The title comes from a Swedish death metal band called Comecon. You listen to some weird stuff (only infrequently by choice) when you live in a barracks, okay?
Anyway, so you have your dead ash tree cut down, and you managed not to drop it on yourself…or the car…or the power lines…etcetera. But when this landscape feature hits the ground and literally shakes the ground beneath your feet, it’s something of a revelation: this thing is big. A doubting glance over your shoulder at the pickup as you hear the woeful reflection: we’re gonna need a bigger boat. But you start in and before too long the trunk is in manageable sections. Timber for the woodshop and fuel for the hearth. But what about the slash?
Slash is the logging term for all those sticks that inconveniently come attached to your timber. What do you do with it? In some places they just lop off the butt log (the bottom-most, biggest section of trunk) and leave the rest. It’ll rot down, eventually. And in the interim it provides wildlife habitat. Well, that’s true but here in central Ohio, and especially for me since I work in people’s backyards or along the edges of fields, leaving the splintered tops of trees lying hither and yon isn’t really an option. It’s also NOT a good idea for forest management. All those little sticks lying around provides a tinder nest for a forest fire to start. Periodic, small-scale fires historically cleansed the forest of all this detritus. In fact, some trees require there to be flame to spread their seeds. But if a few yahoos with chainsaws come through and pile all this dead wood around the forest floor, it provides the fuel for a much larger conflagration. Foresters even refer to this buildup as “fuel load”. It’s one of the reasons that forest fires out west are so bad: they’ve got forty or fifty years worth of dry fuel piled up on the forest floor. So when a fire starts, it’s much worse. So that slash has to go somewhere.
For many years, and for some today, a burn pile was the go-to option. Just take all the slash from a cut, put in piles and burn a little bit at a time. It will all end up as ash, and problem solved. Well, that sort of works, but it also has problems. First, until you get out twenty miles or so from town, open burning is actively discouraged. Like, illegal. Second, it’s not as if burning isn’t work. Somebody has to keep tending the fire and keeping watch because of reason the Third: there’s very real possibility of catching things on fire by accident! Sparks travel on the wind, roots of nearby trees smoulder and ignite, any number of vectors for disaster exist. And fourth, many times bonfires will burn so hot that they sterilise the underlying soil. Not a very “green” option.
But I have a way to take care of all that slash: Say hello to my little friend!
The BCS 853 with the chipper attachment solves these problems. You may call it il Duce. These piles you see is the complete top of a 60 foot tall ash tree, after cutting out and removing all the branches that would cut up into firewood. It’s also the pruning from five other trees (3 hackberries, 1 red oak, 1 boxelder) that filled up a fourteen-foot trailer to overflowing and then some.
This is that same pile of branches. Elapsed time? An hour and a half. And all on three-quarters of a gallon of diesel. Now this mulch can be put to a variety of uses. I use it as bedding for my wife’s chickens, which eventually turns into compost for my garden. One of my sisters-in-law
sponges shamelessly off my labour uses it for paths in her strawberry beds. If I’m in the woods, and can’t get the truck over to the brushpile, I’ll just spray it out over the forest floor. All that biomass goes right back in the forest, and fire risk becomes effectively nil. It also makes the woods less muddy come spring.
The BCS tractor, made in Italy, is a really wonderful tool for working in the woods. Thankfully my dad lets me use it because it’s pretty well invaluable. It’s sort of like a motorised ginsu knife. It chips (see above), grinds stumps, splits logs, cuts and bales hay, mows (the flail mower on brambles is a treat), tills, snowplows, pressure washes, and even functions as a backup generator. They might have come up with more stuff since I looked: you can find out here. Not only that, but it’s agile enough to get over little trails that a pickup with a towed chipper couldn’t negotiate. I might not say every horse trail would work, but if an ATV will go over it, so will this. This makes it easy to get it up into the woods right up to where you’re felling trees.
So if you are tired of burning brushpiles, give this a try. I think you’ll find that it’s definitely a better way.