Locust Fence Part 3: Running out of Posts

Today’s post was going to be about setting the first locust posts in the pasture I’m building for our mules and horse….until I ran out of posts. So, back up the mountain I went in pursuit of locust. I found such a beauty, and was taken by how much life it contained, that I wanted to show you some photos of how a log become posts.

Queen of the Wind Fall Locust Jungle: she showed me how many plants and animals rely on the these old logs.

Life on a Locust Log

The best locust on farm grows on the ridge behind out house. It’s old growth forest, a mix of red and white oak, chestnut oak, red maple and some tulip poplar in the upper reaches of the coves.

View toward our farm from Blowing Rock, North Carolina. We live about 30 minutes way, about 8’oclock in the photo above.

The forest on our farm is considered the 4th Forest. That is, this is the fourth time the timber has been cut since the East Coast was settled by Europeans. The early harvest, at first the first 2, part of the third was done with oxen, mules and horses. The mature trees were felled and the smaller ones were left to grow.

That ended up when the era of mechanized timber started. Instead of hooves, it was treads that entered the forest. Treads of logging skidders, tractors and bulldozers. Now, instead of small patch cuts, whole mountainsides were harvested, in many cases, each and every merchantable tree on site.

This dramatically changed the mix of trees that grew back. Young trees that loved shade, like were disadvantaged. Light loving trees – like tulip poplars – thrived.

So did locust.

Locust is considered a pioneer species. That is, it is one of the first trees to grown back when the land is cleared.

So the last time the mountain behind our house was logged, probably around 1900, thousands of locust trees sprouted from seeds that lay dormant on the forest floor. In time, many decades later, they were outcompeted by the succession species, hardwoods like white and chestnut oak.

Most of these locust died when they were small. Some, outraced the competition to the sky. A very few, only a few per acre, survived to be 100 years old.

So it was with great respect that I fired up my chain saw and cut in to this beauty. It had been lying on the forest floor about 5 years. I was amazed how quickly the forest had moved to reclaim it, especially the bark layer. Luckily, locust wood is incredibly rot resistant. That’s why it’s so sought after for posts by some.

Here are some photos I thought you enjoy of Life on a Locust Log.

Life On a Locust Log

Up the mountain, the clearing where I found the locust tree I wanted to use as posts.
This section of log was just under 18″ wide. The butt log, the one attached to the roots, was larger. This is the second log.
Moss bed.
The next forest: red maple shoots next to hickory nut shells. The shells look like they were piled her by a squirrel.
Now it’s time to get sawing.
I tied a yellow tow strap around the log so I could tow if to the road after I sawed it loose from the rest of tree. When I slipped the bark off, I discovered…
…a big colony of carpenter ants that called the log home. I gave them plenty of time…
…to move their eggs and larva to safety. After I slipped the bark off the old log, I piled it up on the ground. I’m hoping the ants took advantage. If not, I’m figuring they moved on to the next section of the tree that I left in the woods.
Even the fast life moves quickly out here. This slug moved on to the log while I piled up the bark for the ants.

From Log to Posts

I’ve written before how I split locust posts and rails out of a locust log. Still, this one was so pretty and straight I just had to make a few photos. Locust is known to be incredibly cantankerous to split with a maul and wedges so I appreciate a straight-grained one when I find it.

I place the first wedge in a natural crack.
Then I just keep adding wedges.
I only had 4 steel wedges with me. When all four of them got stuck in the log, it was time to break out an old time technique. I fired up my chainsaw and…

…cut a wedge-shaped piece of wood from a piece of locust nearby.
That became my 5th wedge.
And the log splits in two halves.
An hour later, the whole log is split in to 10 posts. I brought my locust wedges off the mountain. The make great firewood.
And the cycle continue. On the ground, the locust log I harvested. The leaves above the log in the center of the photo belong to a young locust tree. In 100 years, the cycle will be repeated.
Okay. It wasn’t all sweat an toil. Julia and I managed to squeeze in a ride at Moses Cone park. (Boone, NC)

Whew. Now I can get back to building that locust fence.

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