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What would you do with a huge pile of sticks?

In an ideal forest garden I probably wouldn't have a pile of sticks. But I started from an nonideal situation and have a lot of pruned sticks ranging from 1 mm to 25 cm diameter.

This post is now a wiki and I've added the ideas from replies to this list. Let's try to make it 101! Feel free to edit directly or reply below and someone else will add to the list.

Burn
   1. Firewood.
   2. Use the fruit woods for smoking meat.
   3. Make charcoal.
   4. Biochar.  
   5. Fuel for RMH or pizza oven
   6. Gasified wood
   7. Fuel a still to purify water
   8. Campfires
   9. Tie bundles of twigs to dry for kindling

Put them on the ground
   10. Leave them where they are and let them rot.
   11. Cut them into small pieces and use them as mulch.
   12. Use smaller branches mixed with leaves to create air space in a primarily leaf-based mulch.
   13. Piled in a carefully planned location for 6 to 12 months until the wood dries enough to be snapped for kindling, leaving the smaller branches for surface mulch.
   14. Twigs and branches onto muddy paths
   15. Wind break for a chicken coop
   16. Tie into bundles to reinforce banks (fascine)

Put them in the water
   17. Put in ponds to manage algae and improve habitat for fish
   18. Make chinampas
   19. Brush dams

Fencing and borders
   20. Make a junkpole fence
   21. Wattle fence or walls
   22. Deer deterrent by sticking branches into the top of fencing to make the fencing uneven and not create too much shade for growies.
   23. Garden gates
   24. Use the 1 inch (2.5 cm) diameter straight sticks as stakes. (I'm using stakes to hold up my raised bed borders and terrace borders).
   25. Garden bed edging
   26. Snow fencing
   27. wikiup fence, or wikiwallup

Bury them
   28. Hugelkultur - especially bigger pieces
   29. Soil amendments
   30. Create air pockets in compost piles
   31. stick drains

Give them to animals
   32. Fetch/chew toy for dog
   33. Chicken food (limbs with leaves)
   34. Give to goats and hogs to chew
   35. Twigs and branches as chicken bedding

Use them to attract animals
   36. Wildlife habitat
   37. Stack as a brush pile to attract birds that will poop and fertilize the spot
   38. Attracting rabbits ... to eat
   39. Use as a bird-feeder - Stick in the ground and hang bird treats from the smaller branches
   40. Bug hotel

Use for growing things
   41. Propagate as cuttings or graftwood scions.
   42. Cut a flat space and use as a garden label to mark recently planted vegetables, trees, etc.
   43. Trellises,
   44. Tomato cages
   45. As support or shelter for young trees
   46. Growing mushrooms
   47. Place them underneath grow pots for air pruning roots

Play with them
   48. Let the kids at it.
   49. Pick-up-sticks game
   50. Pooh sticks game  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7LX5023PmMU
   51. Make a toy raft  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ll7vSVBhYAE
   52. Handmade wooden slingshot  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X9oWGuKypuY
   53. Stick bow and arrow  https://artsycraftsymom.com/stick-bow-and-arrow/
   54. Tiny toy chairs  http://oneinchworld.com/blog/index.php/2011/08/twig-chair-tutorial/
   55. Stick crown  https://www.mamamiss.com/blog/2014/10/09/julia-donaldson-stick-man-stick-crown/
   56. Stick garland  https://www.funkyjunkinteriors.net/make-an-all-season-twig-pinecone-garland-for-free/
   57. Stick mobile  https://happyhooligans.ca/pinecone-mobiles-for-kids-to-make/
   58. Stick instruments  https://nurturestore.co.uk/how-to-make-a-percussion-stick-musical-instrument
          https://homemadeheather.com/crafting-shaker-sticks/
   59. Stick star  https://happyhooligans.ca/summer-twig-ornaments/
   60. Stick and yarn God's eyes  https://nurturestore.co.uk/twig-weaving-autumn-craft
   61. Stick Tic-Tac-Toe  https://www.firefliesandmudpies.com/nature-inspired-twig-tac-toe/

Build structures
   62. Debris huts
   63. Wattle and daub structures
   64. Ramada
   65. Build a firewood shelter

Crafts
   66. Carve them into clothespins.
   67. Weave the long spindly green ones into a wreath.
   68. Carve Harry Potter style wands.
   69. Whittling practice
   70. Carving spoons
   71. Make a mallet
   72. Make baskets
   73. Rustic wood furniture
   74. Lattice work
   75. Marshmallow roasting sticks
   76. Collect for school/kids arts and crafts projects
   77. Make a whisk - http://fredkeandfriends.lu/christmas-tree-recycling-homemade-whisk/
   78. Make a baseball bat - https://www.michaelkusugak.com/the-stories/baseball-bats-for-christmas
   79. Make curtain rods/rod holders
   80. Bathroom towel racks
   81. Hook/peg for my bathrobe
   82. Hooks/pegs for a coat rack
   83. Pegs for a hat rack
   84. Door handle
   85. Rustic door hardware including a bolt
   86. Chop sticks
   87. Knitting needles
   88. Crochet hooks
   89. Datun/miswak/toothbrush
   90. Tent pegs and other pegs
   91. Cage for pet cockroach
   92. Lizard and snake catching stick
   93. Fishing pole
   94. Make a measuring stick
   95. Use as bobbins for macrame, netting, etc.

Other
   96. Pile around the base of a house for insulation in winter (especially conifer boughs)
   97. Use to tidy up tangled string

Many ideas from this list have been incorporated from other threads. Here are some links to those other great discussions:
https://permies.com/t/63272/Wood-chipper-advice
http://www.makeitmissoula.com/2012/01/how-to-recycle-wood/
https://permies.com/t/61382/permaculture-upcycling/ungarbage/Repurpose-Real-Christmas-Tree
https://permies.com/t/15706/Managing-flow-wood-brainstorm

COMMENTS:
 
master steward
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I think even in an ideal forest garden there will always be the opportunity for sticks, whether pruned or autogenerating brash.
My debris (small branches from coppicing) get piled up in a strategic location for 6 months to a year, by when the wood dries out and becomes brittle.  When the larger pieces are removed, they can be snapped to length for kindling and the smaller twigs remain as a surface mulch on a lovely cleared patch at least breifly offering a planting opportunity.
Other uses are to propagate (You can't have too many blackcurrent bushes apparently) either as cuttings or graftwood scions.  I also use sturdy pieces just to mark fresh plantings until the new plant is bigger.  I suppose if one cut a flat on the stake side it could also detail the variety etc. acting as a label.
Dyson (dog) thinks they are also emergency fetch and/or chew toys but we discourage this!

(edited because numbers changed)
 
pollinator
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I generally use the small ones under the trees with mulch to add air-space because I mulch with leaves.  The larger ones as firewood and biochar.  
  maybe all the other ones you can utilize all your ideas. Piled in an unused corner the birds and critters will use them and everything will breakdown eventually.
 
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Perhaps use them in one of the compartments of a bug hotel.
 
Jack Durston
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Another: Whittling practice (difficult cuts etc)
 
master steward
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Lew, Great thread!

Piles of sticks, especially the bigger ones make great homes or habitats for wildlife.

Your list has many great ideas and everyone has added some great suggestions.

Here are some other suggestions:

inoculating logs with mushroom spawn and harvesting mushrooms from them:

https://permies.com/wiki/126855/PEP-BB-woodland-straw-mushrooms#1003857

Carve a spoon:

https://permies.com/wiki/99344/pep-woodworking/Carve-timer-spoon-PEP-BB

Make a mallet:

https://permies.com/wiki/98371/pep-woodworking/Club-style-mallet-PEP-BB

Make a junkpole fence:

https://permies.com/wiki/101938/Prep-junkpoles-PEP-BB-woodland#1140537


 
steward
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Make a wattle fence or walls

Make biochar

Fuel a RMH or pizza oven

Make baskets

Hugelkultur

25cm sounds like firewood size - cut, split and sell for firewood
 
gardener
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The pile remained a pile for too long. Now it's getting cut into more portable size to finish drying after I make a fire wood shelter.

It will probably eventually just become firewood or rocket stove fuel.

If I have enough will I might chip the fruit wood for smoking.

various-sticks-cut-to-length-and-stored-in-containers.jpg
various sticks cut to length and stored in containers
various sticks cut to length and stored in containers
 
gardener
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I mostly put them in the bottom of raised beds.
Limbs with leaves on them go through the chicken compost yard first, to be eaten on and scratched until bare.
I have a waterheater into a biochar kiln with sticks and lumber off cuts,  but I've only done it once.
A rocket cookstove or grill would be a good way to use small sticks.
A rocket oven that could bake food or make charcoal would be a pretty ideal way to use up sticks.
I wonder we if we could craft a simple retort that would sit over a rocket cookstove and feed the wood gas back down into it.
Top that with a simple still and use the heat to purify water.
 
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I have some short fence (~4 ft) that deer would jump as is. I had a pile of the branchie bits from bamboo left-over from using the main stem. I stuck the branches through the fencing at the top to make it an uneven, slightly 3 dimensional increase in height/width which wouldn't block too much sunshine. So far so good. If we were to have a *really* bad drought, they may challenge it, but we'll cross that bridge when we see it happen!
 
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William Bronson mentioned it paraphrasing - put them in the bottom of raised beds. This works real well especially if you can include more substantial large limbs or even small logs to bury as well. One YouTube Channel Plant Abundance recommends even burying sticks and logs most anywhere, especially where you may need to amend soil.

Good thread.

Mike love
 
pollinator
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Lew Johnson wrote:The pile remained a pile for too long. Now it's getting cut into more portable size to finish drying after I make a fire wood shelter.

It will probably eventually just become firewood or rocket stove fuel.

If I have enough will I might chip the fruit wood for smoking.



For smoking, you don't need those pieces to be very small.  I've smoked with apple wood an inch to an inch and a half diameter and 8 to 12 inches long with fine results.
That's 2.5 to 3.75 cm diameter and 20 to 30cm length.

I guess I should mention, it depends on how fresh the branches are.  Straight from the tree I didn't even need to soak the wood before smoking.  
 
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A slightly different form of sticks.

https://www.siammandalay.com/blogs/puzzles/how-to-play-pick-up-sticks-i-game-rules-scoring-instructions
 
pollinator
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Our white pines do some pretty fantastic self pruning and self thinning, to the point you couldn't even walk in the woods.  After we get what we want for fuel, large wood is being turned into rabbitat piles, and small wood is being made into biochar.  We are slowly developing methods that reduce the labor as much as possible.
 
Gray Henon
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We make brush dams as well.  Just pile the sticks where water flows during a storm.  The sticks slow and spread the water and catch  leaves, grass, dirt, etc being carried by the water.  When water leaves our property it is quite clear.
 
pollinator
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When I pulled out sections of lawn I put in brush/sticks, then grass and leaves, then the inverted sod over the top, covered by dirt after the sod had a chance to dry out. They're turning into amazing gardens three years later.
 
L. Johnson
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It's that season again! I have accumulated a large pile of sticks that's going to get bigger.
mulberry tree after heavy pruning


This year I'm ready for it.

First of all, my the way I've been pollarding my mulberry encourages it to grow long straight branches which are ideal for all sorts of applications.

I'm using them to create garden supports here: https://permies.com/wiki/126957/PEP-BB-woodland-straw-twigconstruction#1607966
mulberry and jute tomato cage


I've set up a nice manual wood chip production line that I showed here: https://permies.com/t40/189915/chip-drop-happy-happy-happy#1607969
branches waiting to be chopped into woodchips


The largest branch I think I'm going to try to peel and split to dry as soon as possible. I'm interested to see what mulberry looks like as a cosmetic wood for small crafts.
 
Anne Miller
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Debris hut and campfires.

I bet kids could find a lot of ways to use sticks.

 
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Wattle and daub structures.
 
pollinator
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Whenever I leave a pile of branches laying around, the birds love it.
They all hangout in the stick pile, pooping the place up.
I've been considering leaving a pile of branches on a garden bed over the winter so they can fly in some fertilizer.
 
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I've carved a spoon or three from mulberry. Pretty wood, carves nicely.
As for uses for a pile of sticks: dead hedges and making biochar leap to mind.
 
L. Johnson
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Peter Ellis wrote:I've carved a spoon or three from mulberry. Pretty wood, carves nicely.
As for uses for a pile of sticks: dead hedges and making biochar leap to mind.



Is a dead hedge just a bunch of branches piled to form a hedge like border?
 
William Bronson
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Yeah, pretty much.
Not so welcome in urban and suburban settings.

Lately I've been thinking about turning sticks into "pellets" for use in TLUDs.

It made me remember this:


A neat idea, maybe not efficient.
 
L. Johnson
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They make choppers like that here. I inherited one and sharpened it to use for this purpose. Works well up to about 1 cm diameter. I chipped the blade trying to cut a bigger one.





Turns small branches into woodchip, mulch, animal feed, or compost material very efficiently.
 
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