This weekend we tried our hand at milling up a decent sized Red Cedar trunk. It was about 10′ long by 16-18″ in diameter. The Red Cedar goes by many names, Eastern Red Cedar, Aromatic Cedar, Pencil Cedar, etc. It’s in fact not a Cedar tree at all, rather a species of Juniper native to this region and beyond. Some people see it as a weed in that it’s so common and thrives in many different soils. I personally find it to be beautiful, especially the older trees. When young, it resembles a bush and will often appear to grow along fence rows as if planted. It’s one of the first species to appear in damaged, disturbed or open areas, say a fallow farm field that used be a prairie here in Iowa 150 years ago. So to me it’s a sign of recovery although I take the long view in this. It’s nature just slowly reclaiming land that we modified. If say we let enough altered land to itself, eventually wildfires would return which would then keep the fire intolerant Red Cedar in check. And on it goes. Whether these areas would return to their native systems if left alone will take more years than I have on this planet to observe. Incredibly, these trees can live to be over 800 years old. My guess is the trunk we slabbed out was about 60-70 years old.
The fence row phenomenon is a result of the digestive system in Cedar Waxwings which will shoot a Red Cedar/Juniper berry through in about 12 minutes and if they sit on a fence for that time, might just deposit of few of those digested berries in a nice straight line.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of beginning to saw my own lumber is getting in touch with the land around me. I spend a lot more time looking at the trees as I drive down the road, paying attention to environment and what it can provide. To think that with a small amount of effort and decent amount of time, I can procure my own supply of lumber from the very trees that have been growing up around me, with me, is an incredibly subtle and eye-opening realization.
Here’s a few photographs from yesterday’s work: