This week a local man decided to cut down the willowy-looking trees that surrounded a small field, build a barbed wire fence, and plant some citrus trees. But he didn’t order any fence posts. First, a worker cut the trees to 5-foot stumps with a sharp machete. The next day he cut the felled trees into fence posts–leaving the stumps–and strung the wire between them. Cost of the completed project: some wire. Good-quality steel fence posts would look sharp, but they might run five dollars apiece.
With all due respect to the retail lumber and home improvement industry, you have to give credit to people who can make almost anything out of what grows around them, make it well, and be perfectly satisfied with it.
Another fellow has a vacant lot that might be sold for houses eventually, but in the meantime he runs cows and a few horses on it most days, and they keep the grass neatly clipped—and fertilized. When he needed to enclose a corral area, he did it with the branches from nearby trees. It could grace the set of a John Wayne western, and it was free.
Even for a major undertaking, the simplest solution is often the best. When the town’s historical museum was refurbished last year, contractors chose sturdy bamboo for scaffolding, grown nearby and sold in 20-foot lengths for a couple of dollars. The pieces were lashed together and planted in 55-gallon drums filled with rocks for a sturdy base.
A standard professional scaffold would include things called ladder frames, cross braces, walk boards, plates, pigtails and safety rails and wouldn’t come cheap. Bamboo is not available by those names. An OSHA inspector might blanch at the sight, but the bamboo worked just fine for many weeks, and was likely sold for reuse when the project was done.
At any construction site, the materials delivered always include cinder blocks, heaps of sand and gravel—and a pile of trees. Most buildings here are made of concrete, and as each floor is added, those trees hold it up. You might choose instead to use Tiger Brand Heavy-Duty Jack Posts, to cite one quality example, for a little over $60 a post. But someone was probably clearing trees anyway, given how robustly they grow in an equatorial climate, and these cost almost nothing.
While it may not be a pretty sight, rough-cut trees in odd shapes and sizes, in the hands of skilled professionals, are a serviceable match for fancier alternatives in a variety of colors and sizes.
And in case you doubt it, this picture was taken last July. The building is now three stories tall and doing just fine.