Does your farm contain a substantial number of trees? You’ll probably want to start a brush pile somewhere on your property.
While small amounts of brush can be dealt with by a wood chipper, or saved and used for kindling, the amount of downed brush annually generated by a farm can be astonishing.
Maybe you’re clearing invading trees from your fields, or cleaning up fallen branches from an ice storm. If you’re pressed for time (farmers are always busy) and the volume is overwhelming, the simplest solution is often to start a brush pile.
Keep adding debris as it’s generated. Just toss it on the pile and forget about it—no further effort needed.
Brush piles offer more than just the convenience of a place to stash sticks and branches. They’re a benefit to wildlife, providing cover and safety to a variety of critters.
But where is the best location to start a brush pile? You want to determine the answer up front. You don’t want the brush to become a problem (or a major eyesore) later on.
It’s wise to begin by considering the appearance of the brush pile. Wildlife might love it, but a large pile of dead branches and brush isn’t the most attractive sight.
The most convenient spot (right smack in the middle of a field) might not be ideal from an aesthetics standpoint. Ideally, you’ll find a location tucked away in the woods, out of view from your house, your yard and your neighbors.
Placing a brush pile beyond the crest of a hill can also work if the rising ground is sufficient to hide it from view.
Another important factor to consider is accessibility. Above all, the pile of brush must be readily reachable by machinery and wagons for all or most of the year.
The corner of the back forty might seem like a perfect spot. But if it’s underwater all spring—right when you’re trying to clean up a winter’s worth of brush and branches—you might need to find a higher (and drier) location.
Challenges of Wooded Ground
Perhaps there’s a clearing in your woodlot that will be perfect for a brush pile. This comes with its own set of challenges.
Wooded ground can be riddled with mounds, depressions, stumps and fallen branches, making it difficult or impossible for tractors and wagons to traverse. You may have to clear and maintain an improved trail to reach your brush pile, adding gravel or dirt to smooth out the road and provide unencumbered access.
No matter where you choose, make sure you can pull loaded wagons right up alongside the pile. Parking even 30 feet from a brush pile dramatically increases the time and effort you’ll spend unloading debris.
A third consideration is the size of the chosen area for your brush pile. This is particularly true if you’re carving a location out of the forest.
Don’t assume the brush will rot and reduce in size as fast as you add debris. It can take years (even decades) for brush piles to break down, so the more material you add, the bigger the pile is going to grow.
You don’t want to fill up your first location in the blink of an eye and have to start a second pile somewhere else. Choose a large area to start with and leave the pile ample room to spread out over time.
Keeping these factors in mind will help you start a perfect brush pile that will serve your needs for years to come.