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Osage Orange


Running along our side property line, the one directly behind our house, is a bit of forest.  The trees are densely packed and woven together by extensive grapevines.  The patch of forest isn't very wide - maybe 25 to 50 feet - and it all sits on our neighbors property.  I'm happy to say we have had no indication they might decide to cut it all down.  It forms a great barrier between our property and theirs.

There are some trees that over-arch our fence and could do significant damage to said fence if they toppled down.  Enough of the trees are dead that this is a specific concern and we have had to repair the fence several times after cutting up limbs landing on the fence.  Because of this, my husband has worked hard over the years to mitigate the potential damage.

There were a couple of limbs that grabbed his attention recently.  He decided to cut the limbs that were endangering our fence.  Yes, this meant leaning over the fence and cutting on our neighbor's property just a little bit.

Ron was amazed at the two limbs he was trying to dislodge.  The wood is very strong and therefore very difficult to cut.  Even the limb that looks all punky and full of holes wasn't coming down.  The one cut he made revealed a lovely golden yellow heartwood.

What?  Let me get this straight - very strong wood, yellow heartwood, raggedy shrubby looking tree with lots of branches?  That has got to be an osage orange tree.  We have them around here so finding one next door to us is perfectly plausible.  We have never found any hedge apples (also called osage oranges, horse apples, monkey balls or mock oranges) but since they only occur on the female trees that may explain it.  Also this tree is very dead.  Not a leaf in sight.

My first thought is to cut off whatever limbs we can easily reach over the fence and grind up the wood so I can use it as a natural dye.  The problem with that is how strong the wood is.  I had a natural dye instructor tell me once that finding or owning an osage orange tree doesn't mean you don't buy the already ground up wood savings.  Cutting and grinding that wood is a huge amount of work.  Fortunately, I have several large plastic bags of the osage orange sawdust. I think I'm good.