Some have tried calling me “An” which sounded awkward and too short for a nickname, if that is even possible. “Dré” gained traction with some of my friends and I would still respond to it today, but due to the pandemic, no one has called me that for some time.
But now, if someone decided to call me “Chip”, it would be totally justified, thanks to my favourite new garden tool: our electric wood chipper.
If someone had told me just a few years ago that someday I would own a wood chipper, I would have recommended that they seek medical attention or to review the dosage of their meds.
From my vantage point, there was no way in the world that this city boy would ever own a wood chipper. To me, that was a tool reserved for properties in the deep woods and as props in movies like “Fargo”.
Never say never.
Here we are, living in the country, and I am now the proud owner of a wood chipper.
Regular readers might recall my blog post in 2020, “Country Living and Non-Stop Pick-Up Sticks”, which described how our “tree lined lot” had indeed lots and lots of trees. There were also lots and lots of dead twigs and branches that would get shaken out, even during the most gentle of breezes.
At that time, my new hobby was a resurrection of the game called “pick up sticks.” While working from home, the opportunity to step outside during breaks and lunch time and gather a little bucket of branches was also a welcomed opportunity to enjoy some fresh air and sunshine.
But the big question was what to do with the piles of branches that had accumulated. At that time, chopping them with the help of my chainsaw and pruning shears and placing them into paper yard waste bags seemed like the best option. It was a slow process, but it was effective.
Not too long ago, my partner was hunting for yard equipment on various hardware store web sites when a light duty wood chipper caught his eye. What a life-changing discovery!
We compared a few models, checked out a few videos on YouTube on how to use them and settled on this particular model from our beloved Canadian Tire store.
Let’s be honest. This wood chipper would never become the subject of a Stephen King novel or a Quentin Tarantino movie. It’s just a little one, but it offers the functionality we need.
The user manual says that it can handle branches up to 1 1/4 inches, which is perfectly fine as that accounts for maybe 95% of the twigs we accumulate.
Anything bigger than that goes into a little woodpile that I am slowly building. The free firewood might come in handy if we ever decide to get a fire pit for our patio.
I truly believe that my office experience with shredders was an excellent prerequisite for working with a wood chipper. I seem to have a good intuition for when a handful of little branches might be too much, in the same way as knowing the right amount of paper to feed into an office shredder without giving it indigestion. Only on a couple of occasions have I had to unplug the chipper and open it to remove an obstruction.
At the bottom of the chipper is a nifty plastic box to collect the resulting chips. We have been able to turn them into free home-made mulch addressing the problem of one of our shade trees that has become home to a variety of weeds over the last two seasons.
One lesson I will have to learn is how to navigate breathing while operating the chipper. After my first few sessions, my lungs felt rather ticklish for a day, producing a mild cough, but it went away. (Note: It wasn’t Covid-19. I ran weekly rapid tests, just to be sure.)
After any session in the garden, I tend to use a neti pot to rinse out my sinuses and keep the pollen count in my nose as low as possible. The first time I used the neti pot after a chipping session I couldn’t get over the particles I released, in the same shade and colour as the mulch I spread under the tree.
Clearly I have two choices, hold my breath (not really an option) or wear a dust mask in addition to the eye and ear protection I am already wearing. It’s a glamourous look… watch for it on the runways of Paris for next spring!
Just recently, I noticed that the machine seemed to be losing its appetite for processing the branches and twigs. I suspected that the blades had gone dull, given how much I had used it in clearing our backlog of branches accumulated over the winter months.
After a thorough consultation of the user manual, I succeeded in opening the chipper and changing the blades. After that, the branches were going through like a hot knife through butter. I was overjoyed at being able to add another new skill to my CV of rural property maintenance!
Even though we have only had the wood chipper for a month, I am convinced of its merits as it has already found an important place in our routine for maintaining the curb appeal of our little country home.
I don’t want to play favourites among garden equipment, but I really appreciate this practical tool!
As a result, if you start calling me “Chip”, I will be sure to respond.
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Have a great day,