Need to clear large amount of branches

hobbyfarmerMarch 15, 2007

I'm looking for the most practical way to get rid of a huge amount of dead brush. My husband and I have just moved to a neglected four-acre farm. The previous residents have left huge piles of dead trees and branches in the corrals. In addition, there is a large amount of overgrown brush around the house and sheds, creating a fire hazard. By clearing it away, I'm adding to this enormous amount of wood.

I've checked into renting a truck and taking this wood to the dump. It would take several trips, be very expensive (several hundred dollars), and require a lot of work.

I'd prefer to chop up these branches and make mulch for use in our garden, compost pile, and chicken coop. I'd hate to buy a wood chipper, as they're expensive and I don't think I'll need one in the future, after this brush is gone. The branches I have range from 1" to 4" in diameter. I'm new to this - are there services that would convert this to mulch for me? Would it be better to rent a wood chipper and have it delivered?

In short, is there any somewhat inexpensive way (under $200) to get rid of several large piles of dead branches? I have about four 10 foot by 8 foot piles. Thanks!

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castoff(Z5 Ontario)

If you are in a rural area, contact the local fire department. Ask them if it would be permissable to just burn all of it. Pick a suitable spot as far away from any buildings and burn one pile of it at a time. Yes, you will have to haul it to that spot but no matter which method you go with, hauling is needed.

If the answer from the fire department is no, then go to a rental yard and rent a chipper. If you are not experienced with one of these, then stay away from the drum-style. Get the disc chipper instead. The drum-style chippers are not for the faint of heart.

If the drum style is all that's availbable, yuo will need eye and ear protection plus a good pair of work gloves. Make sure your clothing is snug-fitting and done up at all times so it does not get snagged.

BTW, large properies require proportionately larger amounts of cash to maintain them. You might as wwll accept that fact if you are going to remain there.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2007 at 9:07AM
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davidandkasie(Z8 MS)

If possible, i would burn them as well.

when my wife and i bought our house the PO had several cedar trees right against the house that were causing damage. i removed them and trimmed up the other 50 or trees around the house and made a LARGE pile. i mean 20x20x10 large. let it sit for a month or so waiting on the local burn ban that was in place due to drought to lift, then set fire to it. i had flames shooting 75 ft high! of course, this pile was far enough away from ANYTHING that it could not easily spread AND i stood by with a water hose to put out the grass around it.

after that one i now keep the burn pile around 10x10 and no more than 5 ft high or so. burns big for a few minutes then it will settle down and just burn itself up.

also, if you have a wood fireplace, you could sort thru it and keep the wood suitable for burning in the Fp. a cord of wood can run anywhere from 150 to 300.00, so keep what you can. with 4 acres there is always a place to store wood.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2007 at 10:03AM
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aesanders(8b Alachua, FL)

A match works well. Also very inexpensive.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2007 at 11:35AM
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computeruser

If you can't burn, then you really need to rent a chipper. It'll make fast work of grinding up stuff into nice mulch. This one came from the Home Depot Rental Department, less than $200/day with insurance and tax. It handles up to 6" (theoretically...it gets a bit slow with the big stuff) and makes fast work of smaller stuff up to 4".

    Bookmark   March 15, 2007 at 12:30PM
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maineman(z5a ME)

HobbyFarmer,

"In short, is there any somewhat inexpensive way (under $200) to get rid of several large piles of dead branches?"

$200 will not get you a lot of time with a big rented chipper. It takes more time to drag the wood to a chipper and feed it than you might suppose.

As others have suggested, burning is your only "cheap" option. We had a similar situation on this approximately 4-acre property, but this whole area is wooded, so a huge bonfire wouldn't be feasible, legal, or prudent.

So we invested in a good chain saw and a good shredder-chipper. We have wood stoves on both levels, so the "free" firewood is an asset. The stuff that is unsuitable to burn goes into the shredder-chipper. It is versatile and, with interchangeable screens, it can make compost for the garden, fine wood chips for garden paths, and larger wood chips for landscape mulching.

Our total investment for the chain saw and the shredder-chipper was at least 10-times your $200 figure. But, in my opinion, it has been worth it. We will have firewood for years to come, and an almost limitless supply of rich compost piles for the garden.

MM

    Bookmark   March 15, 2007 at 12:50PM
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blacknumber1(WMich)

match + gas can + case of beer.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2007 at 3:54PM
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davefr

Burning is the way to go. If the wood is seasoned and the ground is wet then it should burn quite well and be safe. (late winter, early spring or late fall)

    Bookmark   March 15, 2007 at 5:36PM
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tom_nwnj(z6 NJ)

Why not get a 55 gallon drum, and burn it in there. That's safer than an open fire. Of course you would need a chain saw and a couple of weekends to burn everything. But you probably need to own a small chain saw anyway.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2007 at 7:00AM
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maineman(z5a ME)

tom_nwnj,

Remember, that HobbyFarmer started this message thread by saying, "I'm looking for the most practical way to get rid of a huge amount of dead brush. My husband and I have just moved to a neglected four-acre farm. The previous residents have left huge piles of dead trees and branches in the corrals. In addition, there is a large amount of overgrown brush around the house and sheds, creating a fire hazard. By clearing it away, I'm adding to this enormous amount of wood."

"Why not get a 55 gallon drum, and burn it in there. That's safer than an open fire. Of course you would need a chain saw and a couple of weekends to burn everything."

A couple of weekends is very optimistic. Depending on how much stuff they actually have to get rid of, that could be more like a couple of months or even a couple of years.

MM

    Bookmark   March 17, 2007 at 5:51PM
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montesa_vr(Minnesota)

If you decide to burn, check your state's DNR web site for tips on burning. You'll need a permit for piles that big unless there is snow on the ground. Here are a couple of things to remember: the surrounding grass (and your burn pile) will be less combustible in the evening, making it easier to keep the burn under control. Large pieces of burlap or empty burlap bags (water soaked) make excellent tools for beating out a spreading fire. If your permit provider stops to inspect your burn he'll be impressed if you have both a running hose and a barrel or two of water standing by for your burlap. Pay attention to the forecast and avoid burning during a wind, and especially avoid burning when the wind will blow the smoke onto a highway or into a neighbors windows. And clear a wide area around your fire. Regard any combutible material -- grass, wood, cardboard, etc as tinder dry even if it is water soaked and covered with snow. With enough heat it will burn, so clear it out before you start your fire.
Burning is fun. It's less fun when you have to call the fire department and they charge you several hundred dollars for coming out. It's even less fun than that when you don't call the fire department because you're afraid they will charge you several hundred dollars and you end up burning down your house.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2007 at 11:28PM
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alisonn

Wouldn't the cost of renting the chipper be worth it in all the mulch you will wind up with (and, therefore, won't have to buy)?

    Bookmark   May 14, 2007 at 12:41PM
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