Three Uses for Black Locust Wood

Compost box, fence post, fire wood — black locust wood will serve each purpose well.

| September/October 1978

I suppose I would have felt a little guilty when I cut those black locust trees into black locust wood—they looked so young, clean-limbed, and tall—if a local (southeastern Ohio) state forester hadn't already given me some information that eased my mind.

This fella, you see, had told me that the life of a locust tree (in our area, at least) is pretty much a continual struggle with one pest or another. By the time its trunk is about four inches in diameter, for example, the locust borers have moved in. And these black and yellow beetles lay eggs which hatch into hungry larvae with a taste for wood—deep in the body of the locust tree.

As you probably can imagine, it doesn't take long for the borers to reduce a healthy locust tree to something that resembles a well-used shotgun target. And, my informant added, if those pests don't kill a tree, the leaf miners probably will. (Emaciated yellow-brown leaves that can no longer produce chlorophyll, so vital to the life and growth of most plants, are the calling cards of the miner.) The forester concluded by saying that, in his opinion, I would save my black locust trees from a lot of needless agony it I just cut down all that had trunks measuring from four to eight inches in diameter and turned 'em into useful fence posts.

Now it may sound a little silly to some folks for a person who runs a nearly self-sufficient farm to worry about felling a few trees. Especially when, if the facts be known, I needed those fencing supports—and I sure couldn't afford to go out and buy 'em—so I likely would have chopped down as many of the locusts as I required anyway. The tree expert's endorsement of this necessary harvest did make me feel better about the whole thing, though. If that's the mark of a silly person, then I guess I qualify.

Use One: The "Curing" Compost Box

When I asked the "old-timers" in my area about the best time to fell my trees, the response was just about unanimous: "Get 'em while the sap is down—in the fall or winter—and the posts will be stronger than 'spring-cut' wood. They'll be less likely to take root in your fence row and sprout new branches too. Green locust fences have been known to do that."

So, come October, I chopped a good supply of medium-sized trees, trimmed off the tops and branches for firewood, and—in accordance with the advice of my most trusted mentors—began to stack the poles right there in the forest, "log cabin style", to cure.

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