We lost a lot of trees in the Darwinday Storm on 12th February this year . . . and gained a lot of fire wood. Or potential firewood, because reducing tons and tons of fallen tree to some sort of order that looks reasonably safe was a couple of days work for two foresters. After that, the urgency to deal with the change was off but we had some heaps of logs ready for splitting, some branches ready to be sawn into log-lengths, five main trunks that were now seven horizontal . . . and several mountainous heaps of brash. Brashing is a technical term for removing side-branches from a tree-trunk prior to sawing it into lengths suitable for processing off-site. Typically the trunks will be sawn into lengths of 8 ft (2400 mm) or maybe 12 ft (3600 mm). The brash is what gets left on the forest floor. If the trees have be processed by a forwarder [watch this 3 min vid-clip: engineers are amazing] the brash tends to get left in rows that follow up the contours of the hill. These remains take forever to rot down but provides habitat for animals and some sort of shelter for the new treelets that often get planted immediately after the last of the trees have been clear-felled.
In a domestic situation like ours the volume of brash (it packs light) is often as great as the useful timber and in the old days folks used to burn it where is lay as a bonfire-in-waiting. But The Man has satellites scanning the land on a 24/7 basis and the plume of smoke from an illicit bonfire will bring the carbon-footprint police down before you've barbequed the first sausage. If left unburned, the brash-heaps become habitat for brambles, nettles, noxious weeds, rats and camping boy scouts.
Yesterday, accordingly, I met Chris del Bosque and the chipping-machine on site for a full day's work pushing the crappy branches through a machine that crushes and dices them and showers the residue out into a dense heap of wood-chip. It was a brilliant late-Summer day, and it was a shame that from 0830 hours we destroyed the peace of the neighbourhood with roaring and grinding sounds. Jings, we could have been down on the beach quietly picking up buoys. But work had to be done and I was really grateful that it hadn't rained for a few days, so everything was dry to handle and nothing was slippy under foot. At the end of the day, we had more of less finished chipping for the foreseeable future and had gained walking access to the whole area that in February was filled with fallen tree. I brought the first six of many bags of wood chip back home to make weed-suppressing paths in the garden. Job well done, Thanks Chris!