and gather materials.
 
paul wheaton
master steward
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Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
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Travis wrote:
I like the wofati root cellar idea as we do need a cellar here. We've got a stand of fairly straight scotts pine that we could use for the poles, and cedar for the duff layer. Thanks Paul.

It's still too frozen here to do any construction but things should thaw out in about 2 months which gives us time to plan and gather materials.


Yes!  It was a tricky bugger, but in the end I came up with an awesome solution! 

I should get a permaculture badge or something. 



 
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