Fall Clean-up; Adding a Chipper-Shredder to Our Tool Arsenal

After months and months of saving up our nickels and dimes (and Marie cashing out a bunch of PDO hours) we finally got our chipper-shredder. The freight line doing the delivery could not navigate our mountain road, so I suggested that they deliver it to Marie, at work, in Newport: she has our truck. The driver was happy with that as he was at the Lowes in Newport, just down the street from where Marie works.

The driver pulled the semi into the parking lot, Marie moved our pick-up truck around and backed up to the semi trailer and the driver wrestled the 245 pound crate down into the pick-up. He even tied the load down for her. What a Guy!

One of Marie’s co-workers was watching and asked if she was getting a new refrigerator. Yeah… Cub Cadet makes great refrigerators!

When she got it home that evening I started removing the box and crating and figuring out how I was going to get it down out of the truck without tearing it (or me) up in the process. Cochise says “I’m Heppin’!”

I was surprised to find that, except for the tow bar, the thing came fully assembled. Many of the makes that I researched garnered complaints in the reviews about parts that didn’t fit together well or seemed flimsy. These were not Cub Cadets. There were cheaper chippers in the same size/horsepower range as this, but I figured this is one of those things where I will get what I pay for. I was quite disappointed that Troy Bilt rated as poorly as it did. I have some other Troy Bilt equipment that I’m quite happy with.

This chipper was priced at $849.00 at several stores, including the factory direct outlet. I found one place offering it for $799. And Home Depot was offering it for $649.00. The exact same model, factory new, including the tow bar (when I started researching chippers several months ago the tow bar was a $100 option – having to wait a while paid off!). I wanted to have it shipped to the closest Home Depot to us, but quickly learned that this just is not possible. Seems Home Depot does not sell this item in any of the stores anywhere near here (maybe anywhere) and they have no way of “receiving” any item they don’t stock. Having it delivered by truck was the only option. That added $55 in shipping fees; not bad. Of course there were $65 worth of sales taxes as well… but even with all of that it cost less than the selling price alone from any other seller I found.

Set-up required attaching the tow bar with a clevis pin and cotter, putting air in the tires, pouring in the engine oil (supplied) and adding gasoline (not supplied). Once I got it out of the truck, I could not have asked for anything easier!

Of course I had to test it out before cleaning up the mess and putting it away for the night. It fired right up and chewed through a 2″ hardwood branch like cotton candy. Now, I’m ready to go do me some chipping – brush piles, here I come!

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I live in a forest. We have lots of trees. Leaves are plentiful in the fall. Leaves can make good compost, and I like compost for use in my garden.

I haven’t tried running a big pile of fallen leaves through this chipper-shredder yet, but in the branches and brush that I’ve been chipping were a fair number of leaves – much of this wet and gloppy from having settled to the bottom of the pile – and large numbers of Redbud seed pods. I worried that these seed pods would just get tossed through. But when I dumped the 5 bushel bag into the wagon and inspected the mulch, all I find are fingernail sized chunks of stuff. No hunks of leaves or pods. An occasional small twig a couple of inches long, but nothing bigger than that.

Whole leaves, especially oak leaves, don’t compost well. About this time last year I started piling leaves into a corral I built out of wire fencing; approximately 7 feet in diameter and 3 high. I filled it to over flowing, then added more as it settled. Over the winter I added kitchen scraps and the occasional grass clippings (not a lot of mowing to do in winter). By the following spring when I needed compost I had a big pile of dead leaves with pockets of rotted kitchen scraps in them. I bought some composting bins and ran the mower over the leaves again and again, then put them in the bins layered with grass clippings and more kitchen scraps. I turn the piles every two to four weeks depending on my ambition level. The day before yesterday I finally got my first load of decent compost. The top 12″ in the 3′ diameter bin. 3.14 x (1.5 feet x 1.5 feet) = 7 cubic feet of compost. About 1/4 of the bin that started out as a pile of leaves the size of a Volkswagen and who knows how many bags of grass clippings.

Shredding them up will reduce their bulk by (according to the advertising) 90% (10:1 ratio) and should speed composting considerably. If it works on those as well as it worked on the debris I just tore up I’m going to be very happy. I did need to keep a sturdy stick handy to poke the hopper occasionally because the funnel effect caused it to clog once in a while when twigs conspired against the opening of the shredder. But it was no big deal to prod them on into the whirling blades of destruction.

I chipped for 5 hours yesterday afternoon. I’m sure the neighborhood hates me. But 2/3 of my largest brush pile is gone now, converted to 30 bushels of chips.I over-filled the “up for grabs” mulch bin and laid a 3″ layer of chips over the entire floor of my berry house. That will go a long ways toward killing off the grass under the landscape fabric I laid down. It seems the fabric alone does not kill the grass: it passes rain and light through. It just keeps the grass and weeds below it, so they grow down there. The fabric gets pushed up by the compacting mounds of greenery below. Now they’re all mashed down against the ground and buried in darkness.

One of my goals is to get landscape fabric down between all of my garden boxes and covered with chips to keep the grass out of the way. The paths that are wide enough to get a mower through (with bag or mulcher) are OK. Those that are narrower and have to be done with a string trimmer cause problems because the trimmer throws clippings around and they get into the boxes, lodging in the plants and decomposing there. I think this may have contributed to some of the disease problems I had this year. Even if that’s not true, it looks nasty and complicates cleaning things like lettuce for consumption. Having all my paths covered in wood chips will look nice, reduce maintenance and be more pleasant to kneel on than wet morning grass.

I suspect this new addition to my arsenal of maintenance tools will prove very beneficial.

Published on Oct 4, 2012

Grit Magazine

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