What to do with 30-50 trees' worth of large branches?
March 16, 2012 5:22 PM   Subscribe

What to do with 30-50 trees' worth of large branches in Orange County, NC? Burn, shred, give away for bird thicket, other ideas?

My friend (who is smart enough to already have considered obvious solutions) just had some of her front yard cleared so she could have a garden. Apparently this has resulted in a huge branchy mess. She's invited me over to help her burn all these branches tomorrow (the tree trunks have already been sold and removed).

Having the tree guys back would involve having the backhoe back -- she doesn't want that, because it would tear up the ground/soil more than it already is.

I considered hiring a shredder, but I'm not sure whether, environmentally, that would be better or worse than her idea of just burning everything.

I believe it would be safe to burn the branches - there's a lot of clearing now, it should be fairly wet tomorrow, and she generally knows what she's doing.

Any ideas? I'm not sure how large these trees were -- I'm guessing there was a range. The last time I saw her house, she was definitely living in the woods, a mix of pine and harder woods.

For locals: She lives about halfway between Chapel Hill and Hillsborough, a bit to the west. She's already called TROSA but they won't come to her location.
posted by amtho to Home & Garden (9 answers total)
People who make natural wood furniture might want some. You could also cut and bundle it up for kindling for fires for the next few/many months. I am not sure about how dry they are and need to be, but you could plan a big bbq, campfire party around it all.
posted by Vaike at 5:37 PM on March 16, 2012

You could bring it to my house so I could use it as firewood next winter! I'm only half kidding. Surely people would buy it as firewood? She might not get a lot of money for it, but it might be enough to be worth the hassle of chopping it up.
posted by something something at 5:41 PM on March 16, 2012

Are there any pottery studios around? They us wood for pit firing and sawdust for sawdust firing.
posted by fifilaru at 5:50 PM on March 16, 2012

She's invited me over to help her burn all these branches tomorrow (the tree trunks have already been sold and removed).

How recently were the branches cut? If it was recent, they're not going to burn well on their own.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 5:53 PM on March 16, 2012

Response by poster: They were cut about a week ago.
posted by amtho at 6:03 PM on March 16, 2012

Best answer: I don't know how feasible this is if your friend is more rural, but we cleared out a large driveway piled with tree branches just by listing it as free on Craigslist. Lots of guys in trucks came by, never bothered us inside. I think adding a picture to the post helps.
posted by book 'em dano at 6:07 PM on March 16, 2012

Was craigslist utilized? Try the free section.
posted by oceanjesse at 8:10 PM on March 16, 2012

Best answer: Hiring a shredder is a fine idea. Wood chips are about the best mulch you can have for a garden and landscaping, and a professional team will make a few hours of what will otherwise be a really obnoxious job for you all.
posted by Aquaman at 8:40 PM on March 16, 2012

Best answer: Okay.
It's possible to burn it, but if there are still trees around you'll be burning limbs, buds and bark of limbs overhead, or possibly trunks if they're close, and killing tissue. Also, as mentioned, green limbs don't burn well at all.
If someone has a truck big enough to do it, you could rent a chipper; however, to be worth a crap you need what is the staple large chipper of most rental fleets, a Vermeer BC1000, which can ostensibly chip wood up to 12 inches in diameter. You're not going to do that, but smaller chippers are mostly useless and slow. You can feed a great deal of material at a decent rate, and just shoot the chips on the ground to use in the garden. They can be towed with a large pickup but you may need 4x4 to get it where you need to go. If you do that, just tell the rental place to make sure that the knives are actually in good shape, and then don't you throw a bunch of rocks and dirt in with the wood.
Probably the best bet is to get a crew with a truck and chipper out there on site to work through the pile. It sucks, because the limbs are tangled and strewn in all directions and they'll have to pick apart the piles to do it. To save money, you could create piles for them to drive up to; just make the piles with the limbs facing in the same direction, cut ends towards where the back of the chipper would be, so they can pull limbs off the top and feed the cut ends straight into the feed wheels on the chipper.
Unfortunately, if whoever cut the trees used a trackhoe to push over trees and move logs, they made a muddy mess and may have ground mud into the limbs and wood and people won't want to put those into the chipper because it will dull the knives.
Just as an FYI: it's always better to deal with debris like that as it is cut, rather than making a huge pile to deal with later.
posted by Red Loop at 6:51 AM on March 17, 2012

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