Dream Seed Farms

Sunday, September 4, 2011

A Sound Investment

About two month's ago, we made, perhaps, the best investment since we have been on the island. 

On the return leg of one of our road trips to our Permaculture class in Nagano, we stopped at a hardware store with a sizable shopping list in hand. Scribbled in at the bottom was an item I had been dreaming about: a wood chipper! I fantasized about gathering up everyone's Christmas trees (not that they have them here!), lawn clippings and even pruning random trees myself just to run them through the machine. I never actually expected to get one, but in case we ever saw one I had already made a pro/con ledger for the two types we would likely encounter.

Currently our garden is about a five minute walk from our house, in the middle of a couple other folks' gardens. The distance from our house is key because the main types of chippers available are either gas powered or electric. We could get a can and some gasoline too, but there is no practical way we could run an extension cord from our house to the field. The long term practicality of an electric version would be that we could plug it into any solar/wind system we might build in the future on our own land, thereby saving the need for expensive and dwindling fossil fuels.

It was a tough decision, and I still hadn't made up my mind, but fate intervened and made the choice a whole lot easier. Michie was strolling around the gardening center when she stumbled across a dusty little machine pushed into a back corner. She found me in the power tool aisle and we tracked down a sales associate. This gentleman did some research and told us that it was marked half off because it was a floor model and had no box. Plus, as it was a little dusty they knocked another 10% off! We even got to turn it on, and it hummed like a charm. It had never been used, and despite the lack of box it came with all kinds accessories that were packaged up and ready to go.

The decision was made and for about a hundred dollars we walked away with this baby:

Plug and Play

It is electric, and although the cord is only a couple meters long, it squeezes neatly along side our house where the only external power outlet happens to be. The only draw back is that, with the exception of the two big piles of brush in the picture above that some aesthetically-challenged nincompoop randomly dumped in our yard, most of the stuff I needed to chip was nearer our field.

So nearly every sunny day for three weeks, I would spend a few hours in the morning chipping whatever I could scrounge up, then take those chips to the field and use them for compost or as much needed mulch between our garden beds. Then on the return trip from the field I would haul back home a gigantic bundle of twigs and branches some other aesthetically-challenged nincompoop randomly dumped in our field.

A bundle a day keeps the nincompoops away!

Actually, the more I chip, the more they are likely to keep dumping.

That's fine, I do not want to buy a chainsaw until next year!

Besides, I will gladly take all the wood chips I can get my hands on. By adding layer upon layer of organic material to our gardens, we are actually helping to build the soil. The more green and brown matter we add the more food the bugs and worms have to eat and the more nutrients they poop out into the soil. It's a win win win win win win situation, for the nincompoops, me, the bugs, the soil, our veggies and our taste buds!

The best thing is that the chipper takes just about anything that once grew and that will fit into the feed slot. Thankfully, it has a non-removable cover that won't allow anything thicker than a golf ball's diameter through it. This is a good thing, because I would surely try to jam everything up to the trunk of a tree inside, and likely seize up the motor. Bamboo, weeds, branches and even sukanpo root (it smells like dill pickles when it is getting chipped!) just get chewed up and spit out.

I got a lot of long uncomfortable glares from the old folks around the neighborhood. Why was I carrying those over-sized bundles of branches they not-very-surreptitiously had dumped in my field earlier on!?! Thankfully, I heard from a friendly neighbor that many of the folks around here had seen a recent TV program about natural and organic gardening. They recognized a lot of the techniques that we were employing and came to the conclusion that it must be alright for us to do, because, after all, it was on TV.

In the end, this was indeed the best model for us to procure. We don't and won't need to buy and burn gasoline to run it, and later on we can tie it into any renewable energy system we build. And, right now it is a little extra work to haul everything whole from the field, chip it at our house, then haul it back to the field, but it is worth it. This is the first and only power tool we have put to use (with the exception of my indispensable cordless drill I brought from the US), so the human energy saved in not having to personally chip all that wood can easily be redirected into carrying said chips to the field. Plus, while I am vegan and eat only twigs and berries, I do not think I could gnaw my through a bundle of branches all that quickly!

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