Closing the System

A few weeks ago Abundant Edible Landscapes came and trimmed all of our citrus trees. I made sure he left all of the trimmings, which when dragged to one place made a pile up to the eaves of the house and 15 feet across. Much of the work I’ve done on this yard since we moved in has been bringing organic materials in- I don’t even know how much chipped mulch, straw, hay, and manure we’ve added to the soil so far, but it’s been a considerable amount. There’s no way I was going to let those branches get hauled away by the city, only to have to wait for weeks or even months for the city to bring someone else’s trees back to me as chipped mulch.

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It took weeks for me to find a way to rent a chipper. No one rents small chippers. Large chippers cost $260 for the weekend and require a tow hitch. I finally made a good deal to split a weekend rental with the owner of One Source Landscaping, the company who did our gravel and tree removal in August. He delivered the huge machine Sunday morning and we started it up as soon as we finished our breakfast.

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My husband and boys were more than happy to help with this project… if you’ve ever seen that episode of Malcolm in the Middle, you’ll understand why. They expended their mischievous impulses by sending whole oranges through the shredder, and then we got to work. Man, that pile went quickly. That huge pile of brush made a remarkably small pile of shredded organic matter, even after I plunged into the edges of the yard with a pair of loppers and trimmed everything in sight. Once we were completely done we forked all of the shredded branches, leaves, flower petals, and orange peels into the now-empty compost bin. It didn’t even fill one side. This material will be slowly forked over to the other side to bury kitchen waste, and in the mean time will compost nicely.

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This project was a big net-loss monetarily. Renting the shredder and paying for the gas was $140, and produced a little more than one cubic yard. A full 10 cubic yards of chipped mulch from Wood Resources is only $150, delivered. A truckload from GRU has no out-of-pocket costs, the cost of tree-trimming and chipping is factored into our power bill. My only consolation is that this material I know to be pesticide- and herbicide-free, and I closed a waste cycle in concordance with the principles of permaculture, but that’s cold comfort when I think about how many hours I have to work to make up that money. In the future we’ll be putting our trimmings in brush piles or on the street for city pickup unless we can split the cost of renting a chipper with a lot more people.

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