Homegrown Fence Posts

It’s the 9th of September. I took advantage of the season’s first cool temperatures and spent the morning cutting fence posts from several Osage orange (Maclura pomifera; hedge, hedge-apple, bow wood, etc.) trees for a pen-building project that has been on my mind all summer. We plan to bring cattle to the farm next spring, but I am not inclined to do it until decent receiving and working facilities are in place. My initial plan was to buy steel and treated wood posts for this project, but the farm has plenty of post-producing trees.

According to an Oregon State University report, untreated Osage orange posts have a service life of more than 60 years in the western part of that state. In moister environments, the same posts have a life expectancy of 25-30 years. In both instances, the hedge apple performed as well as or better than commonly available treated softwood, and in some cases even outlasted steel. That information was all the motivation I needed to quit searching on the Internet for the best deal on a load of creosote-soaked hard pine posts, upgrade my chain saw and head out to the hedgerow to have at it.

If you are like me, you only fire up the saw a few times a year, but even if you cut wood more frequently, you’ll want to take a look at Mike Lang’s piece on chain saw safety before next heading to the woods.

After the firewood is all cut and the fence posts are in place, there’s no greater reward than sitting down to a supper that includes some wonderfully warming fare– like macaroni and cheese. In case your vision of that cool-weather treat is bright orange and comes packaged in a cardboard box, we asked Susan Belsinger to create homemade variations that are easy to make and even easier to enjoy (Page 20). If you like cheese, minus the macaroni, Susie Schade-Brewer and Associate Editor Jenn Nemec tackle the topic in terms that will make you hungry and get you started with making your own.

I could draw your attention to the firewood features, humor and nostalgia pieces and even point out the best gift guide ever – all neatly tucked between the covers of this issue, but why not just turn the page and discover the November/December Grit first hand?

We’ve also been working on a couple of exciting new projects to keep Grit coming your way more than once every other month. The first is a free photo blog Web site (, where you can find photographs that didn’t make it into the magazine as well as the personal photo galleries of readers and friends like you. The Web site is also a place where you can participate in photo contests and win prizes for the effort. If you are an aspiring photographer or just want to share your rural lifestyle images with others, please sign up and start posting today.

If you find yourself hungry for even more Grit, then head on over to our Web site ( and sign up to receive a free dose every other week with Grit eNews, our new electronic newsletter. And as always, please let me know how we are doing by emailing your comments and story ideas to

See you in January,

Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper’s Farmer magazines. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published on Nov 1, 2007
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