In a stroke of virtual madness brought on by sunshine and warm temperatures, we put our kitchen remodeling project on hold and went out to the hedgerows and harvested some Osage Orange fenceposts to support an upcoming fencing project. Since stout wooden fenceposts cost us $8 - $20 or more apiece and medium-duty steel t-posts are around $4.50 on sale, and since our farm is home to hundreds of Osage Orange trees, we are happy to trade a little labor and some chainsaw gas to gather posts as we need them. Untreated hedge posts last about as long as steel (about 30 years) in this part of Kansas, so there's no durability tradeoff in using that which nature provides. So we packed up the dogs, saws and some water in our 1964 IH pickup truck and headed off in low-range to the bottom of a steep draw where I found some relatively straight hedge growing last winter. Between anchor posts, gate posts and line posts I calculated we needed about 15 new posts -- after sawing in the heat for about an hour we had 30 posts to load into the truck. You can never have enough fence posts on hand.
Around here, Osage Orange is known as Hedge, Hedge Apple and Bodark, but rarely Osage Orange and virtually never by its binomial, Maclura pomifera. The tree was once widely planted to create wind breaks, living fences and to provide farmers and ranchers with sufficient fenceposts to keep their respective places secure. Because of its hard, decay-resistant wood, the Osage Orange once came close to extinction because native populations were over harvested for the railroad tie manufacturing business. Lucky for us, there is no shortage of Osage Orange on our farm. I love the tree for all kinds of reasons, not the least of which is that its heartwood is a lovely yellow-orange color that makes great hand tool handles.
The newest member of the hedge-post harvesting crew, George Jr. is a robust 10-week-old Cairn Terrier. Believe it or not, but the heat down in that draw had him napping on an old towel, in spite of the chainsaws singing and trees crashing down nearby.
Our 1964 International Harvester (don't let the later-model grill fool you - blame it on a deer) 3/4-ton 4-wheel-drive pickup walked right out of that steep draw in low-range and granny gear at an idle -- with more than 1000-pounds of post in the back. I commute to work in this truck -- what she lacks in lovely, she gains in brute capability.
Finally made it back up to high ground. Though it might be difficult to tell in this photo, the day was clear and free of haze, but our neighbors to the south were burning off their native-grass pastures and brushland. It was smoky out there, but that's just another sure sign of spring in Osage County. I don't know when I will sink these posts and stretch the new fence, but when I do, I will be sure to report on it here. Stay tuned.
All photos and George Jr.'s towel courtesy Karen Keb.
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+.