Saturday, December 4, 2010

Winter Ritual: Building the Brush Pile

Saturday, December 4, 2010
It was a combination of factors that got me rolling on this outside project on a recent Saturday. Bad weather was headed our way. The bird feeders needed to be restocked with food. And we were all rotting our brains with too much TV and computer time.

Phoebe and Julie elected to go for a run, so I grabbed Liam and we launched the annual ritual that is the building of the brush pile.

Our sycamore tree on the edge of the yard to the west of the house lost several large branches in a late-summer wind storm. We pulled these brown-leafed monsters out of the tree and broke them up into manageable pieces.

First thing is to build a skeleton to support the brush pile. I used a cinder block to help hold one of the larger "bones" of the skeleton in place. Then it's just a matter of building a messy tepee of sticks, branches, and boughs.

Liam is really good at hauling the brush pile materials.

We laid most of the branches on the northwest-facing side of the brush pile. This will offer more protection from the elements for birds using the brush pile (our weather does most of its attacking from that quarter). And the open side faces the house, so our views of the brush pile denizens will be more clear and open.

After the holidays, we'll add our tree and wreath to the brush pile, giving it a bit of green to liven the scene.

Liam was proud of what we made. And so was I. We went inside to fix some hot chocolate and by the time we walked back into the studio to look out at our handy work, there were the usual suspects using the feeder. More importantly, there was a newly arrived fox sparrow kick-scratching through the seeds and leaves beneath the brush pile. Now that's what I call instant gratification!

Then, taking a celebratory swig from my mug, I burned my tongue on the too-hot hot chocolate.


On December 4, 2010 at 1:31 PM Connie said...

I like the teepee style. I'm gonna have to try that.

On December 4, 2010 at 8:56 PM Birding is Fun! said...

Awesome! Brush piles are certainly one of the best attractors for backyard birding.

You were right in your letter at the beginning of the last issue of BWD! It was a great issue.

On December 5, 2010 at 8:19 AM KaHolly said...

A brush pile is a must! Good reminder.

On December 6, 2010 at 8:16 AM nina at Nature Remains. said...

This is such a good intention for a late fall day, and a wonderful change from what I see far more often in my neighborhood--people grabbing every fallen scrap from their yards and setting it out to the curb to be hauled away!
Maybe I'll set one up right in the front yard, just to get them thinking!

On December 6, 2010 at 1:29 PM Alan Pulley said...

Great pile Bill! And I don’t mean the kind you step in - ha ha!

On December 9, 2010 at 1:57 PM Chip Meyer said...

Awesome tidbit, Bill. I love chronicling my projects with photos as you've done, but am new to blogging. Maybe this spring I'll get a chance to show more of what I plan to do with our new house. Ahhhh, fresh turf to play with. (Chip)

On December 10, 2010 at 7:06 PM Marilyn Kircus said...

I just started building a series of brush piles here at Anahuac National Wildlife Center where I'm working as a live-in volunteer. This refuge took the dirtiest hit of Hurricane Ike two years ago. We lost about 98 percent of our trees in the area people come to bird and see butterflies. I just got permission to build brush piles that will attract songbirds, as well as quail and rabbits.

And the Friends of Anahuac are raising money for 20 species of trees and shrubs that the birds need. Hopefully we'll be able to replant the world famous Willows, which currently has one sad little live oak left, as well as all the other places that had trees.

But at least the dead and fallen trees can serve some use to birds.