Even wood from junk trees can be repurposed. In March, we had three enormous cottonwood trees taken down near our property line, to get more sun into our garden and avoid the risk of having them fall on our house or our neighbor’s. We asked the contractor to cut up the trees but not to haul them away.
So what do we do with all that downed wood littering our side yard? We came up with four ways to make good use of the waste wood: firewood, paths, border line markers and mushrooms.
1. I split and stacked about a half a cord of firewood. Cottonwood is not great stove wood, because it’s burns quickly, leaves a lot of ash, has a lot of water content, and, some say, smells bad. But mixed with excellent locust wood next winter, it may be tolerable. One of the cottonwood logs was so wide that I got more than 50 pieces out of it.
2. We asked the contractor to grind up and leave behind the cottonwood branches. We’ve turned these chips into paths by putting down newspapers and then carting over the chips load by load. The paths make the yard look neater.
3. We have been rolling most of the remaining cottonwood logs to the property line and placing them there as a kind of 20-inch-tall fence. We’ll be getting new next-door neighbors later this year, and it may be helpful to see where the property line is without shutting off the view of each other’s houses.
4. We have taken five 36-inch logs and inoculated them with Shiitake- and Pearl Oyster-impregnated birch dowel plugs, and have them stored in a shady area to incubate for a year. After that we’ll prepare them for fruiting and…if it works, eat and preserve lots of mushrooms!
We try to minimize the amount of material we throw away, to save on landfill space and because it just feels like the right thing to do. If we can recycle bottles and paper, why not repurpose cottonwood trees?