It’s only part of nature that branches fall. In fact, when we really examine things, it’s a necessary part of nature – the branches that fall rot on the ground and feed the very tree that has dropped them. Such is the cycle of life. Trees are amazing that way.
In our own yards, however, piles of errant branches everywhere isn’t always the most alluring thing to look at, so we inevitably clean them up. Unfortunately, all too often that clean-up effort equates to sending organic material to the dump.
Instead of tossing them out, we can take advantage of fallen branches with a host of DIY projects, some of which will provide cool decorative details in the house, and some of which are just plain functional.
The obvious answer for large branches is to cut them into logs for firewood. There is no rule that says our fires must now come from individual packaged “logs” of compressed wood particles. Instead, if we harvested fallen limbs throughout the year, stored them well, and used them as firewood, we’d be cleaning up the yard, saving some cash, and avoiding the processing and packaging needed to create those supermarket logs.
Branches, especially knotty ones, make some of the coolest hooks. These can go on the back of a door to hold coats and bags. They can be used in the bathroom for towels. For sheds or outside buildings, they make handy hooks for holding tools, especially gardening stuff and coiled items, such as hoses and extension cords. They can be left natural, sanded down, and/or painted.
By combining a few sturdy branches, it’s possible to make different kinds of racks to use around the house. Small sections can be attached to a long limb to make a hat rack, or a tall branch can be supported by a pyramid of shorter branches to make a coat rack. Another great option is to build something similar to a ladder, only wider, to use for towels or clothing. They also make great racks, or trellises, for vegetables that grow on vines.
It only takes four similarly sized and shaped branches to create a unique frame. Simply cut the pieces to size and fasten them together. Frames can be used for pictures, as well as displaying cool pieces of cloth or children’s artwork. Heck, with a little guidance, building a frame with a budding artist could be a great project.
It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to turn a branch into a rod, but it certainly can provide a noteworthy look. Rather than using the same old curtain, shower, and closet rods, try trimming and sanding up some particularly attractive fallen branches and give these spots a memorable twist.
Fallen branches may not always look great in the yard, but they can be stunning in the right setting. Thin, bushy branches in a vase make beautiful centerpieces for kitchen or coffee tables. Large limbs can be cleaned up a bit and leaned in corners or against walls for decorative touches. Particularly attractive limbs can even become mobiles or wall hangings.
Rough, rugged wood is commonly used to make the railings for porches or stairs in cabins and lodges. Though many of our homes aren’t necessarily conducive to this type of decorating, our outdoor areas often are. Rather than going out and buying milled lumber, we could use branches to make fences around play areas or garden beds. This would keep things more natural and use the wood on hand rather than cutting down more trees to build a fence.
A Walking Stick
Forget going to buy one of these retractable, metal hiking sticks and do it the old way. Walking sticks used to actually be sticks, and that can still be the case. Fallen branches can be stripped, sanded, and oiled to make some amazingly beautiful walking sticks.
Large branches, or even tree trunks, are particularly useful for making raised garden beds, and it is simply a matter of rolling them into a rectangle and filling the middle with dirt. For weepier branches, such as from a willow tree, thicker pieces can be staked into the ground, and the thin limbs can be woven between them to create lovely, artisanal garden beds.
Then, again, the natural way is simply to let those branches go back into the soil to feed the tree (and surrounding plants) that dropped them. Though a huge limb in the yard might not be attractive, it’s not so difficult to cut them into smaller pieces, create a border around the tree and use twigs as mulch inside the border, allowing nature to take its course until the next limb falls.
Fallen branches are just too valuable to be sent off to the horrible fate of mixing with the garbage at the dump. They deserve to be celebrated and put to good use. So, let’s be sure to honor them this way: A fallen branch isn’t a burden; it’s an opportunity.
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