Archives For brush pile

Brush piles have pretty much been a fact of life for us over the last year. It didn’t matter where you looked on the property, chances were that a brush pile was the back drop to your view. If you were looking for us on the weekend, all you had to do was follow the smoke. All of that changed last week with the installation of our first bit of permaculture framework at the Ant Farm.

While a photo can’t do the insanity of our brush piles justice, this picture gives you some idea of what one of our piles looked like. There were approximately 30 giant stumps in this pile alone, and we were becoming convinced that they would be with us forever… We even thought about renaming the place, but “The Stump Farm” just didn’t have the same ring to it. The above image shows one of the five remaining brush piles. We had already burned three of them over the course of the year, and something had to give.

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In all my research I was surprised to learn that the preferred method for disposing of brush is to burn it. Apparently, this method is widely regarded as the most environmentally friendly approach because the fossil fuel required to move the brush creates more impact than burning it. My original plan was to make use of the biomass by shredding it and using it for mulch, but after seeing what a tangled dirt-filled mess a brush pile really is, it struck me as being yet another romantic notion that wouldn’t exactly play out in real life. I really wanted to keep all of the organic good-stuff on my land, but like many things in life, this problem would be best solved with fire… So we began burning brush piles.

If there’s a trick to burning brush I haven’t learned it. We spent two weekends trying to eliminate wood piles at the Ant Farm to almost no avail. While the largest of the piles did burn down pretty far, we’re still left with an enormous stack of half-burned wood that I can’t get to re-ignite. The worst part is that I’ve still got four other giant brush piles that will need to be burned before next Spring.

What’s the trick? Continue Reading…

Camping at the Ant FarmWe finally spent our first night at the property. I needed to meet the septic tank contractor early in the morning on Friday, and with water on the property I was finally ready to burn two of the giant brush piles created from clearing the garden and home site. Instead of waking up early and heading over, we just decided to drive the motor home up Thursday night and camp for the weekend. With the promise of campfires and stargazing, the whole family was on-board. Continue Reading…

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series All About Roads & Driveways

In the previous article about roads and driveways we discussed how to determine the pathway for your new driveway. In this post we’ll cover issues of drainage, the anatomy of a road and the cost.

Dealing with Drainage

Drainage is a huge consideration, especially with gravel or dirt roads. In the worst case, your road could wash out, but the prospect of constantly repairing an improperly build driveway is not a good one. You’ll first want to observe how water currently flows around the area. Notice where it pools during rain. Look for ruts or gulleys. These will be indicators of the volume of water you’ll be dealing with, and how it’s currently routed.

The most common approach in our area is to raise the bed of the road with chert fill, and then install ditches on either side to handle the wash.

A culvert is then installed in areas where the water builds up to allow it to pass down grade. A culvert is a metal or plastic pipe of varying diameter that is installed under the road. With the right placement and capacity, the volume of water collected during a heavy rain will be dispersed at a higher rate than it is accumulated. This prevents water from rising over the road. Once the road becomes submerged under moving water, it is only a matter of time before it will wash out completely.


The key to managing water is to keep it moving slowly. Fast moving water has an enormous amount of power and can quickly erode soil. Slower moving water tends to just spill over without creating damage. Continue Reading…

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series All About Roads & Driveways

When you’re looking at property, access is one of the most critical elements that must be considered. The Ant Farm is located off of a chip & tar road maintained by the county, which is a very good thing. Unfortunately, the only access to the interior of the property was via an old timber road that hadn’t been maintained in years. After a cursory review of the property, we knew that we wanted our home site to be located deep on the property, which would require a significant investment in road construction. As a result, we had to consider the costs associated with adding a driveway when we determined a reasonable offer price.

There are basically four different aspects of road building that you’ll need to give some thought. Each one will require research in order to fully understand the repercussions of your decisions. While your excavator should provide a lot of expertise, no one is more interested in the success of your project than you are. Invest yourself in learning more about these issues, and your chances for success will multiply exponentially:

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