• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies living kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education experiences global resources the cider press projects digital market permies.com all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Nicole Alderman
  • r ranson
  • paul wheaton
  • Burra Maluca
stewards:
  • Jocelyn Campbell
  • Miles Flansburg
  • Devaka Cooray
garden masters:
  • Dave Burton
  • Anne Miller
  • Daron Williams
  • Greg Martin
gardeners:
  • Joseph Lofthouse
  • James Freyr
  • Bryant RedHawk

Free wood chips mulch from the utility crew! (The good, the bad, and the ugly)  RSS feed

 
gardener
Posts: 2268
Location: Central Oklahoma (zone 7a)
353
forest garden trees woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
The contractors who maintain a twenty-foot clearing under the power line easement across our property are here today.

The good: They have promised me at least one truckload of shredded trees later in the day, which I need so badly. Mulch to me is anything (mostly fallen leaves or dead winter grass) that I can rake together by hand. There's never enough. A big pile of shredded local tree branches will be amazingly useful. I'll be wheel-barrowing it all over the place for sure. First stop: the mucky path in front of my garden bench and largest raised bed. We're gonna be high-and-dry with no more squelchy feet while we transplant seedlings!

Also good: there aren't any trees I care about in the line of fire. This is an every-four-year event and the last crew was very thorough. Mostly they will be pruning newer growth off some huge Osage Orange trees this time around. Not only do we have (oh so many) more of those trees, but this crew seems to be very careful and professional about their work. They are giving haircuts, not cutting heads off.

The bad: My dogs do not enjoy their presence. They want to go outside and bark at the tree vandals. Probably, if not prevented, they want to stand directly under the bucket truck and bark straight up at the dude in the bucket dropping tree limbs on them. These are outside dogs; eventually I am going to have to let them out.

Also, the ground here is wet and soft, so the trimming crew may have to dump my load of shreddings in a less-than-perfectly-convenient place.

The ugly: It's too wet today, but they will be back in a few days with the backback sprayers full of toxic gick. I've seen the sprayer guys at work; it's not as bad as it could be. They mostly do point applications to tree stumps and new tree seedlings with a wand held close to the ground. Not a lot of potential for overspray. And I keep my plantings well away from this right-of-way for just this reason.

However there are maybe half-a-dozen new volunteer fruit and nut tree seedlings that I've identified in their target zone. If those seedling survive today's mechanical clearing activities (which I expect they will, they are very small and quite peripheral to the area of interest) I'm gonna have to get out there and do some rescue transplanting and relocation before the weather dries up and the backpack sprayers arrive.
 
Dan Boone
gardener
Posts: 2268
Location: Central Oklahoma (zone 7a)
353
forest garden trees woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
The nice fellows on this Davey chipping crew really came through for me. One full truckload of shredded trees delivered exactly where I wanted it, no more than twenty feet from my container garden and tree nursery area (offscreen to the right).



These are hyperlocal chips, too; the shredder and truck was never out sight of this property while they filled it. And their toxic gick team wasn't even out today, they only work when it's dry. So there's no risk of herbicide in this load.



The driver apologized for the fact that their shredder is overdue to have its blades flipped and sharpened. It's true that these chips and shreds are many of them larger and longer than would be ideal; the heap is mix of lovely finger-sized stuff with longer chunks of the twiggier material, some of which is 18" long. But the longer stuff will be just fine for garden paths and mulching around trees.

In chatting with the driver, I learned that this particular crew counts itself lucky not to have had to take a single load of chips to the landfill on the current job. They much prefer to find volunteers like me to take their chips, mostly because it's just more convenient to drop the chips nearby once the truck is full. One lady in a town near me has gotten ten loads from them. That's a lot of wood chips!
 
steward
Posts: 8019
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
305
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Davey is a nation wide tree service company (U.S., and Canada).
They were here in my neighborhood last spring trying to get locked into the power company's annual trimming contracts. I chatted with the crew, and they seemed very friendly and professional.

You may also want to check out this permies thread http://www.permies.com/t/39157/mulch/Chip-Drop-Free-wood-chips which is about a nation wide free wood chip service.



 
steward
Posts: 2719
Location: Maine (zone 5)
561
chicken dog food preservation forest garden goat hugelkultur rabbit trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Every time I pass a road crew chipping, I'll stop and ask them to drop it at my house. I'm usually closer than their dump site so I get a lot of chips every couple years. They only chips every couple years. They do mow the "grass" every year though.
As far as I know nothing here is sprayed except maybe giant hogweed. I do however find plastic and metal debris mixed in with the chips from time to time. I suspect that it's roadside trash that gets picked up as the crew works along the road. One time there was a huge chunk of steel that must have broken off of a tractor attachment or something. Weighs like 30 pounds. I'll find a use for it someday. Right now it's holding down a tarp.

I've added lots of the chips in the paths of my gardens and along the walkways to the house and animal shelters. They are also great for bedding in animal shelters depending on what's being chipped.

 
Posts: 724
Location: In a rain shadow - Fremont County, Southern CO
20
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
we have the cell phone numbers of the local tree cutting foremen in our area

in my area, it seems they are having no problem finding places to dump chips. they mention they havent had to pay to dump them in a LONG time.
so naturally i rewarded the guys with some beer when they are able to deliver chips.

as Dan said - i have had the guys drop chips in the perfect spot . . . like in the cow yard. saves 10+ trips with the wheelbarrow/cart.


the other day, my wife stopped the chippers after they had just left our house ~ 5 mins earlier, lol. they mentioned they just came from here
 
Dan Boone
gardener
Posts: 2268
Location: Central Oklahoma (zone 7a)
353
forest garden trees woodworking
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
We've had lots of warm weather and heavy rains since this pile was delivered. Today I was digging into it and was surprised and delighted to find it full of fungal growth already -- the same white powdery spots and threads (mecelium-looking) that you find in damp layers of forest leaves and duff.

I didn't know I was getting a mycelium mine, but I'll take it!
 
Dan Boone
gardener
Posts: 2268
Location: Central Oklahoma (zone 7a)
353
forest garden trees woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I got another load today!

Astonishing as this may sound, the old pile was reduced by half to two-thirds in the four months since I got it. I've been screening it to make fine mulch for my container garden, using it by the wheelbarrow-load to suppress weeds on pathways and fill in mud-holes, and distributing it in my orchard area as I find the energy. It's also been very wet, so there's been a lot of decomposition and compaction going on in the pile, which reduced its size considerably.

About two weeks ago, the Davy Tree guys were on the property with clipboards. These guys looked like supervisors or inspectors, and said they were checking the work of the earlier crews. I said "tell your guys I could use another load" not thinking anything would come of it. (The trucks I've seen lately have been working several miles away.) The white-hard-hat guys assured me they'd pass it on.

No chips appeared, and I was not surprised. Then today, suddenly, here's a truck. Turns out it's the very same crew that dropped the last load, and they did get the word, but they've had an easier closer place to dump chips. Until today, which is the first clear day after three days of epic rains. They were getting stuck at their current chip-dump site, and remembered that my site had driveway access of a sort. So here they are!

The good: This load of chips is much finer than the last load, which was winter wood broken up into a lot of finger-sized chips and shreds up to a couple of feet long. This stuff is full of green leaves and wood fines, more like sawdust. Lots of green mixed with the brown, it's much richer stuff and much more mulchy in texture than the last load. It's going to be a lot easier to use, with a lower nitrogen demand as it breaks down.

The bad: It's a wet green/brown mix that's well-aerated; it wants to compost and was already hot to the touch when it came out of the truck. That's good in the long run but I'm going to have to watch it closely to make sure it doesn't catch on fire.

The ugly: This batch isn't hyperlocal; I didn't see the guys cutting the trees that went into it, as I mostly did with the previous batch. This batch, I don't know for certain comes from unsprayed areas, the way I did with the first batch. However, we got more than five inches of rain in the last three days; whatever they were cutting and chipping today was at least well-washed. I'm not too worried. But I definitely am starting to feel that queasiness others have reported about bringing unknown inputs into my systems.

Still, I'm delighted. I had been looking at my dwindling pile and thinking "This winter when it's cool enough to work, I'm going to be spreading this stuff like mad and there's a risk of running out." Now, I think I'm set for the 2016 growing season.

I wasn't in a position to tip these guys in cash, but I thanked them nicely, told them how much good the chips were doing my garden, and gave them a big handful of fresh thumb-sized Juliette salad tomatoes. They exclaimed cheerfully among themselves in Mexican about the tomatoes and stored them carefully away in their various pockets, which I am choosing to interpret as a positive reaction.
 
Posts: 15
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
It is so nice to have fellowship with other tree truck mulchers!

I don't think many people in my city take advantage of these filled trucks because every time I've called my favorite driver they want to bring more than one load. I've had four Asplundh truckloads of chips dumped on top of my front-lawn-being-converted-to-woodland-wildflowers in the past year, and would have more except my husband has all kinds of nature phobias so the piles must disappear as quickly as possible. I do the vast majority of the spreading and he will come out to help just because it hurts his pride to see me working so hard! We MUST wear respirators! We should wear goggles too. The woody loads aren't so bad, but the leafy ones seem to start composting as soon as they get into those trucks. I take care not to pile it on thick around trees and on their drip lines.




These pix are a month old now so the areas have since been completely covered. These images were from a post I made on garden.web (houzz) about "removing" Bermuda grass. the thread on gardenweb about removing Bermuda grass

I've done this at previous homes, suffocating/steam-cooking the majority of the grass under heavy mulch in mid summer and then easily yanking up whatever survives in the fall and next spring.

 
Dan Boone
gardener
Posts: 2268
Location: Central Oklahoma (zone 7a)
353
forest garden trees woodworking
  • Likes 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
It's time to update.

Three years and nine months.  Long time.

I used the hell out of those two truckloads of wood chips I got three years ago.  In all the usual ways.  It's not an exaggeration to say they were what broke my logjam of "how the hell do I grow stuff in this red concrete hell" as a beginning gardener in Oklahoma.

By this spring, those two piles were below knee high, and totally choked by my local weed/grass that overgrows everything, to the point where I would need a mattock to dig any chips out of it.  I got lazy and gave up.

My brother-in-law was over with his tractor, brush-hogging my dog-walking trail, and offered to use the loader bucket on the front to push the pile together and move it six feet.  It turned out to have fully composted down into lovely soil-like compost, utterly full of soil life from pill bugs to wire worms to earthworms to a zillion smaller things.  My garden containers this summer were the happiest they've ever been due to this being the first time I've ever had a plentiful supply of good rich stuff to put in them.  But -- sad trombone -- I have been out of mulch again, reduced to stripping leaves by hand off my paper mulberry trees and cutting my comfrey patches.  

Mid-summer, the power utility sent a poison crew down my easement with thirty-foot poison-squirters, streaming death at anything that was more than six inches tall.  Even milkweed plants.  It was ugly.  I was mad.  But there isn't much I can do except keep my stuff away from that easement.  So I had my brother-in-law back-blade it perfectly flat.  I'm gonna plant it to clover and keep it mowed.  If there's *nothing* for the death-goons to point their hand squirters at, maybe they won't.  It's my last desperation tactic.  Fortunately we have lots of land, I don't need that bit.

Yesterday they sent a different crew (outside contractor, not their inside goons) with the boom saw to trim the tall trees.  That was painful -- one of my beloved pecan trees got an ungentle haircut, but it was perhaps necessary from an electrical-grid perspective, this being ice storm country --  but the foreman was doing his best not to get yelled at.  I asked him about chips.  They were not generating any; they had a stump grinder rig the size of a small schoolbus, generating dirty shreds the size of my arm.  But he told me they were working closely with another nearby crew  and he would get me a few loads.  

I was not sure I wasn't getting polite smoke blown up my butt, but I thanked him nicely.

Damn me if my dogs didn't blow up this afternoon as a Wright Tree Service truck pulled into the yard to drop off a beautiful load of chips from just down the road.  Lovely stuff, local trees, chipped with a sharp blade in sizes ranging from sawdust up to about an inch square.  Would be a mix of red cedar, a couple of species of elm, oak, osage orange, a little honey locust, hackberry, maybe a few catalpas or redbuds or persimmons or pecans or hickories or dogwoods or invasive hybrid pear species or half a dozen other random things.  But probably 60%, more likely 80% elms and oaks where they are working.  From the color it did look like maybe there was a fair bit of Osage Orange in there but I'm good with that ... I'm in no hurry for this stuff to break down and I generally don't have the problems with alleopathy that other people report.

I really want to compliment Wright Tree Service; the guys were taking great care to give me clean chips.  First thing out of their chip box was a heavy garbage can full of litter, which they set aside.  As the chips came out of the truck there was a foam cup from a local convenience store; one guy jumped into the pile to retrieve it while the other one ragged on the driver for having chucked it in there.  At the bottom of the pile there was a tied Walmart bag of trash that came rattling out; they pulled it out of the chips too, and put it in their trash can without comment.  In studying the pile after they left, I saw only one visible piece of garbage; that was part of a potato chip bag about two inches square.  Plus they were pleasant and friendly about the whole delivery.

What's more, they say they are going to be in the area on this contract for at least a week, and made noise like they would be happy to bring me many more loads.  I took some care to show them where to make the drops (I have endless space that's easily accessible for them, at least when the ground is dry) and thanked them a lot.

These really were the prettiest chips I've ever seen.  The truck itself was pretty too -- an enclosed dump-bed chip-hauler with a swinging tailgate and a towed chipper, with a bucket boom that folds down over the chip-hauler or raises when they need to tip the hauler bed up to dump the chips.  I complimented the truck and they told me it was a 2018 model, which may explain (if the chipper was also brand new) why the chips were so pretty.

59BC0DC4-6DE8-46B1-8E49-7B3B1FD15863.jpeg
[Thumbnail for 59BC0DC4-6DE8-46B1-8E49-7B3B1FD15863.jpeg]
One truckload of new chips!
0BE5CED8-2D97-476A-90CB-FFC2551DD461.jpeg
[Thumbnail for 0BE5CED8-2D97-476A-90CB-FFC2551DD461.jpeg]
Pretty chips!
 
pollinator
Posts: 1065
Location: Los Angeles, CA
177
books chicken food preservation forest garden hugelkultur urban
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Great to see an update on this thread.

If they are that generous, can't you get more dumped?  You seem to have space.

I use at least 3 to 5 loads of chips on my suburban lot in Los Angeles.  I'd take more if I had a place to store them and let them break down naturally (as you did).  If I had land (as you seem to have), I'd be taking 20 loads a year.  I'm not exaggerating -- 20 loads.

If you've got heavy red-clay soil, you can't get enough of them.
 
Dan Boone
gardener
Posts: 2268
Location: Central Oklahoma (zone 7a)
353
forest garden trees woodworking
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Marco Banks wrote:If they are that generous, can't you get more dumped?  You seem to have space.



All I can do is quote myself:

What's more, they say they are going to be in the area on this contract for at least a week, and made noise like they would be happy to bring me many more loads.  I took some care to show them where to make the drops (I have endless space that's easily accessible for them, at least when the ground is dry) and thanked them a lot.



The foreman is one of those careful men who never makes a promise he might not be able to keep.  He seemed confident he would be back tomorrow with more chips, and I did everything in my power to emphasize my willingness to receive as many loads as he cared to drop.  He definitely understood this.  His comment was that they were moving to a nearby town "in a few days" but that they would still be trucking chips to my town (where the county landfill is) from there; and he conveyed by his tone (without making a specific statement) that the landfill was an unpalatable option.  I know it to be expensive and poorly maintained, with an access full of metal debris that punctures truck tires.   I showed him where to put at least twenty loads of chips, and pointed him to the gate through which he could deposit a couple hundred more in dry weather.  

In other words, I did all I can!  It's up to them now.  But I know from experience that these crews (and more to the point, their bosses) are fickle.  An ice storm 300 miles away could have them gone tomorrow; I might never see them again.  Or this foreman puts a honey locust thorn through his hand and the new guy doesn't get the word.  Anything can happen.
 
gardener
Posts: 5238
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
661
books chicken dog duck fish forest garden fungi homestead hugelkultur hunting pig
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Dan, get some signs "ORGANIC FARM  Please do not spray herbicides or pesticides".

Call the electric company and inform them that you are an organic grower and have places these signs to protect your Organic Status.

Unless you are, don't mention Organic certification since that could come back on you should they ask for the paperwork.
Most electric companies don't want to risk a publicized law suit because they sprayed near an organic farm, certified or not that is horrible publicity for them.

Redhawk
 
Dan Boone
gardener
Posts: 2268
Location: Central Oklahoma (zone 7a)
353
forest garden trees woodworking
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
The trouble is a breakdown in command and control in the several layers of contracting and subcontracting between the public utility (which takes a “partial qualified immunity, good luck with that lawsuit” attitude anyway) and the actual temporary laborers in the field on the day, who report only to a crew manager sitting in an air-conditioned truck who reports to a contract manager who reports to an executive who may report back to the utility. Somewhere in that chain there may be someone who cares about bad publicity but I have learned through trial and error that they are NOT in actual control of the guys with the backpack sprayers.

Better signage is on my to-do list, but I am beyond the point of being willing to rely on it to protect anything I care about.
 
Dan Boone
gardener
Posts: 2268
Location: Central Oklahoma (zone 7a)
353
forest garden trees woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Sadly they dumped no more chips yesterday.  Possibly related fact, we had a line of thunderstorms blow across the state including a couple of spectacular tornadoes that spent a long time on the ground way off to the east of me, so it's easily possible the crew that was working my neighborhood two days ago is long gone now.  
 
Posts: 415
Location: 4b
64
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I have signs that say "Do not spray.  Chemical trespassers will be prosecuted. " It's working so far, but i also keep the area under the power lines cleared.
 
Posts: 243
Location: SE Oklahoma
19
duck forest garden hugelkultur
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Trace Oswald wrote:I have signs that say "Do not spray.  Chemical trespassers will be prosecuted. " It's working so far, but i also keep the area under the power lines cleared.



I suspect keeping the area cleared is more effective than signs. :-)  The city sprayed my friends Cantaloupe plants that were growing on the INSIDE of her backyard fence. Since they were volunteers and she is elderly and unable to garden anymore, that was very sad.

But on a happier note, I always took her fresh produce from my garden and anytime I bought any for myself.
 
Trace Oswald
Posts: 415
Location: 4b
64
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'm not sure if it's true everywhere,  but last time my property was sprayed, I called and complained about them spraying some of my food trees.  They actually came out and looked at the area I complained about.  The guy that came out told me if I posted signs,  they couldn't spray.
 
Dan Boone
gardener
Posts: 2268
Location: Central Oklahoma (zone 7a)
353
forest garden trees woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I know I don’t own the threads that I start. But if my vote counts for anything, I’d really prefer for this to be more of a wood chips thread than another mostly-futile “stopping utilities from spraying” thread. To anybody who chooses to humor me about this, thanks!
 
I am Arthur, King of the Britons. And this is a tiny ad:
Wildlife Web Kickstarter: Participate in the Web of Life
https://permies.com/t/100598/Wildlife-Web-Kickstarter-Participate-Web
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!