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Huge pile of large plant material

 
Posts: 14
Location: Tomales, CA
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We live in N. California, 30 miles from the bad fires we had this autumn.

We have accumulated a HUGE pile, as in 50 x 20 x 8 feet, of prunnings and tree parts over the last four years from our land.
We used to burn it, but stopped because even that, two people for a day, was too much labor for us. Now we realize it is a serious fire hazard as it sits, up wind from our buildings.

Questions:
1. How can we deal with the huge pile in a land friendly way, with minimum labor and $.
2. How can we process what we accumulate over the next years without letting it get into such a huge issue?
3. A lot of this material next year will be from cypress that we have to clean up for fire prevention. I understand that material from conifers, even as chips, isn't good around fruit or vegetables, because it fosters "brown" instead of "white" fungi. What can we do with it?
4. We do have eroded canyons with small running creeks; can we dump the materials into them to help fill them in? How to do it without causing other problems?

We have an acre fruit and vegetable garden. Ideally we would create chips, mulch, or compost we could use there.
We have plenty of accessible land.

We need your ideas! Thanks, Gale
2018-Fire-wise-material-pile-60.JPG
[Thumbnail for 2018-Fire-wise-material-pile-60.JPG]
The pile contains a lot of large brush and tree material
 
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OAEC up here in occidental did some neat projects with layering cut brush into ravines and drainages to help build water retention into the banks and soil. here is a link to the descirption https://oaec.org/publications/integrated-stormwater-retention-system/
Sounds like you do take on a similar project on your property in the canyons and creeks.
or renting a wood chipper or borrowing one if you have a connection to one. I have also broken up prunings and used them to create berms/hugelkulturs or layered them around fruit trees and shrubs to create berms.
 
gardener
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Location: West Tennessee
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If it were my huge pile of tree prunings and parts I would build hugelkultures and make wood chips. I wouldn't fuss with one of those small wood chippers seen advertised on tv or in magazines. I'd go to the equipment rental yard and rent a chipper for a day, like the kind the city uses. These kinds of chippers will make quick work of massive piles of brush and tree limbs.
 
pollinator
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My first thought would also be to hugel it. Maybe dig a big ol trench next to it and then bury it in that trench with the dirt you pulled out of the trench. Soak it liberally as you go. Things will grow in it and it  certainly won't burn.
 
Posts: 676
Location: Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada
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stephen lowe wrote:My first thought would also be to hugel it. Maybe dig a big ol trench next to it and then bury it in that trench with the dirt you pulled out of the trench. Soak it liberally as you go. Things will grow in it and it  certainly won't burn.



Totally agree. It's too valuable to let it go up in smoke.
 
Gale Zimmerman
Posts: 14
Location: Tomales, CA
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Very helpful. We are half an hour from OAEC and the resources you list are local. Your projects are great. I'll need to give more time to digest your report. We have summer projects with our younger members; maybe we can get something together for using materials in our creek. And I'll look at renting a chipper.
 
master steward
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Those brush piles are habitats for wildlife.  I get an exemption on the taxes for having them.

Consider leaving a few for the birds and other critters.

 
gardener
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The chipper rental is probably the most affordable option based on time spent, if you were hugel that much material, plus keep up with new material, you would either need a decent sized excavator to make the beds or you'll be shoveling dirt for weeks. Bundling up the small twigs and lining the creeks and canyons to reduce soil erosion, and chipping the larger pieces for the garden sounds like a good combo.
 
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