[Homestead] The Mighty Hedge Apple
erthnsky at bellsouth.net
Tue Dec 25 11:45:20 EST 2007
More on Osage orange...
I was raised on a farm that was totally encircled by an Osage orange
fence that had not been tended in many years.In the end we cut out
the best posts and dozed the rest out to make room for new wire
fences. Only a short stretch of the original Osage tree fence still
There are some positive sides to having osage orange around and then
there are several negative sides to the issue. In an old growth
fenceline there are always lots of cottontail rabbits and an
ocassional red squirrel. In the worst part of winter the prairie
chickens and native quail go there for wind protection and to feed
on the buck brush understory that usually grows under these hedge
rows. Old hedgerows are ideal nesting places for many bird species
and especially for doves. I can remember seeing thousands of doves
feeding in the fields surrounding our hedgerows. With the decline of
these fence row trees the dove population nearly crashed.
Osage Orange posts will last for better than 50 years. I know of
several old hedge corner posts that are still sound that have
outlasted 2 different wire fences that were attached to them. Hedge
saplings planted in deep timber will grow very straight and make the
type of wood needed to use in building small things. There used to
be a mill in South Missouri that advertized osage orange wood for
sale. Wood workers bought much of this specialty wood. Osage is
extremely dense and extremely heavy. I would not recommend it for
making large furnature.
Hedge bows were made by Native Americans from the shaped and
seasoned limb wood and seldom from the young tree trunks. Today a
few American anglo home craft operations exist that riv staves from
the trunks to make two piece bows for the novelty seekers. Osage
trees do not bend well at the trunk without cracking but can
withstand over 100 mph winds with little or no damage.
About the only way you could build a cabin out of Hedge would be as
stack wood construction. It would take many years to find enough
straight trees to make even a small cabin in the conventional
manner. Out of the best trees you will find there is usually no more
than 10 feet of semi straight trunk and the rest is pretty twisted.
Hedge wood burns much hotter than the same weight of coal. Burning
nothing but hedge in your stove will soon burn out the fire brick
lining even in a coal stove. Green hedge wood is gummy and b/c it
burns so hot it will also cause chimney fires.
Hedge balls or hedge apples are toxic to most domestic livestock. I
have seen several cattle die that either choked to death on a hedge
ball or got what is known around here as "hedge ball poisioning." I
saw a Hereford bull that ate a few too many hedge balls and he was
so thin that even the Vet that checked him said he might not live.
He went from almost 2000 pounds down to about 800 before he began to
recover. Most die when they get this sick.
My Dad lost a high dollar registered Angus bull b/c the bull choked
to death on a hedge ball. Horses won't normally eat them if they
have access to good pasture and a little grain. It is not a good
idea to feed them to your horses or any other livestock. If the
fruit from these trees had any real value as a feed item then the
farmers would never have dozed them out in the first place.
As for insect repellent I have this to say. Part is old wives tales
and part is pure coincidence. By the time a hedge apple falls to the
ground where it can be harvested it is in the late fall. By the time
you put it in your house it would be time for most insects to
hibernate or die off anyway. Usually [or normally] by late October
in my neck of the woods it has already frozen a few times and the
first snows aren't that far off.
By the time you put these hedge apples around your home the bugs are
mostly gone anyway so it sort of looks like they were repelled by
these hedge balls. I also heard a man tell me how he cut several
hedge apples in half and set them around his house and it drove all
of the cock roaches out of his house. I came to visit him shortly
after he made that claim and couldn't tell where it had even thinned
them out even a little. He lived in one of those older areas of a
small town where roaches have lived and thrived in the old style
sewer lines for a couple of generations. Orkin came in several times
and fumigated the houses in that line and the roaches just left the
houses and could be seen walking in masses across the lawns to
escape the fumes. They should have done that during January instead
of July and the roaches wouldn't have escaped so easily.
Here is a site where you can read about everything that has been
discussed so far. You might want to call your local Vet about
feeding hedge apples to your animals to get verification on the
Here's another site that shows hedge rows like we used to have in
abundance in my area.
Also for anyone who thinks that they can get rich quick by cutting
hedge and selling the wood and posts at a profit here is a word of
advice. In my life time I have cut and helped cut several miles of
the stuff with an old style cross cut saw and an axe and later with
a chain saw. The wood dulls a saw real fast and you are constantly
sharpening the teeth. Hedge doesn't fall like other trees and has
to be "levered" out of the hedge line with a long pry bar or slim
hedge trunk before it slips off the stump. Depending on how "stuck"
it is you can either get two big ole boys on it and yank it loose or
hook a chain to the lower trunk and hook the chain to a truck or
tractor hitch and pull it out that way.
Usually you get the saw stuck about every third tree even after you
get the hang of how it all works. Corner posts sell for around $15
to $20, heavy lines for around $8 to $10, and regular line posts for
around $5 to $7 depending on how straight they are. Price varies
with area and availability.
Cutting hedge trees in any season other than winter gums up the saw
blade making it near impossible to cut. You can reduce the gum
buildup by rubbing the blade with a kerosene soaked rag after every
tree you cut. Before you make your big fortune cutting hedge posts
there is no telling how many thorny limbs will have broken loose and
whipped you across your cold face or snagged your coat till it looks
like a pile of rags or bit your behind when you tried to sit on the
fresh cut sappy post pile.
You will wear out two pair of good leather gloves per week and at
least two good chain saws in those three months of winter post
cutting [if you only cut 3 days out of the week like everyone else].
The tree sap doesn't wash out it has to wear off. Usually the things
you wear will be ruined forever after the first two days so don't
wear anything you really care about that much.
Also it takes a minimum of two people to work a hedge row and
maintain some semblance of safety. When everything goes right and
you have people waiting to buy everything you cut you can earn an
average of $300 a day per person.
When we first moved onto our homestead, I asked our neighbor what
was that tree over there (points) with the big green fruits. He said
it was a hedge apple. I asked if it was good for anything (the
word "apple" made me think maybe it was) and he replied that cows
will eat them. Well, we don't have cows, but we do have horses that
love the things. It's entertaining to watch them eat an osage orange.
I too heard that they would deter spiders, so I brought a few in the
house. I can tell you that they work better in unheated basements.
LOL After awhile they stink and attract fruit flies. Won't do that
But they are a nice tree, and ours provides shade for the horses in
the corral; it's just outside their fence so they can't reach the
tree itself but they enjoy the fruits that fall on their side of the
fence. I think the fruits are nearly gone this year (we toss a
couple into the corral once in awhile), but next year, if anyone
would like a fruit, I'd be happy to share them. Some might call it a
pest tree, but they do not self-seed easily evidently. I see them
here and there along the roadsides and in the woods, but never
a "grove" of them, just a single tree.
Bevanron of EarthNSky Farm Sleep well tonight, for somewhere in the
ocean's depths, MY son is protecting YOUR freedom.
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