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Osage orange

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Osage orange
« on: March 23, 2018, 04:56:40 PM »
I have about 14 acres of old pasture that's pretty much completely overgrown with osage orange, which I assume spread from the two old deliberately-planted hedgerows (hence the other common name for osage, “hedge apple,”) along the old farm lanes.   I get the original purpose, but left untended for many decades the darn stuff sprawls and twists and leans and interlocks and spreads, making the land all but impenetrable.   For four years now I’ve been slowly battling it with a chainsaw and some prodigious bonfires.

The wood is amazingly hard and dense, making for magnificent fenceposts and extremely hot, long-lasting fires, and I’ve read it’s a great choice for archery bows.   But it darn sure makes you work for it.   The same features that make it such an effective hedge (long, jagged, twisted, interlocked branches, and strong, sharp thorns on the young shoots and suckers) make it darn hard to cut down; cutting through a big branch or the main trunk might be easy enough but getting the darn thing to fall to the ground is another matter.   Sometimes takes a tractor and chain to drag each cut section down and out of the surrounding hedge.    Clock goes by fast without much to show for it in situations like that.

Then there’s the question of what to do with the stumps, since the wood won’t hardly ever rot and becomes harder with time.   Wild cherry turns into marshmallow after a couple years laying on the ground and in the weather; osage turns into iron and just lays there, waiting for you to forget it, until the day comes when it snaps the shear pin in your rotary cutter like a piece of chalk.

For most of the big trees, my normal procedure is to cut the tree about 18” or 24” above the ground and let it fall (or drag it down with the tractor and chain, if necessary).  After cutting it all up into manageable size pieces, I pile some of the big stuff around the stump but save some for later.   The few medium-size branches that are straight and free of shoots and suckers and forks, I cut for firewood and haul into a shed; the twisty nasty crap goes straight onto the pile above the stump, along with all the small stuff, for (sooner or later) a nice bonfire.   Once all the small stuff has burned down I gradually throw on the rest of the big logs to keep the stump burning.   Usually takes a couple of days to really catch, but eventually the stump and big roots will burn down underground like a seam of coal, sometimes continuing to smoke and smolder for a week or more, finally leaving a little crater as the ash and dirt above it collapse down into the void.   

For the smaller trees, I scrape away enough dirt to give the chainsaw chain a little breathing room and then cut them dead level with the ground, saw them up into pieces, and chuck them onto the nearest burnpile.   But then I paint the cut stumps with Garlon 3A to keep them from turning into the nastiest thorniest hardiest bushes you can imagine.

This morning’s episode in the battle against the osage was fairly light, continuing a long process of cleanup along one of the original hedgerows.   Unlike with the big osage trees out in the middle of the old pasture, I’m trying to save some of the original hedgerow trees if they’re at least somewhat vertical, so I don’t cut and burn them in place--but the long low branches that sprawled 30 or 40 feet over into the neighboring field had go.   So I cut them up and loaded them into a wagon, and hauled them around to a burnpile away from the main hedgerow.   The Super M provided the motive power and looked good doing it.

When I first began clearing this particular area a few months ago, it was a thicket, impossible to see through from one side to the other, much less walk around in.   As I cut and piled and cut and piled, I eventually ran across the remains of a very old farm wagon.   Seems to have been there many decades, based on the size of some of the honeysuckle and other scrubby trees I cut out from all in and around it, but whether it’s been 50 years or 100 I don’t know.  I think I’ll just leave it where it sits, plant some native hardwoods in the area to give it some company.   Looked pretty neat this morning, rising out of the remains of last Wednesday’s snowfall.

Dean Vinson
Saint Paris, Ohio
« Last Edit: March 23, 2018, 05:00:13 PM by vinsond »

Re: Osage orange
« Reply #1 on: March 23, 2018, 11:55:38 PM »
I have a section you can clear for me when you are done (-:   

Seriously though, that wagon was a cool find.  In a really interesting coincidence, a really neat old metal wheel (old dump rake wheel??) was found in mine.   Leaning up against a shed now for decoration

I have about 14 acres of old pasture that's pretty much completely overgrown with osage orange, which I assume spread from the two old deliberately-planted hedgerows (hence the other common name for osage, “hedge apple,”) along the old farm lanes.   I get the original purpose, but left untended for many decades the darn stuff sprawls and twists and leans and interlocks and spreads, making the land all but impenetrable.   For four years now I’ve been slowly battling it with a chainsaw and some prodigious bonfires.

The wood is amazingly hard and dense, making for magnificent fenceposts and extremely hot, long-lasting fires, and I’ve read it’s a great choice for archery bows.   But it darn sure makes you work for it.   The same features that make it such an effective hedge (long, jagged, twisted, interlocked branches, and strong, sharp thorns on the young shoots and suckers) make it darn hard to cut down; cutting through a big branch or the main trunk might be easy enough but getting the darn thing to fall to the ground is another matter.   Sometimes takes a tractor and chain to drag each cut section down and out of the surrounding hedge.    Clock goes by fast without much to show for it in situations like that.

Then there’s the question of what to do with the stumps, since the wood won’t hardly ever rot and becomes harder with time.   Wild cherry turns into marshmallow after a couple years laying on the ground and in the weather; osage turns into iron and just lays there, waiting for you to forget it, until the day comes when it snaps the shear pin in your rotary cutter like a piece of chalk.

For most of the big trees, my normal procedure is to cut the tree about 18” or 24” above the ground and let it fall (or drag it down with the tractor and chain, if necessary).  After cutting it all up into manageable size pieces, I pile some of the big stuff around the stump but save some for later.   The few medium-size branches that are straight and free of shoots and suckers and forks, I cut for firewood and haul into a shed; the twisty nasty crap goes straight onto the pile above the stump, along with all the small stuff, for (sooner or later) a nice bonfire.   Once all the small stuff has burned down I gradually throw on the rest of the big logs to keep the stump burning.   Usually takes a couple of days to really catch, but eventually the stump and big roots will burn down underground like a seam of coal, sometimes continuing to smoke and smolder for a week or more, finally leaving a little crater as the ash and dirt above it collapse down into the void.   

For the smaller trees, I scrape away enough dirt to give the chainsaw chain a little breathing room and then cut them dead level with the ground, saw them up into pieces, and chuck them onto the nearest burnpile.   But then I paint the cut stumps with Garlon 3A to keep them from turning into the nastiest thorniest hardiest bushes you can imagine.

This morning’s episode in the battle against the osage was fairly light, continuing a long process of cleanup along one of the original hedgerows.   Unlike with the big osage trees out in the middle of the old pasture, I’m trying to save some of the original hedgerow trees if they’re at least somewhat vertical, so I don’t cut and burn them in place--but the long low branches that sprawled 30 or 40 feet over into the neighboring field had go.   So I cut them up and loaded them into a wagon, and hauled them around to a burnpile away from the main hedgerow.   The Super M provided the motive power and looked good doing it.

When I first began clearing this particular area a few months ago, it was a thicket, impossible to see through from one side to the other, much less walk around in.   As I cut and piled and cut and piled, I eventually ran across the remains of a very old farm wagon.   Seems to have been there many decades, based on the size of some of the honeysuckle and other scrubby trees I cut out from all in and around it, but whether it’s been 50 years or 100 I don’t know.  I think I’ll just leave it where it sits, plant some native hardwoods in the area to give it some company.   Looked pretty neat this morning, rising out of the remains of last Wednesday’s snowfall.

Dean Vinson
Saint Paris, Ohio
« Last Edit: March 23, 2018, 11:58:28 PM by SpencerYost »
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More tractors than time.....

Re: Osage orange
« Reply #2 on: March 27, 2018, 08:19:12 PM »
I have a section you can clear for me when you are done (-:   

I've considered hiring out, but to borrow a phrase from a friend of mine, "I'm expensive and slow."  Doesn't seem to be too effective as a marketing slogan.

Seriously though, that wagon was a cool find.  In a really interesting coincidence, a really neat old metal wheel (old dump rake wheel??) was found in mine.   Leaning up against a shed now for decoration[

Thanks!  I was really pleased with it.  That section of hedgerow is immediately next to what I suspect was a public road at some point in the distant past, pre-automobile, so I've enjoyed wondering whether the wagon had been parked there by some prior farmer of this land or abandoned after some serious breakdown or accident on the road.

p.s.   The osage battle continues... here's a photo from yesterday evening of two stump-removal fires shortly after I'd built them back up in their third day of existence.

Dean Vinson
Saint Paris, Ohio

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Re: Osage orange
« Reply #3 on: March 27, 2018, 09:15:05 PM »
That sounds like one tough tree and I'm glad we don't have to deal with it here. I was going to say its like our carraganna trees but they are soft wood, easy to cut down. Spread like weeds though. They were imported here years ago from Russia I believe . To be a quick growing hedge for the new settlers
farm yards. Once they get tall they tend to break down and branches die off. Takes a lot of maintenance to keep a hedge looking good. Easiest way to clear them, and any trees, is with a big bulldozer. Pile and burn.
Ralph in Sask.