PHOTO: J. Keeler Johnson
February 20, 2018

One of the best parts of living on a farm is being able to use the land and resources to grow and harvest food and raw materials. Growing food in a garden, milking cows and goats, making your own soap—these are among the things you can achieve with some knowledge and a bit of ambition. If your farm includes forested areas, then you can also harvest wood for all sorts of uses. Beyond the obvious possibility of harvesting lumber for construction projects, multiple possibilities exist for products (and even tools) created from wood.

Here are a few common trees and some of the ways that you can put their wood to use.

Basswood: Carving

Considered a “soft” hardwood tree because of its lightweight and malleable wood, the Basswood trees (including the American Basswood, the Carolina Basswood and the White Basswood) are perhaps best known for wood that’s perfect for carving. You can harvest blocks of Basswood to sell to wood crafters in your area—or you might find a fondness for carving and add a new “hobby” to your hobby farming interests.

Eastern Redcedar: Fence Posts

If you’re fortunate enough to have a vast supply of Eastern Redcedar trees on your farm, you’ll never have to buy fence posts again. The wood of Eastern Redcedar trees is durable and rot-resistant, making it a good choice for all sorts of outdoor construction projects, particularly if you want to use untreated lumber. There are many old cedar fence posts on my farm, still standing strong after 40 or 50 years. Black Locust is another tree that grows tough and durable wood perfect for fence posts, though it’s less widespread than Eastern Redcedar.

Eastern Hornbeam: Tool Handles

Known by a variety of names (including Hop Hornbeam) and commonly confused with the Ironwood tree, the Eastern Hornbeam is a widespread tree that produces a very hard wood that is difficult to saw through by hand—believe me, I know! Long ago, the wood of the hornbeam tree was used to make ox yokes, and though you’re unlikely to need this particular item today, it’s is also ideal for making tool handles.

Oak: Firewood

One of the simplest (and most useful) products that a farm can provide is firewood. While many trees are quite suitable for use as firewood, Oak trees (White Oak as well as Red Oak) are generally viewed as the best choice for firewood because the wood is quite dense and produces a lot of heat.

Sugar Maple: Furniture & Flooring

Want to try your hand at creating your own farm furniture? If so, the wood of the Sugar Maple is a great choice. This widespread species is most famous for producing the sap used in maple sugar and syrup (hence its name), but the lumber is also of exceptional quality and is a popular choice for furniture and flooring.

White Ash: Bats … and a Lot More

There’s a reason why White Ash has historically been the tree of choice for making baseball bats—the wood is noticeably springier and shock absorbent than that of, say, the Sugar Maple. This makes it ideal for use in a wide variety of wood products—in fact, A Field Guide to Eastern Trees (part of The Peterson Field Guide Series) notes that White Ash wood provides “hard, strong timber for furniture, interior millwork, agricultural implements, tool handles, oars, tennis rackets, musical instruments, baseball bats, snowshoes and skis.” Have a shovel with a broken handle? Put your woodworking skills to the test and fashion a new one from a White Ash tree.

Be sure to research the trees that you have on your farm and give some thought to what you can do with them!

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