It is that time of year when I enter the house and am greeted by a sweet citrus sent. It is also that time of year when the flies gather by the thousands on the sunny side of our buildings, looking for any crevice or crack to gain entry for the winter.

The plentiful flies are joined by the equally plentiful ladybugs which are not really ladybugs at all, but are rather their stinging and terribly odiferous foreign lookaikes, the Asian lady beetle. These truly obnoxious beetles were introduced in the 1950s to dine upon and help eradicate various crop mites. The mites may well be gone, but the beetles remain.

It is also that time of year when large green spherical objects, that have an almost neon glow in the sunshine, drop out of the trees and onto the ground. The spheres are the size of grapefruits and have an oddly smooth-bumpy surface that when scratched secretes a sticky white substance.

The green orbs emit a gentle citrus scent, perhaps part of the reason for their name, Osage orange. They are named Osage due to the fact that Meriwether Lewis, while exploring the north American continent, sent cuttings from the tree back east to President Jefferson. Lewis had obtained the samples from a fellow who had lived for years with the Osage Nation, a Native American tribe that once flourished along the Ohio River.

The Osage people are long gone from the creek valley, but their namesake tree flourishes, and the green spheres dot the edges of our fields. When Lewis later met up with the Osage Nation, who were living at that time on the Great Plains, he wrote that the people still “so esteemed the tree” that they would travel hundreds of miles to find one. The trees can grow as tall as 50 feet, though the ones in our valley are usually no more than 30 to 40 feet in height. The green fruit is pithy and inedible and can grow up to six inches in diameter, as do ours. Some folks seem to have an allergic skin reaction to the fruit and will break out in a rash by simply touching it. Thankfully, I am not allergic.

The Osage fruit’s citrus scent is also believed to repel insects, and both the Native Americans as well as early settlers would gather up the green spheres and bring them inside with this purpose in mind. Modern chemistry, however, has dispelled this notion, and even though insect-repelling compounds are found in the fruits, they are simply not present in sufficient concentrations to be scientifically effective.

I, however, live by the theory that if I bring a lot of the green fruit inside, “a lot” being a rather unscientific quantity, that the scent will indeed repel the season’s pesky flies and lady beetles and keep them from entering our cabin. And so, every time I return inside from outside, my arms are filled with as many of the fruits that I can carry, and I distribute them randomly, here and there.

They are also called hedge apples because settlers often planted the sharp-thorned trees to form hedges around their pastures. The settlers would then harvest the close-grained wood to use as posts around their homesteads.

The wood itself is actually a beautiful bright orange color, and because of its dense nature, Osage wood has been used to make wonderful walking sticks and prized bows and arrows.

It was written in the early 19th century that it was considered a good deal to trade a horse and a blanket for just one bow made out of Osage orange wood.

I actually made a walking stick out of the wood our first year at the creek, and the stick has lived outside on the front porch, ready for me to pick up whenever I step outside, for well over 15 years. It is still just as stout as the day I made it, and whenever I step back inside the cabin, walking stick returned to its proper waiting place, the gentle citrus scent of Osage orange greets me.

Christine Tailer is an attorney and former city dweller who moved several years ago, with her husband, Greg, to an off-grid farm in Ohio. Visit them at