To say that this year has been busy at Shady Pond is a gross under-statement. Life should never be this intense.
As you will see below, this edition of Shady Pond News is the largest ever. We hope that you will find all this year's new projects of interest.
Even as the computer code that drives Shady Pond News is being assembled, the coyotes are howling in the darkness. Mama duck vanished overnight Valentines Day and Daddy duck disappeared in late May. There is at least some evidence that both Cayugas fell prey to the coyotes, although other possibilities have not been totally ruled out. This was a very upsetting event on many levels.
But, Christmas is coming once again as it always does. So, we hope to see each of you very soon.
Resurrecting a Relic
Recall the vandalizing of the farm I reported last season at this time. I ultimately learned that this troubling event at Shady Pond was just the tip of the iceberg. That spring and early summer was a tumultuous and unpleasant time for the property owners on Pine Street Extension beyond the farm. A series of major burglaries had occurred causing significant anxiety for the group. In one case the home was nearly emptied during the daylight hours while the family was at work and school. In another case, a vehicle theft occurred at night directly below a security light. The boldness of these criminals was truly disturbing. A lengthy list of other less damaging incidents emerged once the property owners compared notes.
David and Sarah Boyet proposed forming a Neighborhood Watch program. The idea was obviously received with substantial enthusiasm by the other residents. We went through the customary preparatory process with the Sheriff's Office and agreed to organize ourselves in ways that fit the unique geography in the area. But our community had no defined size, shape or boundaries all of which are common in the more urban subdivision setting where the Neighborhood Watch concept is typically applied. And we lacked the identity needed to differentiate us from other neighboring burrows. In short, our area needed a name.
I had wanted to resurrect Maude for quite some time and maybe the burglars had unwittingly created the opportunity to accomplish that goal. Maude was a small community located on the GM&O railroad line between Slidell and Florenville. It is a relic from the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. Its reason for existence was the harvesting of pine rosin in the dense forest growing there. The rosin was then distilled into turpentine and other natural products. By the mid 1950's, Maude's reason for existence had long since vanished. It laid in ruins, a ghost town. But the old town site was still evident and could be accessed via Badon Road (named for Norma Wallace, a.k.a. Norma Badon and now Pine Street Extension). I learned of Maude from Sam Boss my childhood friend and mentor who lived a hermit like existence mid-way between Shady Pond and the old town. For me, Mr. Sam was the source of valued lessons that materially contributed to my self-definition. Even as a young boy, he showed me the giant pines from which the raw rosin was collected and explained the methods of doing so.
Computer mapping has become a fixture in the contemporary world. And its benefits were made intensely clear in the days following Katrina. When Bing created their maps, they included Maude; believe it or not. But its location is shown in error. Bing placed it on Pine Street Extension about a mile east of the original site but well within our neighborhood watch area. This inadvertent mistake would simplify the process of bring Maude back to life.
As you may expect, I was a bit apprehensive in suggesting the name to the Neighborhood Watch group. But I did, and asked for their approval and support in bringing it to fruition. Their agreement was almost immediate and fully unanimous. I was shocked. The ghosts of the old town must have been among us that night guiding our deliberations. What began as a dark discussion of burglary, surveillance, the pressing of criminal charges, and courtroom proceedings was instantly transformed into an uplifting anticipation. The group was truly excited by the prospect of being known as Maude.
With creative concepts provided by Cheri Lindsey, digital sign graphics were prepared. The signs now define Maude's current boundaries.
Given the clear direction our Neighborhood Watch group had taken, it seemed fitting to attempt to learn more about activities at Maude. Many of the folks with detailed knowledge of the old community have long since passed but in searching for information resources I learned that a few remained. One such person is Steve Fleming. He reported that in fact the end for Maude came with the explosion of a boiler that had been built nearby. Apparently it was an extremely large installation that ruptured on start-up killing many of the town's residents, circa 1896. The explosion killed members of the start-up team and locals alike. A complete body count was never determined. In truth, learning of this terrible event raised far more questions than it answered. But I believed that knowing the reason for the boiler's construction would ultimately lead to a comprehensive understanding of Maude's reason for being.
Since I knew from Sam Boss that gum rosin is harvested from living pine trees in much the same way that maple sap is collected prior to becoming syrup, the boiler would have had no use with that activity. Nonetheless, the boiler could have been a benefit in the distillation of the rosin after harvesting was complete. But the real use of the boiler appeared to come in extracting wood rosin from pine stumps. Note that knowledgeable folks at that time drew a clear distinction between gum rosin (from living trees) and wood rosin (from harvested stumps). The physics of extraction has changed little over time. There are four possibilities; solvent extraction, aqueous extraction, steam stripping, and rendering (cooking). I concluded that knowing which extraction process was used would probably answer most, if not all, of the questions about Maude. Uncovering the answer to this question was quickly becoming an irresistible challenge.
My search for the applicable extraction process began with the solubility of pine rosin. Physical property data indicates that it only displays significant solubility in acetone. Now acetone is very difficult to handle in large quantities. It is extremely light meaning that it has a high vapor pressure and evaporates rapidly. The state of technology in the mid to late 1800's was primitive enough that keeping acetone contained with any consistency was highly unlikely as evidenced by the boiler explosion itself. So, solvent extraction was eliminated from the list of possibilities. And since the water solubility of pine rosin is nil (this physical property would become critically important as the investigation continued), aqueous extraction was eliminated as well. Nonetheless, this was progress albeit by exception. I was left with steam stripping and rendering.
I submitted numerous queries to Google and one of them returned what seemed to be a truly strange result. It was a book by Thomas Gamble entitled "Naval Stores; History, Production, Distribution and Consumption". In sheer curiosity I opened the file. The book had been digitized by Google from the Harvard College Library. It had been published in Savannah, Georgia in 1921. And it proved to be the 'hit' I was looking for.
For me, and maybe for you too, the meaning of the term 'naval stores' has always been a bit elusive. So to clarify the confusion, I checked other references and confirmed that it generally describes that collection of materials used to seal the hulls of wooden ships. It includes pine oil, rosin, pine tar, turpentine, tar oil, and floatation oil. In Maude's time all of these natural materials were vital to nations around the world for commerce, exploration and defense.
As I perused the book many familiar names appeared; Poitevent and Favre Lumber Company in Mandeville selling barrel heads and staves, the Bogalusa Turpentine Company, Hercules Powder Company selling dynamite for stump removal. At the time Hercules also had a naval stores division that produced the various hull sealing materials.
The wealth of information in Gamble's book clearly indicated that the steam was used to render the wood rosin from the stumps and to provide heat for distillation. Although I had answered the original question regarding the extraction of rosin, sections of the book described huge, unbelievable large, shipments of naval stores by ocean freight around the globe. Further investigation revealed that in large measure the shipments were driven by the British. It seems they had done a poor job of managing their forest resources which left them unable to produce naval stores in England and to keep their extensive fleet afloat had to import the sealing materials from distant locations. Note that pine rosin's nearly total lack of solubility in water is the single attribute that made it as valuable as it was in the late 1800's.
Although Maude was located near the western most boundary of the naval stores production area in the United States, its proximity to the Mississippi River and the Port of New Orleans must have been a distinct advantage to processors here.
As the details of Maude's story began to unfold, all the components meshed. The pieces fit perfectly with the stories told by Sam Boss a half-century ago. So in truth, the old town was a significant player on the world stage as it existed in the 1800's.
I often wondered why I felt so linked to Maude for such a long time. Was it just a childhood infatuation, or was its resurrection a means of giving the legacy to Sam Boss that he deserved but never got, or had I unknowingly developed some paranormal bond with the town's former residents? The answers to these questions could not to be found in Gamble's book and remain a mystery.
So, Shady Pond is actually located at Maude and it always has been; a little known fact among the living but common knowledge among the ghosts.
The Galkowski Tradition
The season of 2010 was extra special for the Galkowski family. It was their 25th consecutive year purchasing Christmas trees at Shady Pond Tree Farm. Knowing this milestone was coming, we wanted to acknowledge the occasion with a special gift. Fortunately, we got an early start on the project because it proved to be far more difficult than originally expected.
We thought of a number of possibilities. We could give them the 25th tree at no charge but once the Christmas of 2010 had come and gone, the special tree would also be gone and soon forgotten. We could have prepared a certificate for them commemorating the event but that seemed trite and not in keeping with the Season or the persona of Shady Pond. So, we finally settled on a custom made ornament that would acknowledge their substantial loyalty for years into the future.
Now getting a single custom ornament made is no small task especially one that is totally unique. And after a exhaustive yet unsuccessful search, we decided to design one in-house. The plan was to have it produced by a trophy shop in black brass. Digital graphics were prepared and e-mailed to a trophy producer who was willing to accept this small but very important project. They prepared a proof and after very few adjustments the final Galkowski anniversary ornament was complete and ready for presentation.
Since the Galkowskis had established a tradition of drinking champagne in a small tailgate party after selecting each of the 25 trees, it seemed fitting to attach the anniversary ornament to the neck of a bottle of bubbly. We had an informal presentation of the 25th anniversary gift. Nancy, Susan and Walt knew something was planned but the ornament and champaign proved to be a true surprise.
See Scenes from Shady Pond below for the rest of the Galkowski anniversary story.
So when your 25th anniversary approaches, please let us know. We will need at least some advance notice to have time to get your gift ready. Since the tree farm records for the early years are a bit incomplete, we will have to rely on the 'honor system'.
Pick-up day for the Galkowskis was after the peak of the season. Nonetheless, there was still a significant number of customers on site that day. A number of those present during the anniversary activities complained saying that they wanted ornaments too. Their enthusiasm was noted and tucked away to be revisited at a less chaotic time.
As I mulled over the possibilities for ornaments after the season ended, an array of basic specifications began to unfold. They would have to be unique and not a rework of contemporary offerings. They would have to be clearly associated with Shady Pond. The materials would have to be derived from the natural world and not synthesized. They would have to be of indisputable quality and presented in a simple yet elegant fashion.
Now, it is well known fact to Shady Pond's staff that the tree farm's customers are really quite impressive. They span a wide variety of occupations, interests, skills, and talents. One such person is Melissa Smith; a friend, a customer, and a highly accomplished landscape artist. Melissa's paintings are often displayed at NOMA (New Orleans Museum of Art) and her works participate in art shows in Louisiana, Mississippi, and North Carolina on a regular basis. She and I discussed this possible project last Christmas Eve. Her commitment was instantaneous. So before Christmas Day 2010, the ornament team had two members.
I often spend New Year's Eve with Bill and Sue Stoltz along with other guests and family members. Just as with Melissa, Bill has been a close friend for more decades than either of us would be willing to admit. And he and Sue are tree farm customers. Bill has also become a skilled laser engraver. We discussed the ornament project last New Year's Eve and reviewed the applicability of the laser to materials like glass, crystal, black brass, and wood. And in the waning hours of 2010, the ornament team expanded to three.
The fourth and final team member was not officially added until late summer. Sean Hernandez at Lakeside Camera Photoworks in New Orleans was unaware that the prototype porcelain ornaments he was producing in June and July were actually destined for inclusion in the Scenes from Shady Pond collection. But when asked to participate, he and Lakeside agreed immediately.
Team meetings began in late January and continued through October. Initial discussions related to ornament subject matter and which image would be best presented on which substrate. But they very quickly turned to the development of image creation methods that are compatible with laser etching in general and reproducible in the chosen materials. But the challenges did not end there. And just as with the production of the Christmas trees themselves, every component of this unique project presented a new set of problems that had to be resolved to achieve the desired result. By August the list seemed endless with issues like wood varieties, black brass cutting and drilling techniques, boxes that were sufficiently thin, stamping dies, foam filler material and its resistance to fire during laser cutting, and on, and on. I am often amazed by the fact that most things associated with the production and sale of Christmas trees are extremely complex and well beyond the boundaries of commonly held knowledge. The ornament project has been no different. But, the team persevered resolving each problem one by one until the Scenes from Shady Pond collection finally became real. Clearly the ornament project fits within Shady Pond's broader mission of using advanced technology to preserve ancient tradition.
So we present the Scenes from Shady Pond collection in completed form. It comprises two sets; The Wood Set and The Mineral Set. Ornaments in The Wood Set are crafted in Red Alder and those in The Mineral Set include crystal, mirrored glass, porcelain, and black brass. And should interest in the collection warrant, the team is ready with more scenes to be added in future years.
Gift Kits are also be available. They include a Shady Pond Tree Farm gift bag with coordinated tissue and raffia for an elegant display under your tree.
Living Christmas Trees Return
For the last several seasons we have received numerous requests for living Christmas trees. Many of you will recall that we provided potted trees in the past. But in the time following Katrina, it became almost impossible to acquire the trees in the appropriate varieties and sizes. This past summer we were able to locate a new source that does a very professional job of growing containerized Christmas trees.
The trees available this season, and hopefully in future seasons, are well trimmed and suitable for indoor display. And once the season ends they can be planted in the landscape. If you decide to select this Christmas tree option, some preparatory effort is prudent. Select the spot where the tree will finally be planted keeping in mind that these plants are trees not shrubs. Select the variety that is compatible with your landscaping motif. Most will ultimately attain significant size so provide adequate space for them. Planting should be done in the dead of winter and the root mass should be disturbed before back-filling the planting hole. And most importantly, don't love 'em to death.
You will probably need help moving the tree into and out of the house since the pots are 15-gallons in size and are moderately heavy. This is a two person job. To simplify handling at home, have your tree baled before leaving the farm. While indoors, be sure to place a watering tray underneath the pot to protect floor covering. Extremely large watering trays are available at Shady Pond. Water your living tree often and in small amounts so as not to overflow the tray.
At both move-in and move-out times, place the tree in an intermediate temperature location for about a half day to avoid shocking the plant with abrupt changes in temperature. This is particularly important in moving the tree from warm to cold conditions.
Tree varieties available this year include Eastern Redcedar (Juniperus virginiana-'Burkii'), Arizona Cypress (Cupressus arizonica var. glabra-'Carolina Sapphire') and Arborvitae (Thuja-'Green Giant'). In restarting our living tree offering, supplies will be limited until accurate sales data is determined.
Last season we received numerous inquiries regarding the whereabouts of the wreath folks. Actually, the wreath operation was provided by a local florist who fell prey to our troubled economy and were forced to close their shop. Events such as this have been all too common over the past several years and are of major concern.
But when one door closes, another often opens. The girls at Ann's Flower Shop, Inc. have decided to take on the wreath operation at Shady Pond, and we are both excited about the prospects. Ann McManus founded the shop in 1963 on Bouscaren Street in the Olde Town area of Slidell where it remains today. To local residents, Ann was known as Ms. Annie Mae and she continued to provide for the town's floral needs for nearly 40-years.
After Annie Mae's passing in 2007, her niece Alana Peltier continued to operate Ann's Flower Shop and Shady Pond is glad she did. Ann's team of designers will be building wreaths in 14" and 18" sizes both decorated and un-decorated. They will also be making garland and wreaths in larger sizes on a special order basis only. The wreaths and garland feature tree foliage from Shady Pond Tree Farm.
Contact them in advance at 985-643-4615 for custom made garland or for wreaths in a specific motif. Be sure to specify your order pick-up location; tree farm or shop at 141 Bouscaren Street, Slidell.
Nate Fleming is in the heavy equipment business and spends a significant portion of his time clearing sites for new construction. This obviously results in a large number of trees destined for removal. To ensure that the trees are not wasted in burn piles or in land fills, Nate moves them to his construction yard where sons Shane and Tyler block and split them into firewood.
Nate and sons will be at Shady Pond on weekends this season to supply your firewood needs. They can provide wood in small amounts or in large quantities.
They will also have smoking wood available including pecan, black cherry, and hickory. The smoking wood is provided in small packages and in the smaller sizes needed for food preparation. And all of the pecan for smoking was gathered from limbs that fell from the single pecan tree at Shady Pond that survived Katrina.
Contact Nate and the boys at 985-445-7056 for more detail.
Honey Island Lions Club
This season the members of the Honey Island Lions Club will be on hand on weekends with an excellent stock of Terri Lynn chocolate and nuts. These holiday treats are always a highlight at gatherings of friends and family at Christmas time.
The Lions Clubs around the globe are well known for their support of issues relating to vision correction and eye diseases. And the Honey Island Club is no different but they also work to enhance our local community and our state by helping to fund programs like these.
- Lions Crippled Children Camp in Leesville, Louisiana
- Louisiana Lions Eye Foundation
- Cub Sight (Pre-school vision screening)
- The Pearl River Family Festival
- The Pearl River Health Fair
- Christmas Caroling in the Park
So be sure to visit the Honey Island Lions Club while you are at Shady Pond and pickup an ample supply of their 'eye candy' for this holiday season.
To learn more about the Honey Island Lions Club, call 985-863-2254. Or, visit them on the web at www.e-clubhouse.org/sites/PearlRiver6/.
Pearl River Women's Civic Club
The ladies of the Pearl River Civic Club will be at Shady Pond this season with baked Christmas goodies and snacks, and light refreshments. The funds raised selling their wares will go directly to support the Nina Gernon Scholarship fund.
Mary Emma Harvey Gernon, known as Nina to family members and close friends, became active in the Civic Club shortly after arriving at Shady Pond in 1955 with husband Edward Gernon, Sr., and sons Edward, Jr. (Jim) and Clarke. She focused a significant portion of her time on Civic Club activities and continued to support the organization through the mid-1970's when her husband's failing health became her first priority.
The Nina Gernon Scholarship was established in 1970 when the Gernon Family donated the funds needed to award the first grant to Alvest Stevens a graduate of Pearl River High School. Since that time, the Pearl River Women's Civic Club has continued to provide financial assistance to graduates of Pearl River High School based on talent and need. The Nina Gernon Scholarship has allowed the Civic Club to create a living legacy for the Club and Mrs. Gernon by investing in worthy young people helping them reach their maximum potential in life. The benefits of this project are even more intense in these difficult economic times.
So even if you are not hungry or thirsty, stop by and visit with the Civic Club ladies. Direct contributions to the scholarship fund are always welcome.
Pearl River Women's Civic Club
P.O. Box 2
Pearl River, Louisiana 70452
For more information about the Club, contact them at: