Fate With Brush

November 1, 2019

The ancients used brush for building boats, shelters, arrows, spears, and fences. Today we are not apt to cut more than a few bean poles or tomato stakes. If you are industrious, you might construct some winter protection for shrubs or cut up sticks for kindling.

But if you really want to get rid of the stuff, brush becomes a weed, and it seems that the more you try to eradicate it the more it grows. Some old-timers insist that brush cut in August will not grow back. Most evergreens if cut right to the ground will not reemerge. Whether by machine or hand, always cut brush as low as possible. If you can borrow some goats, sheep, or pigs, they can take care of the problem in a season and leave the ground more fertile as well. Otherwise, sow grass to choke out other growth, and if possible, mow the area every few weeks. If the new suckers can be held at bay for a year, most of them will not return.

In small areas, a layer of black plastic will prevent new brush from emerging. (This will be effective only if you prevent even the slightest hole from forming in the plastic — not always possible when you are laying it over stumps.)

Once you’ve “harvested” the brush, what to do with it? As little as possible. If you have an area where you can leave a brush pile, it will serve as a haven for forest creatures until it decomposes. Chipping it up for mulch is all right if you’ve got the equipment, but often it is just an expensive way of hastening decomposition. A brush pile for burning on a winter’s night after a skating or sledding party is a good idea. Make sure that your brush is stacked all in the same direction and close together, otherwise the fire will not catch. An oil-soaked rag wound round the end of a stick makes a good torch. Thrust it as deeply as you can into the center of the pile, and get out the marshmallows.

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