Christmas Tree Fields at Dusk

Hi Folks,

Thank goodness fall has arrived. The cooler temperatures are more than welcome. And hopefully the hurricanes have gone for another year. One a week was a bit much.

At Shady Pond, Isidore was largely a non-event. With the exception of the rain, there was little other impact at the Farm. The rain total did exceed 8.7-inches though.

Finding ourselves in the legendary ‘Northeast Quadrant', Lili was a slightly different story. A feeder band running from the Mouth of the Mississippi through Slidell and Pearl River lingered for hours fueling the storm. And though the rain fall totals were not as great as from Isidore, a mere 6.5-inches, it came in a much shorter time. The pond here got really really big. But most of the water was gone by noon the next day.

The trees faired well through both storms and they are ready to assist in your Christmas celebration. So we hope to see each of you again this year.

Merry Christmas,

Shady Pond Tree Farm

    Christmas Tree Varieties:

  • Leyland Cypress-
    a stately beauty from England.
    Leighton Green, Castlewellan, Silver Dust

  • King William's Pine-
    a unique tree from the Orient.

  • Silver Smoke-
    a selection from New Zealand.

  • Carolina Sapphire-
    the aroma of lemon and mint.

  • Deodar Cedar-
    from the western Himalayas with silver needles.

  • Hoven's Blue Cedar-
    a southern Christmas tradition.

  • Virginia Pine-
    the memories of Christmas past.

    Farm Schedule:

  • November 18 to 22
    (Monday through Friday)
    Pretag by Appointment
  • November 23 & 24
    (Saturday & Sunday)
    Pretag 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M.
  • November 29 Cutting Begins

    Farm Hours:

  • Friday after Thanksgiving
    9:00 to 5:00
  • Saturday & Sunday
    9:00 to 5:00
  • Thursday & Friday
    3:00 to 5:00

Map to Shady Pond Tree Farm

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Out with the Old and In with the New

(A Guy Thing)

Last season ended with all things in good order here at Shady Pond. Sure, there was still significant work needed to complete the cleanup of the remnants of the timber harvest. But the end of that task was definitely in sight and the techniques were well established.

IHC B-414D DiskingI headed to the barn early one morning to warmup the old International Harvester B-414D in preparation for more burn pile building. The tractor started as it always did in about a half revolution of the crank shaft but it sounded a bit odd.

Now understand that old tractor was like an extension of my own body. I knew every squeak, rattle, click, and groan. I could tell which gear it was in at a thousand feet or more just by the sound it made; a fact that the members of our crew always found frustrating when they were caught driving it too fast. But this was a new sound and not a good one.

I killed the engine immediately and set out to investigate. I opened the hood and found that all of its external components were just fine. Then I removed the dipstick and a small fountain of water, and coolant, flowed from the dipstick tube. This was really bad news.

Based on the level of the water in the crankcase, I concluded the one of the cylinder sleeves had cracked. Although expensive, engines of this general type are overhauled regularly. So, I called the most competent engine shop I know in the Baton Rouge area but the prognosis was not encouraging. Parts for the BD-154 engine were no longer available. This illness was terminal. The old B-414 tractor would have to be replaced.

I remember the day it arrived here just like it was yesterday. It was in the spring of 1963; 39-years ago. It replaced a Ford 8-N that came as part of the original property purchase.

With relatively minor repairs, the tractor logged over 8000- hours of operation in those 39-years. That's the equivalent of 400,000-miles in car terms. It even out lasted my marriage.

Clearly its replacement would have big shoes to fill. It would have to be able to perform all the ordinary farm chores plus fit comfortably between the rows of Christmas trees. It would have to be in the vineyard tractor category.

John Deere Vineyard TractorAfter investigating offerings from Ford-New Holland, Landini, and John Deere, a John Deere 5320N was ordered. The ‘N' in the model number indicates narrow. This special made vineyard tractor weighs nearly 7,000 lbs. It is outfitted with the most advanced features including a 12-speed synchronized transmission and a 55-HP turbo-charged diesel engine.

So when you visit Shady Pond this season, give the new John Deere a good inspection. In about 40-years, I'll let you know how well it filled the B-414's shoes. ...Clarke

Christmas Tree Selection and Handling Tips

When Shady Pond began planting exotic trees, we knew that they would require a bit more TLC than other species. To accommodate the special needs of these unique plants, we implemented pre- tagging. The intent was to make possible early selection with late pickup.

So if during your time here you select any of the Arizona Cypress clones (Carolina Sapphire, Silver Smoke, Blue Ice), or a King William's Pine; we suggest that you not cut the tree until about 2-weeks before Christmas. Then use one of the remote watering systems to be absolutely sure the tree never ever is without water even for a short time period. These extremely beautiful trees will help you celebrate a truly special Christmas.

Measuring & Tagging Christmas TreesEach tree at Shady Pond is measured and tagged with its height range. The height ranges are given in one foot increments with a reasonable allowance for the cut. And with the sky as the ceiling, the trees always look shorter than they are in fact. The measuring and tagging process is very time consuming and is done carefully using a measuring pole. So, accept the height range shown on the tag as accurate.

Removing the bottom limbs and ‘trimming' the trunk is a ‘hold-over' from the days when trees were always purchased on the corner tree lot. But it is best not to over buy with the intent of adjusting the tree height later. And this old practice will almost always result in premature dry-out. The standard residential ceiling height is 8-feet. So a 6- 7 foot tree when placed in a stand will leave just enough room for the angel on top.

Christmas tree limbs are very flexible in one direction but not the other. They bend easily toward the top of the tree but not so toward the bottom of the tree. So the wind will blow the limbs toward the top of the tree on your drive home, load it on top your car or in the bed of your truck, in the butt (stump) forward position.

Following these simple rules will simplify your tree purchase and increase your holiday enjoyment.

What's Good About Fires???

Comparative Growth of BaldcypressAs planned, Bald Cypress and Black Cherry were planted in the clear cut area at the entrance to the tree farm. But before doing so, the timber harvest debris was piled and burned. Some of the fires continued for a week. Once the ash was sufficiently cool, it was spread evenly in the area to return the nutrients it contained to the soil.

Now if any of you have any doubts regarding the benefits of burning, just observe the relative sizes of the newly planted trees. Those planted in the ash are fully 5-times the size of those planted in native soil alone.

Yes, controlled burning is a very effective component of land management.

A New Visitor at Shady Pond

A walk around the pond in mid-summer revealed an alligator hiding under the bridge to the island. The workers on site that day instantly wanted to catch him. Fortunately, they did not succeed. Now Louisiana's gator population is substantial, no doubt. But actually living with one has proven to be a unique experience.

Alligator in WaterThe scaley little beast appears to be an itinerant living alternately in the pond here and the Boyet pond a comparatively short swim away. The commute is really rather simple; just slip over the level control weir, then through the outlet pipe and down the ditch to the road, go under the road through the culvert and you are essentially there.

And the reptile's curiosity is nothing short of amazing. It seems to be really taken with grass cutting (I'm not making this up); he apparently gets some kind of prehistoric thrill by watching it. He positions himself on the bank of the pond in his favorite spot and watches the tractor go by on each round. But bite a tractor tire and he's gone.

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