Don’t Give That Brush Pile the Brush-off

…or when life deals you lemons, make lemonade!

This isn’t exactly the best time to take visiting friends or relatives from a distant region on a tour of Newtown, is it?

You’d want them to see the beauty of the town at the height of the fall season or maybe the wonderful, historic homes lining Main Street, or maybe even just a ride around to enjoy what is by any measure a beautiful New England town — usually.

However, if that long-lost cousin of yours were to pop in from Nebraska, here’s what he/she/it would see: brush piles in front of most properties along the road, tree tops displaying ragged edges where branches and limbs were wrenched from the tree and mounds of wood chips here and there – not a very appealing display.

Granted, the situation is temporary but judging by the response of property owners to the town’s merciful decision to collect all that debris, I think it would be prudent to expect the posted schedule to be pushed out several days. There’s a lot of stuff out there.

As I go by my own piles of brush on my way out and drive around town, I often think about some of the things that I’ve done and continue to do with at least some of the stuff. 

The first thing that comes to mind is turning brush piles into habitats.  Your property needs to be partly wooded for this to be effective but then if it weren’t partly wooded where did it come from to begin with, right? 

The idea is to simply pile the brush in a somewhat obscure location and cover it with leaves.  Pine branches and needles are especially suited to this.

I used to do this with my 4th and 5th grade science classes in wooded areas behind Sandy Hook School and I continue to do it with my grand children on my own property.  In fact since I live on over two acres, I have several such piles scattered about.

Once the structure is complete, it’s not long before you see evidence of animals using them — especially once the snow comes. 

Kids love doing things like this.  It’s good for the environment and you’re making use of otherwise unwanted materials.

Here’s another thing I’ve noticed about those brush piles I see just about everywhere. The last three, four, even five feet of many of the branches are as much as three or more inches thick. Most have cut ends so obviously the person who put them there has a chainsaw.

Why not save those last few feet and use it for firewood? 

Consider: It’s free; it doesn’t have to be split; and finally you’ll have it available to heat your house the next time something like this happens.  It’s a win-win.  So far I’ve managed to accumulate a full truckload of wood just from my own property.

Once all of this is done, you’re still going to have a significant pile for the town to pick up. 

What are they going to do with it?  I’m guessing it’s going to get chipped. In fact I’ve seen them doing that very thing. Where are those chips going?  They’re going to be added to the pile already at the landfill — a pile which is available for free to the public.

I’ve hauled many a truckload of chips from that area. 

Wood chips are great for mulching various areas (but not against the foundation of your house) and for use as erosion control in difficult areas. Plus those few folks who have outdoor wood furnaces are loving them. They’re free fuel!

So there you have it. Something to do this weekend when your kids complain that they’re bored and there’s nothing to do — building brush pile habitats and stacking firewood followed by hot chocolate and a feeling of accomplishment.  

Have fun!

michael spiegel November 20, 2011 at 01:28 PM
Any problem with wood chip piles in wetland or next to wetland areas?
Hoa Nguyen November 20, 2011 at 04:44 PM
Probably shouldn't do that – that may be construed as "filling of wetlands" and you could wind up with a wetlands violation.
Kerri C. November 27, 2011 at 02:14 PM
Great idea about the habitat. The town already picked up the brush.


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