Thursday, February 11, 2016

Cutting Up Locust Trees





I got the tailgate board fitted and attached to the trailer this morning, fired up the 8N which took a while because it was rather cold. I had to let her idle with the choke out for quite a bit before she would move. Hooked up the trailer and went down to the back to start cutting off my own little woodlot.

There is just something much more satisfying about cutting your own trees off your own property. Sadly I only have enough woods to give me maybe two loads a year on average so it isn't something I get to enjoy often enough. I keep hoping all the young trees I let grow will eventually keep up to the wood use around here but I doubt it will happen in my lifetime.

Today's target was a Honey Locust that had grown into three main trunks each about as big around as my torso. They been standing dead for a couple of years now but I have left them alone because with Locust you kinda have to be careful and it only takes a year or so after they die for them to begin shedding their bark and a lot of those dreaded thorns along with it.

Four things you need to keep in mind when cutting Locust trees....

1. They can hurt ya bad quick and in ways other trees only dream about. Falling limbs with six inch spikes all over them brings with it an entirely different dynamic to tree felling.

2. They can kill ya dead pretty quick too. Not only are they covered with six inch spikes they have a tendency to grow in odd directions, get intertwined and never seem to want to fall the way they should.

3. A small grove of Locust trees come with their own pungie stick traps. Wear heavy soled boots. Trust me on this one.

4. They can cost you a lot of money in a very short time. Those thorns will take out a tire, even a big rear tractor tire, quick. Don't pull the tractor too close to the tree or anywhere limbs may have fallen recently.

Now you might be asking yourself why I would bother to cut such a pain in the ass tree? A fair question that has two answers the first one mentioned above. I have no damned trees on this place!!!! I have to take what I can get.

The second answer is more an opinion but Locust trees are some of the best burning wood for wood furnaces I have ever harvested. They are listed as 10th in overall BTU output of North American trees but that is only part of the story. Locust releases those BTU's in a much greater amount much faster than other wood which as I said in my opinion equals out to a much higher heat efficiency than other hardwoods I get around here and I have burned about every specie in the top 10 list except the Ironwood and Madrone (Whatever a Madrone is).

As a matter of fact the Locust is the only firewood that I have to mix with other wood to burn or run the risk of harming the inside of the furnace. Yes it burns that hot. I typically try and mix it in with Oak and the less cured the Oak the better actually. A fire box filled with Locust will turn the grate and smoke shelf edges orange in just a  few hours. It can eat 1 inch thick grate bars completely away to nothing in one season. I have burned Osage Orange and Persimmon which are listed first and third in BTU output and never seen a fire so hot as I get with Locust.

The down side is Locust pops a lot but that is of no real issue in the furnace. It does burn a bit faster as I said but that means it deals with the high wind/low temp problem better which I get with the outside furnace during the Alaskan Clipper attacks. It can also be a pain to split by hand occasionally because the thorns tend to grow into the wood a lot.

Since we have another Alaskan Clipper Attack scheduled to roll in tomorrow night this couple of loads of Locust will be put to good use.

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!!!!!


20 comments:

  1. Your locust sounds a lot more wicked than our variety, I thought we had honey locust as the bees were after all the blossoms. There are short thorns that aren't too bad. Most of these trees seem to be dying, there must be a blight but I burn that when I can get it, what you say is true, it is a good wood. I don't have any at the moment but have some oak reserved for the single digits we are supposed to get.

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    1. Sf - The way to tell a Honey Locust from a Black is that the Honey locust has big seed pods and the blacks have small ones. The black pods are poisonous while the honey pods can be eaten. It is common to find thornless or smaller thorns on these trees from time to time. I have a couple around that are thornless and have cut more than a few without thorns but by and large the ones we get here have huge long thorns.

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    2. I also suspect the reason the ones I have are so laden with thorns is that the thornless ones are eaten by the damned horses and don't get to grow :)

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  2. From what I have read, it is said that black locust makes some of the best fence posts.

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    1. TB - Both Black and Honey locust wood is extremely rot resistant. Around here though the honey locust usually grows all gnarly and twisted. Black locust though is usually quite straight.

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    2. I remember seeing Grandpa's mailbox post made out of Black Locust when I was a kid. That was over 55 years ago and it is still being used. It will get chewed from the inside out by ants however.

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    3. PhilW - Around here most people opt for Red Cedar when doing the post thing but I think that is more because they are even more numerous than locust and tend to grow much straighter here too. Yet I do know locust weathers well and is rot resistant and have seen some of them used for posts from time to time.

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  3. our honey locust only has short thorns on the green branches.
    i've never seen the kind you have.

    time for you to seed a few different subspecies.

    they make fence posts said not to rot. neighbor used them.

    one subspecies is said to have been grown for the sailing industry back in the old days as it made the tallest strongest straightest masts.

    as they are a legume and some have big beans it is said that the locusts eaten in the Bible are from these trees.
    the beans from our trees were small, though.

    we had 3 kinds [western west virginia]. delicious white flowers, purple flowers, and a purple flowered variety with hairy trunks.

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    1. DH - You sure you don't have a black locust? I actually have both black and honey locust and actually the two are not even related specie which I should have pointed out in the post. Black locust has smaller seed pods that are poisonous while the honey locust has big pods that can be eaten. Finding thornless trees of both varieties is fairly common actually. Black locust is much more widely distributed than honey locust though and bees like the blooms of both. Honey locust blooms though are small and green and hard to even tell they are blooming except for the buzz from the bees in them.

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    2. so black locust can have either color flowers and be hairy trunked?

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    3. DH - Well I don't know about a hairy trunk. The Black Locust here are closer to a smooth trunk until older but they grow straighter and generally thinner than the Honey Locust. Black Locust flowers here are white and kinda hang down in long strands so I assume that they can also come in different shades whereas the Honey Locust are much smaller flowers and green. Unless you look really close you cannot even see a flower.

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  4. I've seen them a couple counties away, but around here we have only the black locust. I hope we never get them.

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    1. GS - The Black Locust are really pretty when they bloom. Long white tendrils of flowers hanging down. They are somewhat odd int heir blooming cycle and do not bloom every year I assume due to weather/temperature or moisture conditions.

      I think we get them here so often because they are protected from the cattle and horses.

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    2. We must have the black locust here though they don't look black to me.

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  5. Dennis

    I have seen some big thorns will work as a landscape worker but those beat everything! Nothing like that here, except maybe the cactus up north. I hope your antibiotic shots are up to date. Curious do you clean up the thorns, burn them, or just leave them be those that are on the ground.

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    1. Dennis - Around here as Locust goes those thorns in the picture are pretty tame really. I have seen some massive ones in my day. Generally speaking you try and pile the limbs and thorns up out of the way at the very least but truth is there are so many you will never get them all. It takes about a year of so but the thorns do degrade and become harmless eventually. I have read that Locust thorns were actually used as nails around here at times.

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  6. Our locust aren't as thorny as your but we have a lot of them and you are right... They are great wood stove fuel!

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  7. Madrone/Manzanita is a very dense wood similar to persimmon. It has a grayigh bark which peels off to reveal a deep maroon color.It burns very hot also. Found in California and Arizona as well as other western states.

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  8. I used to have many dogwood trees but years of drought weakened them and many died. I sawed the dead ones up and they are like rocket fuel for the wood stove. Hopefully the remaining ones will survive since our drought in N. Georgia is pretty much over.

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