Sunday, October 6, 2013

Chinese Privet Homestead Hero or Villian

I am in the process of trying to reclaim a strip of our homestead back from Chinese Privet. Chinese Privet is a highly invasive and quick growing species. On an interesting note, while trying to do research for this post I looked up this plant on the US Department of Agriculture site and it was not operational because of the government shutdown. HA HA.

Chinese Privet (Ligustrum sinense) is an evergreen shrub- even though it can reach a height of over 25 feet. Privet is propagated by seeds which can be spread by birds, by cuttings, and by new plants growing from the parent plants roots. Chinese Privet is a member of the olive family and is considered toxic to many animals. I have, however seen cows, horses, goats, and deer eat this plant with vigor and no negative results. When this plant is in bloom it is often covered with honey bees. I read in one place that privet blooms produce a bitter honey, but I have not found this to be the case.

 I am trying to clear a strip about 10 feet wide and 110 feet long or 1100 square feet. That is a good bit of ground no matter the size of the area you have. If you are like us and are working with a 1/2 acre homestead 1100 square feet is a huge part of your land. I have some plants that their trunks are close to 6 inches in diameter. The area is very thick with privet so there is a lot of biomass that will be accumulated. I cannot stand the thought of that much of a resource going to waste.

 I have used dead privet for wood in a camp fire, so that was my first thought. After a very brief internet search I found I was not the only one. In fact, it is reported that privet burns hotter than hickory. So the larger pieces can be used for firewood. I also thought about maybe using privet for carving. It cuts fairly well when green, but clogs anything other than straight edged tools. I do not suggest using a rotary tool on privet while green. Privet dries solid and hard. Based on my experience I would say it dries almost as hard as dogwood and is not easy to work at all.

Now we are down to just having to deal with the tops. We had a wood heater when I was a child and we never had enough small wood so I cut firewood to a much smaller diameter than a lot of people. What I have left to deal with is generally only a little larger in diameter than my thumb. Enter the small electric wood chipper. I had been looking for a wood chipper for a while, even tried to borrow or rent one and no one had one. I finally found one used. I will have a link to one that is very similar to mine at the end of the post. With the wood chipper I am able to turn what is left of the bushes into a very nice mulch/compost ingredient. As of right now I have 2 fairly large piles of wood chips waiting to be assigned their new duties. As I said above,privet dries hard and I have found that my chipper has a much easier time of grinding what is left while it is still green. It will take me a while to get it all done but I have figured out a way to use every part of the bushes I am taking out.

Here is the link I promised to an electric wood chipper. As you can see they are fairly affordable.

In everything you do try to minimize waist. In everything you do remember to...
Keep It Rural

By Gregg Carter