Notes from Windward: #70


Branches to Fertilizer


     As part of our forest management, we have been limbing a portion of the low hanging branches of the Doug Fir, Ponderosa Pine and Gary Oak to reduce forest fire ladder fuels. Since our summers are so hot and dry, every year there is a risk of a forest fire coming through, a risk we take very seriously.

     We limb during the winter months, as the sap flow is lower then, and the beetles that are attracted to the sap and can eventually infest and kill trees are less active. We use these branches in a variety of ways. Sarah has written about using the branches for various crafts. We have also found that the goats and sheep enjoy the green needles as part of their winter diet. However, the vast majority of the branches we will be chipping.

chips fresh from the chipper

     We have an assortment of uses for the woodchips, but these first several hundred gallons of woodchips we are using to freshen Vermadise and Chick-plex--two homes for the chickens. It has been at least 6 months since we last cleaned out the chicken manure from Vermadise and Chick-plex, so quite a bit of nitrogen rich material has built up.

     Between the two chicken houses, we removed at least 30 wheelbarrows, and brought it all downhill towards the garden. We then added a fresh layer, a few inches thick, of woodchips to the floor. Within a few months, the chickens will have worked their magic again, helping to turn cellulose-rich wood into nitrogen rich fertilizer.

Sarah, Carina and Andrew moving
a barrel into Vermadise

     It is during these kinds of tasks that it becomes ever so apparent why community is important in managing a farm. Both mucking out a chicken run and chipping are quite involved tasks and require several people to be performed efficiently. What can be an arduous task that takes an entire day by yourself, can be completed in a few hours with several people, with good conversation happening along while.

     This past weekend, part of the Away Team came up for a visit from Portland, enabling us to have a crew chipping and a crew cleaning out chicken manure at the same time, and so we got a lot done a few short hours. Thank you to all those who helped!

a chicken's eye view of the fresh chips

     Another less obvious benefit of the role of community in resource management is that it better positions us to make the highest and best use of the materials we generate. If this were a one or two person operation, rather than being turned into fertilizer, animal food or fuel for gasification, those tree branches may have been just burned in a bonfire as that is a far easier than creating and hauling around several hundred gallons of woodchips. But the chickens and the gardens would then never benefit from the forest resources, and by extension neither would we.

Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 70