Yesterday’s blog post about building with juniper poles prompted me to write this blog post. Much like pallets, juniper and cedar wood is an underutilized resource, probably because these trees tend to be twisted, curved and often smallish in size. For natural builders they’re a free treasure. Juniper and cedar are rot resistant, extremely common (juniper throughout most of the western US, and red cedar in the eastern half), and extremely durable (100 year fence posts are common). Here’s an account of juniper posts that are well over 200 years old and still in fine condition. Rocky Mountain Juniper, Utah Juniper and Western Juniper are most common in the western US. Many trees are very twisted and curved. You’ll have to search out straight poles for post and beam construction. It’s much easier to find straight eastern red cedar poles. Sources include farm and ranch suppliers, Craig’s List, and getting permission to cut wood on large ranches, forests and BLM land.
“Juniper is an evergreen shrub/tree with irregular form, twisted trunks and branches. Found in dry, rocky, and open habitats. The juniper is long-lived. American Indians used the bark for cordage, sandals, woven bags, thatching and matting. They also ate the berries fresh or in cakes. Junipers are also called cedars.” — Native Plants
“Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) is a slow-growing, narrow-leaved evergreen growing in a narrow pyramidal form to 45 feet. Native to North America east of the Rocky Mountains, and isolated populations in Oregon, this common tree was revered by Native Americans for its many and varied uses. The wood of red cedar is very durable, and was used for lance shafts, bows, and other items. Flutes made from red cedar wood were highly regarded by the Cheyenne. Cedar boughs were used for bedding. The Menomini wove mats of cedar bark. The mats were used for roofing temporary structures, for partitions, floor mats and wrappings, and for various purposes in the canoes.” – Cirrus Image.com
“We in Central Texas are very fortunate to have access to one of the most beautiful, durable woods for use in building – ashe juniper. Commonly called “cedar”, this often-maligned tree is a blessing for those of us in the natural building world. It can be milled into beautiful slabs for uses such as window sills or headers; or better yet, it can be used in its beautifully flowing irregular shape for arbors, garden gates, balustrades, trellises and much more. Using natural, unmilled wood, or roundwood is not only unique and beautiful, but it is a sustainable thing to do in that it uses a regional material that is generally considered a waste wood, transportation fuel and costs are minimized, and milling energy is avoided.” – Frank Meyer, Design-Build-Live (Top strawbale/earth floor building guru and musician.)