Just like most of you, Shady Pond was turned upside down on August 29, 2005. It is hard to remember planting last February, or painting the house in May, or Will Hess's visit in June to formulate plans to shoot an independent movie here. Those events seem like decades ago since Katrina has taken control of our lives. Were they real or just dreams?
Fortunately, the building damage at Shady Pond was light. The main house was essentially untouched with the exception of huge quantities of leaves and debris stuck to the building's exterior. The cottage lost about 20% of its shingles and about 1/3 of the awning in front but no structural damage. The big barn lost a single sheet of corrugated roofing; not bad for a 90-year old building. The milking barn was unaffected in any way.
Although Christmas trees went down, few were lost with the exception of the giant Leylands. Each and every one of those specimen trees was uprooted. Tree straightening of this year's crop is complete and the results are actually amazing especially considering the condition of things immediately after the wild woman's visit.
The big damage came to native trees. The devastation was massive. Downed native trees were moved 12-hours a day for 21- days, and the task is only 2/3 complete. That thankless chore will resume after Christmas.
But hopefully you will agree it is time to put Katrina in a box and store her in some secure location where she can never escape again. It is time to get on with life to the maximum extent possible. It is time for Christmas.
So big tree or little tree or no tree at all, we hope to see each of you again this year.
Shady Pond Tree Farm
Christmas Tree Varieties:
a stately beauty from England.
Leighton Green, Castlewellan, Silver Dust
a unique tree from the Orient.
a selection from New Zealand.
the aroma of lemon and mint.
from the western Himalayas with silver needles.
a southern Christmas tradition.
the memories of Christmas past.
The rain ahead of the strongest wind during the storm was substantial. Since the ground was saturated and soft, the trees gave way to the wind at their roots. Their trunks were not damaged. So the tree trunks are as straight now as they were before the storm. Although the trees may be leaning to some extent in the field, once cut and mounted in the stand they will be in the same condition they would have been had the hurricane never happened.
Tropical storm Cindy was a ‘wake- up call' that motivated me to trim the trees before the peak of the hurricane season. The trim was completed on August 6, 3-weeks before Katrina's arrival. So the shape of this year's trees is exactly the same as it would have been without Katrina.
Nonetheless, expect to find some trees in the field that are not perfectly vertical. Expect to find some that are staked. Some have props. And still others would not budge and remain at a tilt. In this case just tilt your head at the same angle as the tree when viewing it.
Securing help locally in the wake of Katrina has been nearly impossible. This situation is not exclusive to Shady Pond. The Bealer's of Bealer's Restaurant (Doug's) have the same complaint. The same is true for Custom Mailer, the folks who address and distribute this newsletter. And our primary supplier of hard goods in Mobile is battling this exact problem. Although we will make every effort to secure a full compliment of workers for the 2005 season, there is no guarantee of success. So, please be patient. And some aspects of your tree selection may be on a ‘self-service' basis.
Harry Yates and Cline Church are major Christmas tree producers near Boone, North Carolina. They grow Fraser Fir. And trust me, they don't look like angels. They don't sound like angels. They have no halos or wings that I can see. But they must be angels, no other being would do what they did.
Knowing that I was working alone in the aftermath of Katrina, these two men loaded eleven of their own employees in vans and drove to Shady Pond to help with the recovery process. They brought tools, sleeping bags, work clothes and supplies for their short, but intense, marathon in Pearl River. Their workers slept in the hay loft at night and straightened, staked, and tied trees during the day.
It would have been easy for them to take competitive advantage of this disaster but they didn't. Human compassion won out over business interests. I remain in their debt.
Recall that last year they really got a bit carried away with feeding around the tractor. In the process of doing so they received an unpleasant surprise when the cutter overloaded in extra heavy grass. Wads of grass flying out of the cutter hit the birds and sent them tumbling across the field.
During their time here this year, the birds enjoyed catching bugs around the tractor just as they have in the past. But this season they kept their distance. Rarely if ever did they venture anywhere near the now legendary left cutter side. Given the diversity and randomness of nature, it is doubtful that the individual cow birds that visited here this year were the same ones that had the unfortunate experience last year.
Their behavior was so consistent that it was hard no to imagine them telling one another what happen last season. Maybe there was a news report in the cow bird media warning of the potential danger of feeding too close to powered equipment. Maybe it reminded them not to confuse tractors with wildebeests and elephants.