The summer of 2008 ended with visits from Fay, Gustav, and Ike. With these three storms passing nearby in close succession, the wind blew out of the southeast for nearly a month; day and night. Window boarding was installed in anticipation of Gustav and was left in place until the threat of Ike had passed. With the windows covered, the house was dark and gloomy; like living in a cave.
Site damage here at Shady Pond was light. The only building damage was two loose sheets of metal roofing on the big barn. Parts of 4-native trees went down. The tree loses could only be described as insignificant when compared to Katrina.
The Christmas trees fared moderately well. Both the oldest and youngest trees showed little effect. But the adolescent trees took a significant hit. Their roots and trunks were not well developed enough to support their foliage in the relentless pounding of the wind and rain. They were straightened by our normal root tamping method and then trimmed rather drastically. The trimming is the critical component. It balances the tree over the trunk, reduces the wind engaging surface, and minimizes the transpiration area allowing the plants to return to moisture equilibrium.
We are back in post-hurricane mode at Shady Pond yet again (this is way too soon). So you should expect to see a few trees leaning and a small number with props. But as is usually the case, trimming preceded the peak of hurricane season. And since wind throw causes root movement in the soil and does not include trunk damage, tilting trees will display perfectly once they are cut. And remember to tilt your head to properly view Gustav and Ike trees.
But even with the stability our financial system in serious question and the cost of fuel changing like wind, Christmas is here once again. At least it is reliable. So, we hope to see each of you again this year.
Shady Pond Tree Farm
Christmas Tree Varieties:
a stately beauty from England.
a unique tree from the Orient.
a selection from New Zealand.
the aroma of lemon and mint.
Ground hornets* at Shady Pond are a fact of life. And like most facts of life, this one needs to be treated with respect at an absolute minimum. It is even better when their presence elicits fear. Finding one of their subterranean nests is almost always a surprise; a very unpleasant surprise. Ground hornet stings can be fatal if the number of hits is sufficiently large or if the victim is allergic to their venom. The symptoms of venom allergy are really unmistakable including redness and swelling at the sting site, hives, fever, and shortness of breath. In extreme cases, they can also include a precipitous drop in blood pressure and loss of consciousness. This is serious stuff and not to be taken lightly. This is the real thing and well beyond the 'fantasy allergies' many claim today.
Ground hornets are typically very aggressive in defending their nests but when foraging for food, they are almost docile. They will only sting when directly attacked. In protecting their nests literally hundreds of individual wasps can be dispatched in a matter of seconds. And unlike bees, these insects can sting multiple times. They are so diligent about responding to any threat that even the ground vibrations from a lawnmower will produce a reaction.
Fortunately the life cycle of the ground hornet is annual. Only the queen survives winter. And by the time Shady Pond opens for the Christmas season, the ground hornet population has progressed to dormancy and remains so until spring. And fortunately for me, I am neither allergic to ground hornet venom nor apparently viewed as a real threat to the little monsters since even with all my encounters with them I have rarely been stung.
For some unknown reason, ground hornet nests at Shady Pond are often found amid the roots of pecan trees. They burrow directly into the soil between the most massive roots and near the tree's trunk. The structure of the tree obviously provides added protection.
Late last summer as I plowed field 'B' in preparation for planting, I discovered a ground hornet nest under one of the two pecans that survived Katrina. As I passed the area with various implements in tow there was always a frenzy of activity. The hornets would get all grumpy for a while but would soon settle down and return to their appointed task of foraging for protein and sweets. Since the wasps and I normally get along farely well adhering to an informal agreement of peaceful coexistence, I allowed the nest to remain. After all, I was focused on ground prep and the ground hornets were really not part of the task at hand.
Time pasted, the season came and went, and the ground hornets under the pecan tree were all but forgotten. As planting day neared, it was time to touch-up the field's surface with the harrow to remove unwanted winter grasses that complicate the planting process. As I passed the old hornet nest hole, I noticed that the comb had been removed from under the tree. The hole had been excavated to a significant size and the comb had been partially eaten. Not knowing when this event had occurred, I began to wonder if it had been done prior to the natural demise of the nest. And if so, which member of our wildlife population is tough enough to take on the ground hornets. Was it a raccoon or a possum?
Before completing the pass with the harrow, I had settled on an armadillo as being the only local creature sufficiently clad to withstand these deadly wasps. But as I approached the nest site on the next pass, I could hardly believe my eyes. The offending creature had methodically gathered pecans from around the area, cracked them and eaten the meat along with the hornet's nest. Now this was far beyond food for energy and survival. This was cuisine. I imagined pecans and honey; how neat, how delicious it seemed. I was starting to drool and lick my chops. It was hard to imagine any armadillo as having the creative skill needed to combine natural flavors in such an interesting way. Then I became frustrated that I had not thought of that magic combination myself. I had actually been outdone by an armadillo; what a jolt.
But as yummy a combination as the armadillo apparently had devised, in truth only honeybees (and to a lesser extent bumblebees) produce honey; not ground hornets. Nonetheless, there was obviously a combination of flavors or nutrients that the scavenger found appealing. And the scraps left behind were clear evidence of measurable culinary effort.
*(aka Southern Yellowjackets, Vespula squamosa(Brury))
In late April, the UNO student film makers came to Shady Pond to shoot scenes for Adam Brim's film project. Writing and directing the film was one of Adam's graduation prerequisites. This was an all volunteer effort and the entire crew had lots of fun bringing it to fruition.
"Keeper"'s storyline includes a young couple who have a baby. Shortly after the child's birth the mother dies leaving the young, and somewhat unwilling, father to care for the infant on his own. Overwhelmed by the unplanned and unwanted role he is facing, the father falls into a state of deep despair after laying the child's mother to rest. He falls asleep and begins to dream of his deceased love. She appears in his dream as a ghostly figure, and provides the strength and encouragement he needs to carry on with life as the child's only parent.
The dream sequences for the film were all shot in the Christmas tree fields at Shady Pond. Because of the surreal nature of the scenes, the filming was done late in the day as the sunlight waned and the shadows were long.
The UNO Film School faculty agreed that "Keeper" fulfilled the requirements for Adam's graduation.
Fresh wreaths have been absent at Shady Pond for some years now. But this year they will be available again thanks to Flowers-N-Stuff. Cindy and Durben Miller own the floral shop located on Highway 41 in Pearl River.
Contact Flowers-N-Stuff at 985-863-5055 to pre-order wreaths for pickup at Shady Pond or have them custom decorated on site from noon to 5:00 p.m. on weekends. The wreaths will be available in Virginia Pine, Arizona Cypress, Leyland Cypress, or mixed foliage. Two sizes are offered this season; large (24-inch ring diameter) and small (14-inch ring diameter).
This year's horse drawn wagon rides will be provided by Pecan View Haflingers. Brian Hyde's Pecan View farm occupies 88-acres in Roseland, Louisiana and is home to 20-head of Haflingers. Most of the horses are brood mares and the herd includes a varying number of newborns and colts. Pecan View Haflingers is a family project with the Hyde youngsters helping Brian train horses for both riding and pulling.
Brian's interest in horses has spanned a lifetime. But in 2002 he fell in love with the Haflingers. The breed originated in Austria in the late 1800's and the first Haflinger was the result of a cross between an Arabian stallion and a mare native to the Tyrolean Mountains. The result was a strong, compact, surefooted animal with a happy disposition. Haflingers are noted for their ability to withstand temperature extremes and high altitudes. They first arrived in the United States in 1950.
Haflingers are typically 50 to 59-inches high at the shoulder and weigh between 800 and 1300-pounds. Although often used as riding horses, they are equally suited to draft chores.
With assistance from his fellow equine enthusiast, James Ray Mixon; Brian Hyde will be driving Nugget and Murdock through the Christmas tree fields at Shady Pond on weekends from 10:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. weather permitting. Nugget and Murdock both stand about 52-inches tall and weigh about 1000-pounds.
So prepare to be dazzled by the beautiful Haflingers who some say would rather be in the company of humans than other horses.
Part of your guest list entry is a field for personal notes. Since most of us can not remember from one season to the next, this section provides the option of including information about your tree purchase and your time at Shady Pond. The plan is to include each customer's notes in their personalized e-brochure the following season as a reminder.
Those of you who completed the personal notes section will find your comments from last season in the box below. If you did not enter personal notes, the box will be blank.
Remember to update your notes when you 'sign-in' on the laptop in the sales building this year.
|Personal Notes from Christmas 2007: