How To Make Osage Orange Fence Posts

How to Make Osage Orange Fence PostsPermanent fencing is sometimes necessary, but it can also be costly.  However, with a little time and effort (and a few Osage orange trees) you can make your own fence posts and save some money.

Why Osage orange?  It lasts.  Once the wood dries, it’s iron tough.  Just watch out for the thorns….

You will notice that the instructions below are not terribly specific.  They were not intended to be.  Since you are cutting the fence posts yourself, you will have the flexibility to make them as long or short or thick or thin as you want.

 

You Will Need

  • Osage orange trees
  • Chainsaw

 

Instructions

  1. Select a suitable Osage orange tree.  It must have a relatively straight trunk or branches and be a suitable length and diameter for a fence post.  Thicker branches make good corner posts, while thinner branches will do for line posts.
  2. Cut down the trunk or branch.
  3. Cut to the desired length.  (Just remember that part of the post will be underground.)
  4. Carefully carve one end of the post into a point with the chainsaw.  You may need a helper to hold or stand on the other end of the post.
  5. Repeat this whole procedure until you have as many fence posts as you need.

 

Using the Fence Posts

The method you use to drive in one of your new Osage orange fence posts will depend on the diameter of the post.  Thin line posts can be pounded into the ground with a sledgehammer.  Thick corner posts are easier to handle when the post hole is dug or augered out first.

Attaching hardware to an Osage orange fence post can sometimes be a little tricky because the wood is so hard.  If you need to screw in an insulator for electric fencing, you probably want to pre-drill the hole first.  If you’re hammering in staples, well, you’ll just have to work at it.  Comfort yourself with the reminder that your fence posts will last for quite a few years.

Doing the Lord’s Work in the Lord’s Way

Doing the Lord's Work in the Lord's WayWouldn’t you like to know that you’re doing the work of the Lord? And wouldn’t you like to be sure that you’re doing it in His way?

If your answer to these questions is “yes,” you might be interested in a sermon in two parts fittingly titled “Doing the Lord’s Work in the Lord’s Way” from Dr. John MacArthur and Grace to You Ministries. Both sermons are based on 1 Corinthians 16:5–12. It’s a rather obscure passage, but it’s in there for a reason, and Dr. MacArthur draws from it an inspiring and Scripture-filled message.

It’s tempting to spill the beans and share the principles of doing God’s work God’s way, but since no one can say it quite like Dr. MacArthur, you’ll have to either read or listen to the sermons yourself. Here are the links:

If you want to be “always abounding in the work of the Lord,” this one’s for you. Read it or listen to it. Meditate on it. Then get about fulfilling your life purpose—God’s way.

Wellington–McPherson Lowlands

Wellington–McPherson Lowlands
Lake Inman, the largest natural lake in Kansas

The Wellington–McPherson Lowlands are like no other part of Kansas. Occupying the south-central part of the state, this region really is flat—except for the sand dunes.

 

Soil

The soil in the Wellington–McPherson Lowlands consists mainly of sand, silt, and gravel. In spite of the sand dunes, erosion isn’t as much of a problem in this region as one might expect. Most of the dunes are currently inactive, meaning that vegetation is now firmly holding the sand in place.

 

Vegetation

Much of this region is covered by tallgrass prairie. Trees grow mainly along the streams.

 

Wellington–McPherson LowlandsWater

An abundance of high-quality water is available in the Wellington–McPherson Lowlands. The most important aquifer is the Equus beds, formed by a deposit of silt, sand, and gravel. Furthermore, rivers provide the necessary moisture to support floodplain forests, and springs are scattered throughout the region.

 

Climate

The Wellington–McPherson Lowlands receive about 32 inches of precipitation annually. Temperatures vary greatly over the year, January lows dipping down to about 20°F and July highs climbing up to 92°F.

Wellington–McPherson Lowlands
© 2013 Homestead on the Range

Agriculture

Since the Wellington–McPherson Lowlands are one of the few places in Kansas that really are flat, most of the region is devoted to growing cash crops. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that winter wheat and grain sorghum predominate here, but if you’re new to the area you may do a double take if you drive by a cotton field. While cotton is far from being king here or anywhere else in Kansas, small fields are planted periodically. Believe it or not, both the temperature and the precipitation averages in the Wichita area are acceptable for cotton culture.

 

Also of Interest

This is one of the more populated regions of Kansas. Communities include Wichita, Newton, and McPherson.

 

Helpful Resource

View South to Lindsborg
Nice view typical of this flat farming area.

 

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Soil Types

Soil TypesMany books about gardens, crops, and pastures refer to soil and soil types.  After all, soil type is a key piece of the farming equation, one that will affect many of your practices.

So perhaps a few definitions are in order.

Of course, we could get really scientific about this and delve into the nuances of soil composition, detailing every slight variation.  But since an understanding of all the fine distinctions isn’t absolutely crucial to success in stewarding the soil, we’ll just cover the basics: sand, silt, clay, and loam.  The first three of these are classified by particle size.

 

Soil TypesSand

Of the various soil types, sand is the coarsest, the individual particles ranging in size from about 0.05 mm all the way up to 2 mm.  Consequently, if you pick up a pinch of sand between your fingers, it will feel gritty.

Because sand particles are so large, there is a lot of space between them, which allows water to pass through easily.  Sandy soils, therefore, drain well—sometimes a little too well.  To help retain some moisture in the soil, gardening experts often recommend adding organic matter, such as compost or mulch, to the soil.  Organic matter acts like tiny sponges wedged between the particles of sand, capturing and holding water as it flows through.

 

Soil TypesSilt

Silt ranks between sand and clay in particle size, the particles ranging from 0.002 to 0.05 mm.  A pinch of silt rubbed between the fingers often feels like flour.

Silt tends to be fertile and generally makes a better soil for most garden and field crops than either sand or clay.  However, because the particles in silt are smaller than those in sand, they are more prone to compaction.  When the particles are pressed tightly together, water cannot drain out of the soil easily and may drown the roots of the plants.  Organic matter is the cure for this situation because it will separate the particles and allow better drainage.

 

Soil TypesClay

Clay particles are even finer than silt particles, measuring less than 0.002 mm in size.  One of the key characteristics of clay is the ease with which it compacts.  This is the soil a toddler would have the best luck with if he had a mind to make mud pies.

Since clay compacts so easily, water has a very difficult time passing through and draining out of the soil.  This can result in a very waterlogged garden or field after a heavy rain.  Once again, organic matter helps by separating the particles.

 

Soil TypesLoam

Ah, now we come to the soil that every farmer and gardener wants—loam.  Loam is a mixture of sand, silt, and clay in various proportions, and it usually contains enough organic matter to provide fertility and an ideal texture for growing plants, as well.  A handful of loam feels soft and crumbly.

Loam generally has all of the strengths of its constituent parts without their weaknesses.  It holds water better than sand, but drains better than silt and clay.  Loam also tends to be very fertile.  Its main requirement is wise stewardship.  Compaction should be avoided, and the organic matter should be replenished frequently as it is used up by plants.

 

Some Final Thoughts

Obviously, then, loam is the easiest soil to care for, but don’t worry if your spadeful of dirt turns out to be one of the other three.  Sand, silt, and clay can all be improved with time and organic matter.  Organic matter is the key to creating and maintaining a good soil, no matter what category the particles fall into.

Don’t Look Back

Don't Look BackWe all have probably made this mistake at some point in our lives.  It’s very easy to do.  But it’s also one of the most crippling things that we could do to ourselves.

We look backward.  We dwell on our past mistakes.

And, boy, have we made some mistakes, too:

  • Saying things that were more hurtful than helpful.
  • Neglecting responsibilities that we know we should have taken care of.
  • Taking our schedule into our own hands at the expense of Biblical priorities.
  • Failing to lend a hand to that person who needed us.
  • Being poor stewards of God’s blessings.
  • Just generally not loving like we should.

Yes, we asked for forgiveness, and, yes, we know that through Christ we received forgiveness.  But we just can’t seem to move on.

Why do we do this to ourselves?  When has it ever helped us?  Sure, we should learn from our past mistakes, but there’s a difference between learning and moving forward, and getting stuck somewhere back there in the past.

Think about this verse:

As far as the east is from the west,
so far does He remove our transgressions from us.

—Psalm 103:12

If God has forgiven us, why haven’t we forgiven us?  Do we have a higher standard than God?  Let’s hope not!

Perhaps this is why Paul, reflecting on the days when he was the Pharisee of Pharisees persecuting the church, concluded:

…But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

—Philippians 3:13,14

Focus on self is never a healthy thing, and focusing on our past mistakes is just another way of focusing on self.  So instead of crippling ourselves with our errors, let’s choose a more positive action.  Let’s praise God for the forgiveness we have in Christ and press on toward the goal!

Kansas State University Weather Data Library

Kansas State University Weather Data LibraryCountry living enthusiasts and agripreneurs alike need access to weather data to manage their pursuits wisely. Here are all of the weather-related resources a Kansan could wish for—in one place!

The Kansas State University Weather Data Library offers a wealth of information we can use, whether we are raising plants and animals, in the backyard or on a large scale. The helpful resources include:

This handy weather data library has a good portion of the information you need to make wise decisions regarding your garden, crops, and livestock. Check it out!

Smoky Hills

Smoky HillsThe Smoky Hills region, occupying the north-central part of Kansas, consists of three separate bands of hills running from southwest to northeast. The western band is the Chalk Buttes, a relatively flat area compared to the other two, but with geological surprises that give it a charm all of its own. The middle band is the Blue Hills, more familiarly known as Post Rock Country because the early settlers in this area used long blocks of limestone as fence posts in the absence of trees. The eastern band is also called the Smoky Hills, a beautiful range of sandstone hills probably called “smoky” because of the haze always on the horizon on a warm summer day.

 

Soil

Soils are diverse in this large region. Sand, silt, clay, and loam are all represented somewhere in the Smoky Hills.

 

Vegetation

The mixed prairie of the Smoky Hills provides a transition between the tallgrass prairie of the east and the shortgrass prairie of the west. Trees grow mainly along the rivers and streams.

 

Water

Smoky Hills
Smoky Hill River

Four rivers cut through the Smoky Hills and contribute to the beautifully rugged topography: the Republican, the Saline, the Solomon, and the Smoky Hill. These and their tributaries have been dammed at various points, both for flood control and for irrigation.

This is a real boon for residents of this part of Kansas. Between the dry winds and the relatively low annual precipitation, water is a precious resource in the Smoky Hills. Groundwater is currently being used faster than it can replenish itself.

 

Climate

The average annual precipitation varies between 24 and 29 inches. The Smoky Hills can be rather windy.

 

Agriculture

The Smoky Hills offer both cropland and pasture. Not surprisingly, cattle predominate in areas of rough terrain, but crops grow wherever the rich soils are level enough to permit. Although winter wheat rules in this region, sorghum, soybeans, and hay all have their place. Drought-resistant varieties of corn also grow here, although they usually have to be irrigated.

Smoky Hills
© 2013 Homestead on the Range

Also of Interest

The importance of cash crops in the Smoky Hills is demonstrated by the large number of grain elevators, locally known as prairie cathedrals. The Smoky Hills are populated fairly sparsely (Salina and Hays being the largest communities in the region) but small towns do abound. A view from one of the hills often reveals the tops of several prairie cathedrals, each one the heart and lifeline of its plucky little community.

 

Helpful Resources

Top 10 Sights to See in the Smoky Hills
Ready to visit this spectacular region yourself? Don’t miss these 10 must-see destinations!

Smoky Hills Wind Farm
This photo captures the beauty of the region nicely.

Postrock on the Way to Rocktown Cove, Wilson Lake
A good example of a post rock from the Kansas Geological Survey photo library.

 

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How To Build a Two-Bin Composter

How to Build a Two-Bin Composter

Composting is probably one of the most familiar techniques of organic gardening. No wonder—it’s a great way to enrich the soil and make use of some of that garden debris that always collects as the season progresses. Composting just makes sense.

However, deciding to make compost is one thing, and coming up with a compost bin is another. Of course, you could just throw everything into a heap and turn it periodically, but wouldn’t you much rather keep the garden nice and tidy?

Seed catalogs often show pictures of handy bins, already manufactured and complete with handles to make turning the compost easy, but not all of us want to spend money on one of those.

So here’s a simple solution using materials you may already have on hand.

Continue reading How To Build a Two-Bin Composter

What is pH?

What is pH?

We’ve all heard of pH, whether we garden, raise crops, or manage pastures. We know that some plants like a more acidic soil, while some prefer a more alkali soil. But what exactly do acid and alkali mean?

The pH scale measures the concentration of hydrogen ions in a dissolved substance. Pure water can be used as a reference point; its pH is 7, or neutral. Any number below 7 is acid, and any number above 7 is alkali. An acidic substance has a greater concentration of hydrogen ions than pure water, while an alkali substance has a lower concentration.

It is interesting to note that pH also represents a relationship between the positive hydrogen (H) ion and the negative hydroxide (OH) ion. When the pH is neutral (7), hydrogen and hydroxide ions are in perfect balance. An acid has a preponderance of hydrogen ions, while an alkali has more hydroxide ions.

On a practical level, pH dictates what nutrients will be available to a plant. As the pH level moves along the scale, various minerals in the soil are locked and unlocked. Most of the nutrients that plants need to thrive are available when the soil is neutral to ever-so-slightly alkali.

The pH scale is a useful tool in animals, as well. Most animals have a blood pH that is just slightly alkali, while urinary pH is generally a little more acidic, and rumen or stomach fluid is more acidic still. The correct numbers vary depending on the species, but pH can sometimes be used to help identify health problems in livestock.

Red Hills

Red HillsRed Hills, Gypsum Hills, Gyp Hills, Medicine Hills—they go by all of these names. But whatever they’re called, there’s nothing quite like this region of rust-colored buttes, mesas, sinkholes, and caves to give a person a strange feeling that “we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

We are, though! The Red Hills are located along the south-central border of Kansas.

 

Soil

The soil is generally sandy and well-drained, though most of it is not tillable. Silt is present along waterways. Sinkholes, some of them still unstable, are common throughout the region.

 

Vegetation

The Red Hills region is the second largest intact piece of native prairie in the state, second only to the Flint Hills, of course. The Gypsum Hills, however, are mixed prairie, a combination of both tall and short species of grasses fostered by the semi-arid climate.

Cedar trees and wildflowers also make their appearance throughout the region, as well as brushy growth along the streams. Vegetation of all types can be sparse in some areas.

 

Water

Red Hills

Stewardship and restoration of the spring-fed waterways is a major focus in this area. The Red Hills boast some of the cleanest streams in the state, and the residents would like to keep it that way.

Interestingly enough, one of the alternative names for the region, the Medicine Hills, came from the healing powers the Indians attributed to those pristine waters. There is actually some truth to this health claim. Much of the water in the Red Hills contains calcium and magnesium sulfates—think Epsom salts.

 

Climate

This is a region that annually loses more water through evaporation than it gains through precipitation. The air is dry, and rain falls infrequently enough that the climate can be described as semi-arid. However, there is still enough moisture in the ground to support a diversity of plants.

Red Hills
© 2013 Homestead on the Range

Agriculture

The Red Hills are cattle country. True, irrigation and dryland farming are practiced on some of the rare tracts of level ground, enabling the production of hay, wheat, sorghum, and soybeans. Most of the Red Hills soil, however, is not tillable, so the region maintains a rich ranching heritage.

 

Also of Interest

One characteristic of the ranchers carving out their living in this remote part of Kansas seems to be a strong interest in land stewardship. Besides water conservation, a major focus is combating the invasion of red cedar trees that spring up in the absence of controlled burns. The cedars choke out the native grasses and possibly deplete the precious water resources.

 

Helpful Resources

Red Hills—Bluff Creek
A picture of the Red Hills from the Kansas Geological Survey.

Red Hills (Gypsum Hills) Around Medicine Lodge
A photo of the Red Hills demonstrating red cedar invasion.

 

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