Friday, January 30, 2009

Free wood chips

One of the bedding items that I use every day is wood chips; I get them for free from local tree service companies. Normally they'd pay $40 or so to dump them somewhere; for both of us its a pretty good deal. This is about 20 cubic yards of wood chips, delivered in two truck loads.

I usually give the tree service guys a dozen or two eggs, or a pound of bacon, or around thanksgiving, a turkey because I appreciate the chips over the course of the year so much.

Wood chips compost manure and slaughter byproducts nicely -- they have a huge amount of carbon which balances the nitrogen, and means that the resulting composted soil is about as good as it gets. Black and rich.

The consistency is pretty good, and the local trees are pretty much non-toxic. Well... maybe. I don't really know. I worried about it a bunch when I started raising chickens and turkeys on it. I was afraid that I'd lose them because they'd eat something bad, but so far so good. Most of this particular load is douglas fir and maple, which I can tell by the smell and look of the chips. It includes the leaves (in season) and needles, which the chickens actually appear to enjoy eating. They'll pick the needles out one by one and cackle about their find. Every now and then there will be a grub or beetle or some other sort of particularly delicious chicken treat -- and then there will be lots of running and squawking and a good time by all.
The wood chips, in quantity, are also a good solution for muddy spots. Throw a few yards of them into the hole and run over it with the tractor a few times, throw in some manure, and you've got a horizontal compost heap. Next summer it'll be ready.

Want wood chips?
I've had the best luck (read: most consistent loads) from local tree service companies. They care about the dollars spent, and the dump fees add up after a while. The municipal guys, who clear power lines and stuff, aren't nearly as concerned about cost, so they're harder motivate to dump for you. But I started this by chasing tree service trucks down the street that I saw working around the area, and its been a good partnership for both of us.

Any time you can get organic material delivered it's worth doing. That's how good soil is made.

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