February Farm Work: Woodchips Are Pure Gold

We’ve hit a warm spell here at Weaver’s Orchard, and we are all loving the warm sunshine and relishing the renewed energy it brings to our bones. Still, a part of me is still wishing for a good blizzard! Our family is also praying that the warm spell doesn’t last too much longer because we might start seeing some damage to the trees– though so far so good.

This past week my kids were thrilled to watch the woodchipper pull into the back lane. Its arrival was spotted immediately by my 7 year old. The company had it parked here a day or two before they got to work and I constantly heard, “When are they going to use that thing? Is it just going to sit there? What is that machine for anyway?”

The fleeting thought crossed my mind that maybe I should be concerned my overzealous child might try to run the thing himself—seeing as this is the child who dreams of one day owning a combine, “just for fun!” The child from whom we all hid tractor keys from the age of three because he learned to start them by watching his dad. (These are the sorts of thing that turn a mama’s hairs gray.)

Luckily my fears were unfounded—the company had the keys–and the moment he was waiting for came soon enough. He was over the moon that it happened to be on a day he was home sick from school with a stomach bug. (Though I’m not sure his mama, who cleaned up after him during the night, would count this as much of a blessing as he did!)

After much deliberation, and considering that my refusal could actually break his heart, I drove that poor sick child up to where they were working that morning and let him watch the excitement from the comfort of our car— there was no way he was missing that event! I have to admit it was fairly interesting to watch the large claws grabbing two or three entire peach trees and throwing them into “The Beast” (I’m not kidding! Look closely at the picture and you’ll see that’s exactly what was written on the side of that ghastly machine!) This beast would gobble up whole trees with a low rumble and regurgitate them into a lovely pile of woodchips!

Woodchips are pure gold here on our farm. They make an excellent weed deterrent between our trees and bushes, minimizing our need to use herbicide. Grinding up old trees is a method of recycling. Rather than wastefully burning them, we can repurpose the wood into a useful tool here on our farm.

We mainly use woodchips to grow blueberries; the woodchips help maintain the pH of the soil. Woodchips are also a good source of organic matter, and to grow blueberries well you need a lot of organic matter in their beds. Woodchips help to hold moisture in among the roots of the blueberry plants and can decrease the amount we irrigate during the long hot summer days. (Here’s a video of another big machine that quickly mulches our blueberries!)

Now that you have learned more than you care to know about the process and reason for woodchips, you’ll have to remember to look for them between the blueberry bushes when you come out to pick in the July heat! Wishing you and yours well, as we dream of and look for Spring—see you at the Orchard!