Several weeks ago, I drove to Brownsville to purchase a chipper from my cousin Mart. It was a long drive. I left early from work, taking the van through the scenic Willamette Valley highways. I was intentionally trying to avoid the freeway.
After nearly two hours of driving, I reached Mart’s house. I chatted with him and Elizabeth for a bit, and then we loaded the chipper into the van. I wanted to set it on its side, but when I did, it leaked gasoline. We managed to tied it to one of the van’s inside walls.
At this point I might have returned to the freeway. Instead, I decided to take the same scenic highways home. Things went well at first, but then I reached Lebanon and got lost. I went around and around in circles for twenty minutes (seriously), before saying “to hell with it” and striking north on the first road I could find. Much to my dismay, this road wound through country, eventually leading southwest, almost to the point where I had started. Meanwhile the stench from the leaked gasoline was making me woozy. I was not happy.
I tried a couple of other routes across the valley, navigating by dead reckoning, but after an hour and only a few miles of northward progress, I gave up. I found the freeway and zoomed home.
When I went to start the chipper a few weeks later, I was concerned. The pull cord was jammed. It didn’t take long, however, to discover that a single thickish twig was lodged between the blades. Simple to fix, yes? No. Chippers are dangerous. Because of this, they’re designed so that it’s almost impossible for a person to reach the blades. Even when I laid the chipper on the ground (letting it leak gasoline), I couldn’t reach the jam. Eventually I had to find a long stick, which I used to whack on the twig in question until it came loose.
In the 3-1/2 years since we moved to Rosings Park, we’ve become accustomed to dealing with yard debris. We ship most of it off in the yard waste container, but the big stuff just won’t fit. To make matters worse, we’d really need two or three containers to transport the waste we generate. As a result, we’ve accumulated a huge pile of branches and twigs (and, in some cases, entire trees) underneath the redwood.
Two weekends ago, Kris and I began our quest to eliminate this pile.
For three hours, Kris cut branches into smaller pieces. She made stacks next to the chipper, and I fed the wood into the hoppers. The chipper did it’s thing, grinding things to mulch, and spitting it into a bag. We produced about six wheelbarrows full of mulch, which we spread around the base of our blueberries. Eventually, however, the dust and fumes became too much — I developed a splitting headache and began to sneeze uncontrollably. I called it a day.
This weekend, we decided to try to finish the job. Though it was cold, the sun was shining and the birds were singing. It was nice weather for yardwork. Again, Kris made stacks for me, and I fed the wood into the chipper. We managed to work our way through most of the pile, until all that was left was nasty little twiggy twisty branches that don’t fit well into the chipper. I’m not sure how we’re going to get rid of these. I’d like to burn them, but Kris is convinced that we can’t. I’m not so sure. (Anyone know what the law is for unincorporated Clackamas County?)
Next we decided to tackle the oak leaves. The chipper makes short work of leaves. The problem comes, however, when you also feed acorns and twigs in with the leaves. The leaf hopper isn’t designed to take twigs, and even small pieces can cause big problems. We were nearly finished when the chipper jammed to a halt.
Suddenly I was transported to that strange, unfamiliar world: the world in which I’m required to be Mr. Handyman. I spent an hour banging on the chipper, opening various access points, searching for a jam. Eventually I found it. Two twigs had independently become stuck between blades. I had to use a screwdriver and rubber mallet to free things, but eventually I did get the machine working.
I’d had enough, though.
It’s nice to have a chipper — it makes short work of a lousy chore — but the beast has been a burden. I put it away for the winter. Maybe we’ll finish chipping next spring.