Sunday, January 16, 2011

Locusts...not the insect

   It is sunny and very cold today. We woke up to 0 degrees. At least the sun is shining and there is almost no breeze. Tonight is supposed to get to -1 degrees and then we are looking at the internet forecast of more snow. to the woods for more firewood!
   The last few days we've been working on locusts...honey locusts. They are not the insect kind, but a tree that grows in our woods and along the fields. The honey locust is great firewood, burning hot and easy to split. But, the trees are a menace. They have large thorns in them and are somewhat invasive. We have seen trees that are only five feet tall with thorns as huge as four inches long. And, yesterday when Marty split one piece for firewood, there was a thorn growing in the middle of the tree, two inches long...right in the middle! Crazy.
   The honey locusts in our woods were spread in 1970's by the cattle and earlier by hogs that were let to walk freely in the woods. They ate the pods of the honey locusts and of course left a trail of seeds wherever they walked. The pods are large, sometimes eight inches or longer and have fairly good size seeds. There haven't been any animals in the woods for over 30 years. But the locusts, once established, will spread themselves very easily. So, in order to keep them from coming up all over and crowding out other trees, we have to do some maintenance.
   We ring the larger ones, the "mother" trees by cutting two rings around them. The rings are cut with the chainsaw about two inches apart and a couple of feet up from the base. The cuts are about an inch deep, going thru the cambium layer. This stops the flow of sap to the top of the tree and the tree dies. For harvesting locusts for firewood, this is really helpful as the bark drops off and the upper branches fall out over the period of a year or two. No thorns when cutting firewood! (At least on the outside.)
   Then we also went around the fenceline of the south field and cut all the little trees out. They will sometimes come back up from the stumps, so maintenance needs to be done every couple of years to keep them down. We don't like to spray chemicals on the stumps since we are trying to farm organic. It only took us two hours to cut all the little trees around the south field and the weather was sunny and mild. It was a wonderful day for being out and working on a project like that.

   I must say that honey locusts are not the same as black locust trees. We have beautiful black locusts in our yard. They do not have thorns, have delicious smelling whitish blossoms that flower in mid-May, and they have very small pods. The two trees are different species altogether. The black locusts were brought here by the settlers as they provided great material for fencing. They were also planted around our buildings to get the lightening strikes as they became taller than the buildings (or so the story is told to us). We like them a lot and the honey bees do too!

Our Allis D-15 tractor and grandpa's wagon

On our way to the woods

This honey locust
is hairy with thorns
Check out how long these thorns are!
There is a pile of them on the ground
on the left

Marty cutting a large
honey locust

1 comment:

  1. Wow, those are some thorns! And to think that there was one growing INSIDE the too--what a surprise. It appears that what with the number of honey locust trees you have and how invasive they are, you have inherited another "sustainable" feature at the farm, be it good or bad. At least you'll have good, thorny firewood for a long time. Perhaps indefinitely!

    If you're looking to reduce the maintenance on your previously cut down trees, have you considered to burn the roots from inside-out after the tree has been felled? I know of a guy who did that and it seemed a pretty successful method for getting rid of the last vestiges of the stump and roots.