After purchasing our property, we slowly learned about it from some of the locals who knew the previous owners. The property had been abandoned for six years after the couple moved into a nursing home. After they passed, the daughter put the property we purchased up for sale. During those six years, very little maintenance had been performed. Raccoons broke into the attic and made a home there; the water heater rusted out and didn't work, and the foliage overgrowth was extreme. Much of the property had Johnson grass that was over 7' tall. A lot of mesquite started to grow, as well as some reed-type grass with thick, heavy stalks and cactuses.
Trees On The House
The area around the house is slightly wooded with overgrown trees that had not been manicured for many years. Tree branches were growing over and on the house's roof. This was providing an animal runway to the roof. Most likely, it's how the raccoons and squirrels made their way on the roof and eventually into the attic. There were so many trees, branches, and overgrowth touching the house I admittedly became overwhelmed. The wind would blow, and branches would bang onto the roof eve, causing damage to the house.
I asked the local who was mowing down the overgrowth with his brush hog if he knew anyone who could help with the tree problem. He referred me to a friend we hired to clear away the trees. We had him pile the cuttings on an area towards the back of the property. It was a huge amount of brush that we still haven't dealt with. This was the worst of the issues solved, so animals no longer had a way to jump onto the house's roof. The branches were no longer swaying and tearing into the roof and eve, which would prevent the new roof from being damaged.
For another three months, on the weekends, I would still cut branches. On every trip out, I would spend about half a day trimming and shaping trees to make them look nice or cutting off dead branches. I would then have to haul the cuttings a couple hundred yards to the brush pile. For a long while, I would bundle the branches and drag them to the brush pile. This was during July and August when the temperature was hitting 110 degrees. That wore me out and took a toll on my stamina. Eventually, we purchased a little trailer that could be towed behind our Craftsman lawn mover. I would load that up and drive it to the brush pile, making the work easier.
The Brush Pile
Even six months later, we're still trimming trees and bushes. It's not for hours on end anymore, though. It's just to manicure the landscape and maintain the trees we left. There are still a couple of dead Photinias I want to cut down, but they are out of the way and not a priority. The brush pile, however, is huge! The debate we have now is what to do with it. The pile consists of branches from several inches in diameter to large logs. At first, the pile sprawled all over the back fence line. When we got the tractor, I used it to push the brush into a single large pile. At least now, it's all together. We started compost piles with some of the smaller branches and cuttings. We will throw grass clippings, leaves, and food scraps on it to start helping it break down so we can hopefully get good compost next year. The larger cuttings, though, still have to be dealt with.
Getting A Mulcher
One day at work I was telling my boss who is the owner of the company I work for about my dilemma. He said there was a mulcher in his shed at home that he had not used for many years. The chute was broken, along with some other issues, but I could have it if I wanted. He brought it to the shop, and once I got it home, I saw it needed quite a bit of work. It wouldn't start, the carburetor was gummed up, the gas tank was falling off, and the feed chute was blown out, making it unusable.
The mulcher is no longer manufactured, and factory parts are no longer available. I was able to repair the fuel tank and secure it properly. I pulled the engine model number and found a matching carburetor on Amazon for $10. It arrived, I installed it, and the mulcher started right up! I did an oil and filter change, and it runs fantastic. The last issue was with the feeder chute. There were none to be found. I decided to fabricate one myself. I purchased a flat metal plate and a foot-long piece of 4" steel tubing at a local steel supply company. I cut the flat sheet to match the mount on the mulcher, cut a hole in it, angle-cut the steel tube, and then took it to a local welder to have the two parts attached. It worked perfectly and only cost $60 in parts and welding. The mulcher will handle branches up to 3" in diameter.
Trying The Mulcher
I took it to the property and tried it out. It worked perfectly. The only problem is that each branch must be cleaned to fit in the mulcher. It's a huge amount of work and is slow going. Once I get them cut to fit in the mulcher, it chops the branches up fast. It just takes so long to get to that point. You must use a chainsaw, loppers, machete, or axe to cut them to fit. I can't see this will ever work the pile down with the large pile we have.
Mulch Or Burn
We want to use the wood instead of just burning it away. If we can find a way to break it down, we could have a large amount of wood chips for mulch or compost. The mulcher we have would work for smaller quantities. To mulch the amount we have would require a commercial-grade mulcher. We could hire a company with the equipment to handle it, but we don't have the money right now. Home Depot rents larger mulchers, but again, that costs, and it's still hard, laborious work with the heavy branches we have to deal with. Burning the pile would work, but we would lose all usable wood. For now, though, the pile is just sitting there.