Kat Heatherington

sticks, redux.

We conquered the stick pile!

First we rented a big landscape chipper. Then we had to get it back to the stick pile. We almost didn’t make it past that part. Plan A had us driving the chipper up the neighbor’s road, and somehow getting this 1800 lb piece of machinery (on wheels) over the ditch. We probably could have done it, with Alan’s bridge plan and enough help, but the timing was really refusing to align, and it became celar that this plan would not manifest. Plan B was to park it in the main ritual ground, which is accessible by truck, and bring the sticks to it. This plan had a major fail-point — bringing that mountain of sticks up would be days and days of work all by itself, not to mention chipping them. It would have been almost certainly unattainable.

Then the day I brought the chipper home, Rev came up with a plan for how to navigate driving through the middle of the property, in spite of lattices, a shade structure, a giant root cellar hole, berming and paths that were not there the last time we did this, in 2008-09. So we got the chipper back to the site, fired it up, and dove into the work! We had 12 hours of run-time on the chipper under our rental contract, and we aimed to use every minute of it to best advantage. We also had help, both that day and the next, and our stalwart crew of volunteers, some of whom had so much fun on the first day that they came back on the second, made our success possible! This was truly a team effort.

here’s our starting condition:

and the team working:

end of the first day

the second day was the official work party day. We all got up with the sun and bundled up, and had the chipper running and teams hauling sticks around by 8 a.m.

That was one long day of noisy machinery, wrestling sticks out of brush piles and into bunches of the right size for the chipper, hauling them over, stuffing branches and sticks and whole small trees into the chipper, getting stuff thrown at us by the chipper, bringing up sunflower stalks from the person-height pile by the compost, wrestling more piles of sticks out of various corners of the property (spoiler: no, we didn’t get them all, but we eliminated more than one gnarly sub-pile completely, and we made really big dents in at least two others). At the beginning, and at various points, someone would grab a wheelbarrow full of mulch and trundle it up to the main ritual ground and bring it back to stick under the outflow chute again, but somewhere alon gthe line we decided to just save that problem for later (haha, this is totally not a perennial pattern for us, of course not…).

By the end of the process, we were dumping barrows full of small stick material, which, as time has shown, does not effectively compost in this climate in less than a geologic era, into the chipper.

and by the time we ran out of time on the chipper, and the sun was beginning to set, we had genuinely succeeded.

As you can see, there are still some sticks available. Since this photo was taken, two truckloads of these larger stumps and logs have found their way to other homes, some to be firewood, some to become a barrel course for our friends at Enchanted Equine Adventures. A couple of friends and several MFA students from the University are coming down in the next few weeks, to pick through the remaining piles and pull out the interesting art logs and stumps that they can make things out of. If you’d like to come down and get some, too, just message me! (email or text is better than leaving a comment here, but that’s an option, too). I’m feeling pretty confident that by planting time, the whole field will be free of large sticks!