Building a Homestead – Part 1

When we moved here in 1995 the land was covered with junk cars, remains of oil field drilling equipment, old appliances and trash dumped in ditches.  When my husband brought me to see the home and land, my first response was “You’ve got to be kidding!”.  But, what I’ve learned over these past years is that my husband is a man of vision.  He immediately could picture everything cleaned up, fences repaired, a pond in front of the house.  All of that, except the pond, has been accomplished.  Single handed with dogged determination and back breaking hard work,  John has cleaned up trash, hauled off old cars and anything else he could take and sell for scrap iron.  I wish I had before and after pictures.  Driving fence posts by hand thru sand rock and stringing fence around 110 acres is a blog post by itself.  He did all of this while holding down a full time job that he worked 40-50 hours per week. I am in total awe of what he has accomplished.  At the same time we slowly remodeled our fixer upper.  One of the remodeling projects that took the longest to accomplish is the point of this post.

I need to back up a little and explain when we first moved here another thing that covered the land was the Eastern Red Cedar.  For those not familiar with this tree, it is considered a noxious weed to cattle ranchers to be cut and burned at every opportunity.  When given a chance it spreads like wildfire.    It looks like an innocent Christmas tree. Some have used it for that instead of buying a tree. This is no innocent tree.  According to OSU Department of Agriculture Sciences and Natural Resources, one tree 12 inches in diameter can drink up to 48 gallons per day.  Vegetation cannot grow under the trees destroying acres of pasture land for ranchers. Because red cedars have volatile oils,  they contributed to the major wildfires Oklahoma experienced in 2011.  After years of severe drought and fire danger, the USDA decided something had to be done. A Federal grant was offered to entice landowners to clear off the cedars.  ALL of them!  This would mean more usable pasture land for us so that we could keep more cattle and a little extra money for our trouble.

The project was split up into two parts.  Our home and the original 55 acre tract and the 60 acre tract that we purchased later. We would have to pay for expenses to hire dozer work and hired hands up front to be reimbursed when the job was completed and final inspection done by the local USDA agent.  The dozer could get large trees, but small trees would have to be taken down with either a machete or chain saw.  There were thousands of small trees!  John, along with a hard working teenage neighbor of ours worked on this for about a year.  Blood, sweat and tears. When it was finished and the final inspection was done, we were given approval on the first inspection.  Some of the land owners had 3 or 4 inspections before approval becaused they wanted ALL of those trees gone!

There were thousands of trees laying on the ground and we had to decide how to dispose of them.  Many of the small ones were piled together and burned.  The large ones were a different story.  The Eastern Red Cedar may be a nuisance to the rancher, but it has some of the most beautiful wood God has ever created.  Burning something that could be used to create something of beauty just couldn’t be allowed to happen!  Which brings me back to that remodeling project we wanted to do.

Just a few of the red cedars of the thousands that were removed.

On the south side of  the house was a full length attached porch that had been built with cement blocks and openings left for windows.  We had attempted to frame in the windows ourselves but nothing was square and the window openings were all different odd sizes.  So the porch set unfinished for years. Over the years we had a couple of people give estimates to finish it and the prices were too expensive. So hope of ever finishing it had pretty much died.  We began to envision this room being completed in red cedar.  This is the room I wrote about in Sacred Spaces.  To be continued.



2 thoughts on “Building a Homestead – Part 1

  1. Clearing Mesquite or Red Ceder is a major task. Both are pest trees that should be eliminated to open lands up for grass seeding / reseeding for grazing and hay operations.
    Good Luck
    Happy Gardening


    1. It is definitely not a one and done! Birds carry the round blue seeds from trees of land owners that have not cleared their property and the trees quickly grow up again. It is a constant project, just like weeding your garden!


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