Saturday, April 11, 2009

Chips and chips and chips

I've been receiving truckloads of chips for the last couple of years. That's my dumptruck in the background. I set up a chip dump area next to my front gate, and the tree service guys dump whenever they want. So some weeks I'll get 2 loads, some I'll get 25 loads. I get a lot more chips after every storm. This picture is about 30 cubic yards of chips; 3 or 4 chip service truckloads.
The chips work great as animal bedding, as a floor for brooding chicks, or tossed onto a muddy road to help it firm up.

I also use the chips to make my soil better. In some places on my property there's bars of clay that come up to the surface. I've found that wood chips, tilled in, are a good amendment to add organic material and make the soil lighter. Wood chips are all carbon however, so before I plant stuff there I've got to add some nitrogen -- which happens to be a big component of bird droppings (chicken, turkey) and pig droppings. So what I'll do to mix it all up is spread 4 to 6" of chips on top of the clay, plow it down to 16" or so, and then till it to completely mix it all up. Then I'll pen some critters on top of the spot for 6 months or so. Weaner pigs work great for this, but chickens and turkeys work too. Breeding pens, for instance.
At the end of the process you've got 16-20" of very nice black soil that's pretty fertile. To finish the process I test the soil in the spring, and amend it based on what it lacks. After that it's pretty much good to go for anything you might want to grow.

Wood chips are also good for composting slaughter by products. The carbon soaks up all the nitrogen in the offal, and makes pretty good soil. I'll put down 2 feet of chips, some guts, and then 2 more feet of chips. In two months I'll turn it over, and then again in another 2. After 6 months it's composted and ready for use as topsoil.


Kim said...

Hey, Mr. Bruceki,
You have a plethora of clever ideas and resources to add improvements all around.
Have you done any research on remineralizing the earth?

I have yet to find a good local source of rock dust, but I do add dolomite that I buy from Lowe's for my garden.
I know when I originally brought some goats to my place they would not eat the grass at all, now after five years, they chomp it all down.

Bruce King said...

My testing is using the WSU (washington state university) extension, where I test for specific crops. So I'll say "what do I need to grow corn" or blueberries, or row crop vegetables, etc. They tell me what sorts of amendments they reccomend, and amounts. So they might say "50lbs nitrogen per acre". They also specify, when needed, trace elements. I'm on top of salt water mud, so apparently there's plenty of sulfur and other minerals from that.

David said...

Pine and cedar wood chips give off phenols that can cause respiratory problems in guinea pigs.

I don't know whether these shavings are a danger to other animals, but I guess they could be.

Anonymous said...

I've found that the cedar and pine chips help keep the fleas/mites at bay.