Therapeutic Cedar Rails

Not long ago we had to take down a big cedar in our yard. It had heart rot and had begun to split in two. Since it was a dangerous tree we had a professional take it down in 12 foot sections and planned to use it for posts in our chicken paddocks at the farm.

Having just returned from Kansas for a family emergency my boss graciously suggested I take the day. Getting into our damp forest has always made me feel whole again, somehow fulfilled, and today it made all the difference. Heart rot. Not far from the reason I went to visit family. Even more appropriate was taking this destruction and death and turning it into something useful. It is useful for us, and the time in the woods was useful for me.


Leap frogging the wedges and methodically following the grain of the log traced the tree’s growth over the years. From a sapling in crowded alder regrowth to the apex species and canopy dominator it truly is. The smell of it and the damp humus made me think of childhood adventures and the physical effort helped put some of the brooding from the previous week behind me.


I left my drawknife at the farm but my froe and a hatchet cleaned up the rails nicely. I thought of Abraham Lincoln splitting black locust for rail road tracks. My cedar would make someone from those days laugh if I called it much of an effort. Locust is dense and hard and this cedar splits so easily.

While these don’t look that pretty, they will do nicely for our temporary posts. A little rot is OK with me since in 5-6 years the black locust we are planting in the fence lines will be big enough to take over the burden. In the end making something from this mess, finding something positive in the cycle of destruction and rebirth seems fine too.


About M. Agriculteur

Designer, motorcycle junkie, traveler, wanna-be iron butter (more butt than iron), builder, foodie, farmer wanna-be.
This entry was posted in Chickens, Construction, Forest Management, Homesteading, Permaculture, Sustainability, Tools, Tree Care. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Therapeutic Cedar Rails

  1. Pingback: Therapeutic Cedar Rails | Le Petit Canard Farm | WORLD ORGANIC NEWS

  2. ericrynne says:

    My local
    Tree Expert
    in San Jose recently helped me out with a similar project. I was able to make a beautiful fence with the remaining wood! 🙂

    • San Jose? I’ve found myself in your neighborhood (Palo Alto) quite a lot lately. While trying to keep up my morning runs I’ve been designing little gray water gardens in my head to contend with your ongoing drought! Did you split your tree for a rail fence or go all out and mill it?

  3. Funny how many ways nature parallels our human cycles. Or maybe not such a surprise…
    I’ve always been grateful for the way our culture has built up all this logistical “stuff” to do around funerals after someone we love dies – for me, the need to deal with all of that paperwork, make all those decisions, however small, get processes rolling – it pulls me along, past the places where I want to bog down and get stuck. I think working in the forest would be way better, but I suspect both kinds of work have the same role in the grieving process.

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