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The Cedar Choppers (texasmonthly.com)
35 points by whocansay 55 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 23 comments



The "cedar" in the Hill Country is actually the Ashe Juniper tree and it thrives in the area. It is drought tolerant in an area of frequent and prolonged drought and the hungry deer population won't touch the saplings while they obliterate the competing saplings from most other tree species that they are able to get to.

My parents live in the Hill Country and when I go to visit, I end up spending some time in the back of the property, barefoot with a brush hand saw, taking down large bottom branches from the Junipers. I do this for recreation and also to divert the growing energy of the tree upwards as it matures.

The aroma from the cut branches is quite pleasing and the systematic work of turning the branches into posts is satisfying. Usually, the long bottom branches are cut first, so much of the time, the work is in the shade of the upper branches, which can also transpire significantly on a hot day, with a prominent cooling effect. I can understand how getting paid for doing this might be an attractive life.


barefoot with a brush hand saw

Oh man that made me cringe. I’ve spent a lot of time on Texas Hill Country land (Kerville etc) and between rattlesnakes and chiggers you are one brave soul.


Something else is even worse. Fire ant mounds hidden under thick grass. If the ground feels a little softer than it should, hop along extra quick!


My Dad lived in Austin in the 50s. He used to call poor, uneducated rural people "cedar choppers" and until today I had no idea where that came from, or that it was an Austin thing. It seemed -- weird -- because I never heard Dad say a perjorative word about any other group of people.


The tree pollinates during a 2 to 3 month period during the winter months, and for many people, the allergies it causes are horrendous. If you're allergic to it, you're basically screwed from December - February. The pollen is so thick in the area that your car will covered with orange dust every morning.


From https://nosneezes.com/resources/pollen-information/ :

"The highest pollen counts ever recorded anywhere in the world occur annually when these trees cut loose."

That source doesn't give any further information to back this up, but it doesn't seem too hard to believe.


what would be a definition of "cut loose"?

If it means pruned, sounds logical to me.


It's a seasonal allergy. I'm pretty sure that "cut loose" in this case just means when the time of year comes that the trees naturally start releasing their pollen.

I'm not a botanist by any stretch of the imagination, but I believe that once pollen is on the trees, the wind is the final thing that shakes it loose.

Here's a video showing what I'm talking about: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QEYcBnE-IPA


My property is full of them. In February and March the trees expectorate visible yellow clouds. It's a nightmare.


And a blesssing for CO2 long term storage and soil texture.


Can there be single thread on HN without some reference to global warming?

It's not merely annoying, in this case, its incorrect.

Central Texas' cedars (aka Junipers) are an invasive species that destroy other plants. The cedars suck up an enormous amount of water, killing nearby live oaks and other larger trees that provide healthy ecosystems.

They are weeds of the tree world in Texas.


Juniperus ashei is native from Texas. The term "invasive species" has a different meaning in biology.


> “They didn’t care about possessions,” Roberts says, “and they lived in housing fit for animals.”

I find it interesting how disrespectfully nose up folks talk about humble people like the Cedar Choppers, when if we all continued to live like they did, we wouldn't be in this climate mess we are in.

It's caring about possessions and extravagant homes (unfit for animals?) that has destroyed the planet for all animals.


I cringed at the 'fit for animals' phrase too. Imagine if the author had used it regarding, say, some other group.

That said, it's certainly possible to live in a simple, low-resource way without being disorderly and unclean. I think along the lines of those rural places with a whole bunch of shit strewn about the yard when I think of 'living like animals', as opposed to a small, simple cabin in the woods.


From experience, it's difficult to clean when nothing has a place and your living area is too crowded. It's not hard to end up with a different baseline, just look at how many elderly people become hoarders. Unfortunately, humans are adept at adapting, even when we are adapting to worse conditions.


If we lived like they did, we'd probably also have half the life expectancy and way more deaths during childbirth, just to name a couple of differences.


That’s an extreme of course, but we have examples from other small communities which shun luxuries to some extent like mennonite and Amish communities. In any event we don’t need everyone to live barebones but even 30-40% volunteering or seeking this lifestyle could help against our mass consumption society. At least a significant portion of people wouldn’t live connected lives 24x7. Maybe 12x7. That could reduce energy consumption.



That sounds good, but realistically, and perhaps somewhat differently from what most people imagine, denser city living (as opposed to suburban sprawl) is probably the best bet for the environment for most people who can't go live in the woods.


There's also a growing urban homesteading movement that combines the benefits of density with some of the benefits of self-sufficiency, a reduced environmental footprint, and the added bonus of potentially living in a city filled with green stuff!


I disagree. In fact, the opposite could be true. The focus on material possessions like clothes, diamonds, cars, homes, and just in general -- consumption -- has made us less healthy than we otherwise would be and we don't have money to spend on good food, the time to exercise or find peace of mind.

Just because we got bigger houses and less polio in the same timeline doesn't mean those too things are correlated to the same cause. In my experience, most of the scientific researchers producing cures for disease and prolonging life aren't doing it for material wealth. There's a deeper drive to it than that.

Maybe the progress in healthcare proceeds against the tide of social forces. It probably does, considering doctors artificially limit the supply of doctors, precisely so they can buy bigger houses, fancier cars, and more jewelry.

It's estimated that Jonas Salk would have made $7 Billion if he'd patented the polio vaccine.

I believe if we are going to reverse the damage we have done to the planet, we have to invert our social reward structure. We should shame those who spend extravagantly and praise restraint.


Living like this would imply living without a car(?) and more geographically spread out, less connected/more insular lives, with less money to pay for health insurance.

I suppose it depends on how you interpret the parents "If we lived like they did". I don't think its reasonable to spin out a scenario where healthcare would be better, because all the elements of supplying healthcare become harder. I don't think it would necessarily be worse overall though.


> I find it interesting how disrespectfully nose up folks talk about humble people like the Cedar Choppers

They denigrate them because their lifestyle makes them uncomfortable.

It makes them uncomfortable because they are free in many ways that middle class people are not.

They are free of our social norms and they could earn a weeks income in a day selling wood.

It probably made them question their life choices and the fairness of the system.




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