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What to do with huge amount of woody biomass?

 
William James
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Location: Northern Italy
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My primary objective was to create a barrier so that tractors couldn't get on the property.

Mission complete. But the gardener keeps bringing stuff. So, I'm kinda wondering if there could be something that would be worth my effort or monetary investment to "do something" with all this free material. It would have to be something that could be done at scale, since we have two people and potentially unlimited loads of stuff. The only real limiting factor is that ever pile takes about 1.5 hours of work to dismantle.

It's a lot of pine, some black locust, an olive tree, ash, fig. It comes from the neighborhoods around here, so basically ornamental trees.

I don't really need to burn the wood, since I don't have a stove and don't heat anything.

I'm thinking 'cut planks out of the biggish logs' but that would require at least a chainsaw and a circular saw. Minimal investment but dangerous work.

I could do hugelculture, but on a limited basis, especially because I've already done two and they didn't work out as well as I would have liked, so I'm not tempted to try that on a larger scale. Plus I move everything by hand/wheelbarrow, unfortunately no tractors here for me.

Some could go to line a pond, so as to get more breakdown and to leach nutrients.

But that's where I run out of ideas.

I made a few walking sticks/wooden handles from the black locust, but there's just so many of those you need to have around.

I can't chip it because I don't have a good enough chipper (lame chipper was just sold) and getting a flail mower to go over it would cost me 2-300 euros, so that's kinda out of the question. A good chipper costs around 1,200 euros, so that's not happening, even if I would love to have woodchips for nearly free.

If there's something that wouldn't take an extraordinary amount of labor, could potentially give me something to sell, and doesn't have huge startup costs, I might consider doing something, otherwise I'll just keep adding to the pile.

Thanks,
William
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K Schelle
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Location: Southern Vermont, Zone 5a
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I'm interested in responses to this also. I've recently purchased a property with tons of old logging slash and detritus. My idea so far is just to spread it in a single layer on the ground and let the seasons have their way with it. Mega mulch. But with just hand tools, it's a massive project...

VP
 
John Elliott
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Biochar!



OK, so he can do four 55gal. drums at a time, so in one burn he can turn 14 cubic feet of biomass into ~3-4 cubic feet of biochar. I only have one barrel, and I do 2 or 3 biochar burns a month. Whenever the 30 gallon trash can that I store the biochar in runs low, I do another biochar burn to top it off. I've mentioned storing biochar out in the elements before, I think this is the best way to inoculate it. Maybe add enough food waste to it, not low quality, high roughage stuff like grass clippings and "browns", but things like you would add to a worm bin to feed the worms. Or manure. You want to get some bug activity going on so that if you rake through the biochar worms and crickets are likely to show up. That makes it 'inoculated' biochar.

If you've not incorporated biochar into your permaculture enterprise, if you're not turning excess biomass into biochar, then you're not playing with all the cards in the permaculture deck.
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Some thoughts:

Crowdfund a chipper? As I recall, you're growing food for the community, holding classes, etc, right? If you got a chipper, you could turn that into some woodchips for mulch or combined with other stuff to make compost.

Other thoughts:

Stick crafts

Woven wood fence panels



Bean teepees



And check out this great Pinterest Board!
 
Tim Malacarne
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Location: South central Illinois, USA
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Say, you know the low effort, low impact method would be to let it rot, right? The chipper would only speed the natural process, and if you've got the room and don't mind the appearance, the natural rotting is my choice. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to have a chipper/shredder, but I can't justify the expense to merely hurry things along. If space were at a premium, that'd be a different story... Just my 2 cents, good luck to you, pardner! Best, TM
 
Tim Malacarne
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Location: South central Illinois, USA
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Oh and Jennifer, those are nice photos! Best, TM
 
Judith Browning
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Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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Tim Malacarne wrote:
Say, you know the low effort, low impact method would be to let it rot, right? The chipper would only speed the natural process, and if you've got the room and don't mind the appearance, the natural rotting is my choice. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to have a chipper/shredder, but I can't justify the expense to merely hurry things along. If space were at a premium, that'd be a different story... Just my 2 cents, good luck to you, pardner! Best, TM



I like the 'low effort, low impact' method also. We have piled our brush in wind rows for fifteen years and it settles and decomposes naturally quite fast really. Our piles get really high at times but settle back too just a few feet over a year or two...we have very wet spring and winter seasons.
I haven't dug around underneath but assume if we ever stop adding to the pile we will have some nice planting areas.
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Low Effort/Low Impact is good. Question: As I recall, this is in a Mediterranean climate - do you get enough moisture over the course of a year so that these WILL decompose? I know if I left wood around like that here in the hot desert - well, I'd still have it years and years later. There's not enough moisture in the air, soil or falling from the sky here to decompose large woody sticks - they just desiccate.
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Tim Malacarne wrote:Oh and Jennifer, those are nice photos! Best, TM


Thanks! I stole them off the internet!
 
Peter Ellis
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Location: Central New Jersey
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I might consider making things like Garden trellises, archways, gates - if there were anything like a market for these things in the area.

Tool handles might be another option. Olive wood is gorgeous and being used to make some rather pricey treenware sold in US specialty kitchen stores. Making some spatulas, spoons, butter spreaders, etc. from some of the olive wood might be worthwhile.

Rustic furniture might be another option.
 
William James
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Jennifer Wadsworth wrote:Question: As I recall, this is in a Mediterranean climate - do you get enough moisture over the course of a year so that these WILL decompose? I know if I left wood around like that here in the hot desert - well, I'd still have it years and years later. There's not enough moisture in the air, soil or falling from the sky here to decompose large woody sticks - they just desiccate.


Wood doesn't decompose here for some reason. Could be the heavy clay soil, could be our dry summers. I've thought about putting a plastic sheet over it in the summer to aid decomposition, along with some manure and occasional watering. Another idea is digging a pond (already have 2 planned for august) and putting wood inside along the edges to aid in breakdown.

Thanks everyone for the suggestions.

About Biochar, would there be a way to do it that it wouldn't smoke so much? I think my neighbors would call the cops if they saw something burning, even if I'm on the edge of the town. I've made a small rocket-stove, but not much more than that.
William
 
William James
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One of the things this reminds me of is Mark Shepard who says that you should concentrate in either producing goods for processing or process goods, doing both is impossible. Any craft ideas are possible if I'm making 1 or 5 items. To turn a profit you need to make 100 items just to start out. I don't have that amount of time or expertise.

Burning it for biochar or letting it pile up seems like the easiest options at the moment. Even sawing it or creating planks would take a huge amount of time and I could lose an arm or a leg or a hand (I really dislike chainsaws) and would incur an initial investment of at least a few hundred euros for something near the proper materials.

Chipping is not an option, unless I win the lottery or make a friend of an arborologist or gardener who does a lot of chipping. Not many of those around here.

Biochar turned into a high quality potting soil mix might be the easiest way to turn a profit. Of course there are laws against selling your own potting soil mixes here, but it might work.

William
 
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