Cutting Osage Orange Fenceposts: Untreated Hedge Lasts Like Steel

| 4/4/2011 11:19:00 AM

Tags: fencing, farms, pickups,

GRIT Editor Hank Will at the wheel of his 1964 IH pickup.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.

Harvesting Osage Orange hedge fence posts in Kansas 

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.

George Jr. the Cairn Terrier puppy 

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.

1964 International Harvester IH Pickup truck 

bob jones
11/13/2012 6:19:50 PM

ireid, I don't know how you could conclude that osage orange makes great firewood. It's like putting saltpeter in the fireplace. Put osage in a fireplace and you'll have a real fireworks show.

Nebraska Dave
4/6/2011 7:52:19 PM

Hank, oh how I can remember building fences, rebuilding fences, tearing down fences, and repairing fences. We didn't have them there power augers like folks has today. Hand dug holes with the post hole diggers that spun around and around. I'm sure you know the kind. Now I own a post hole digger with the two long handles that looks like two shovels fastened together. I've dug many a hole with both kinds. I've never had opportunity to actually cut down the posts. They were always bought creosoted posts and we used then mostly for the corner posts. Probably some of those posts I helped with 40 years ago are still holding up a fence. How long do they have to cure or were these already dead when you cut them down? Have a great post planting day.

4/5/2011 4:18:01 PM

Hank-Nice blog, brings back lots of memories from out on our farm. Hedge also makes great firewood too. We used to burn hedge in our Longwood furnace and I remember more then once we had to open windows! Sure did get hot in there! George Jr. sure is cute and has the right idea, just lounge in the sun. Can't wait to read your next adventure.

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