The year at Shady Pond began with a 1000-foot fence replacement project along the Farm's boundary with Sticker Road. The intent was to reduce the continued vandalism of the Christmas trees by the local urchins. This project became significantly more complex because of the need to integrate the fence among the existing trees rather than move it and relinquish the land to inevitable encroachment.
Although the fence upgrade was a major project, Isaac proved to be the event of the year. As many of us know, the gain that appears to accompany the low wind speeds in less intense hurricanes can be quickly lost in storm duration. And Isaac was the perfect example. The number of trees experiencing wind-throw was nil but fully 80% of the Leylands planted in January of this year were lost to standing water. So brace yourself, Field C is a sad sight indeed. In contrast, during Katrina not a single tree was lost to excess water. Fortunately, the varieties in Field C other than Leyland Cypress faired much better. And storm damage in the sale trees is all but undetectable.
The coyote activity continues. Actually, they are becoming a bit too friendly. One stood only partially concealed in broad daylight watching me do tractor work among the trees not long ago. It seemed completely relaxed and not at all threatened. And some of the younger ones have taken to loitering around the main house after dusk. They enjoy howling and can do so ad nauseam. Occasionally a fight breaks out. But they settle their differences and then leave. Carrying a side arm may become necessary.
But, Christmas is coming as it always does. So, we hope to see each of you again this season.
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.
This piece was written at the request of the Pearl River & Honey Island Swamp Museum and Research Center in Pearl River, Louisiana and will remain on display at the museum. Ms. Ruby Gauley is the primary driving force behind this effort to preserve the heritage of our area. In addition to serving as chairperson of the museum, Ms. Ruby has been an alderman in the Town of Pearl River for more years than she is willing to admit.
Since two of the Gauley granddaughters have worked at Shady Pond in past years, I was highly motivated to complete this writing project. Failure to do so could have unleashed the wrath of all three of these gals; clearly more than I could handle.
I hope you too will enjoy "The Loft Floor". I certainly enjoyed writing it.
When the Gernons acquired Shady Pond in 1955, the purchase was a 'package deal'. It not only included the land and buildings but the livestock as well. The inventory of living things consisted of chickens, ducks, Chinese geese, Guinea hens, dogs, and a herd of Herefords. The cattle numbered 35 in all.
A bond with the dogs never really developed and they vanished quickly. But all the other creatures stayed on with the new owners. Clearly the Herefords were at the top of the list when it came to the effort needed to care for them. Their physiological needs, although technically complex, were not really very time consuming. But their nutritional needs proved to be the whopper. Untold amounts of time and energy were spent either feeding them, or preparing things to feed them. At a minimum, it took 1,000-bales of hay to carry the herd through winter. And to have a reasonable buffer for unexpected weather conditions, 1,200 to 1,500-bales should be in storage on site by mid October to ensure a healthy herd in spring.
Now storing that much hay takes a substantial cumulative building volume. With the exception of the living quarters, every other available building was packed with hay bales stacked as high as humanly possible. And spontaneous combustion was a constant worry.
The hayloft in the big barn had been filled with bales from the floor to the ceiling joists. But after all the work of making the hay had ended, it was clear that the hayloft had been overloaded. The loft floor joists were sagging badly and the vision of a total building collapse had come clearly into focus. Things had been pushed a bit too far.
The barn situation became a recurring topic of discussion at supper in the days that followed. The debate ranged from; why is this happening now when there had never been a problem in the past; to, what should be done to mitigate it. The fact that the hay was heavier than normal was self-evident and could have easily resulted from baling it when the moisture content of the grass was somewhat higher. It could have also resulted from the fact that the tension on the discharge chute of the square baler was greater than in previous years causing the grass in the bales to be more compact and thus increasing the weight of each. Neither of these variables could be measured with any level of precision on site. But more importantly, the cause and effect relationship between them had not been considered as relevant in practical terms; a significant mistake.
Our collective opinion was feed the herd out of the big barn first to lighten the load as quickly as possible, and discuss the matter with Sam Boss.
Our relationship with Mr. Sam had begun to develop some years earlier. It was a slow and tedious process. The perceived cultural differences between us were the source of the problem. Our urban background with a 'city' mentality seemed that it would clash with his rural upbringing at Maude and family ties to Germany. Although each was a bit wary of the other, the imagined differences proved to be unfounded as time passed.
Sam Boss was a major land owner. He lived on a 1/4-section (a section comprises 640-acres) that his father had homesteaded in the late 1800's. His home site was near the end of Badon Road (now Pine Street Extension) at Maude. And he owned a second 1/4-section tract somewhat South of Shady Pond off Sticker Road that he, and others, referred to as the Gray Place. Activities at the homestead focused on timber and sugar cane for cane syrup, and those at the Gray Place focused on corn for animal feed and vegetables for his own consumption. The natural differences in soil conditions at the two locations seemed to be the source of the split. The Gray Place was sold and subdivided after Mr. Sam's death in the mid-1970's and became the core of what is now known as The Ponderosa.
Mr. Sam's knowledge of timber production and the lumber it provided was legendary. His approach to such things was ridged and unbending. Compromises and short cuts were never, ever acceptable. And since much of his fundamental knowledge came from his father who had become well versed in German timber construction techniques before immagrating here, we Gernons had nearly absolute confidence that he would recommend an appropriate plan to reinforce the loft floor. In fact the elder Boss had built the Green Church at the corner of Highway 1090 and Nelson Road on land donated to the Archdiocese of New Orleans by Chris and Cora (Able) Nelson. That old Catholic church building remains standing today and is used as a private residence.
By this point in time Sam Boss was a regular visitor at Shady Pond on Sundays. We would attend Mass as a group in the morning then he would return to the Farm for lunch at mid day. It was during one of these visits in the fall of that year that the loft floor problem was discussed. We laid out the basic information to him rather carefully early in the day to provide time for him to consider the implications. And we planned to inspect the barn after having lunch. We all stood at ground level under the sagging loft floor in total silence. Mr. Sam stroked his mustache as he always did when deep in thought and the rest of us held our breath awaiting the official proclamation.
The silence was broken by the shrill voice that he always used for emphasis. "Mr. Gernon," Sam said, "we need to add more floor joists to help carry the load." Please understand the key word in that statement was 'we'. The 'we' part was the critically important component and the rest of us sighed a silent sigh of relief. Although we Gernons were 'city' folks, we did learn fairly quickly and we had come to know that we didn't know; a vitally important epiphany.
It was not until the next Sunday that the plan began to take shape in real detail. Although Daddy was an incredibly poor craftsman, he was highly skilled at getting the maximum benefit out of any situation. When given a negative, he could restructure it into a positive. And the sagging loft floor was no exception. I was unaware that adding the loft floor joists was to become a learning event of substantial proportions.
Daddy knew of the unique bond between Mr. Sam and I. I wanted to learn and he wanted to teach. He was intent on doing his job and I was intent on doing mine. Despite a half-century difference in age, he and I were in total agreement on most issues, most of the time. With a clear understanding of this fact, Daddy suggested purchasing the trees from the timber stand at Sam's place at Maude. The trees would be cut then saw milled into the lumber needed for the loft floor project. Mr. Sam read the suggestion for what it was and agreed in an instant.
In planning the work schedule, Mr. Sam noted that we should wait until spring to begin. The joists could not be installed with the weight of the hay in the loft and by then the loft would be empty since bales were being moved out on a daily basis to feed the Herefords. The delay would also provide time for the woods to dry after the winter rains. And Daddy could make the necessary arrangements with the sawmill at Hickory in the interim. He also advised that we would be using 2-man cross-cut saws to harvest the trees, not chain saws. Since I was the designated helper, this news came as a significant shock. I would be the guy pulling the second saw handle. This project was taking a not so pleasant turn.
The following spring finally arrived and it was time to harvest the trees. It was a sunny spring day when the big crosscut saws came out of the barn. The first task was to sharpen the 6-foot long monsters. Timber crosscut saws have teeth in two categories; side cutting teeth and raker teeth. Assuming a horizontal cut, the side cutting teeth cut the wood at the top and bottom of the kerf, and the raker teeth remove the wood by cutting it at the back of the kerf. Mr. Sam's crosscut saws had the Lance tooth pattern.
With the saw in a special vise, the side cutting teeth were filed to a razor like edge one by one never moving to the next until the one at hand was perfect. Then the raker teeth were peened and filed to exactly the proper depth and sharpness using a precision gauge.
We gathered the need tools and supplies including wedges, maul (sledgehammer), saws, and blade lubricant. The wedges are used to tip the big trees in the direction of the fall once the kerf is sufficiently deep. Bedding, or notching the trunk, also helps ensure the proper fall direction. Since the weight of standing pines can be significant, the maul is used to drive the wedges into the kerf. In our case, the blade lubricant was lamp oil or kerosene. Since Mr. Sam did not have electricity, the lamp oil was plentiful. It is dispensed from an used liniment bottle small enough to fit in a hip pocket. The mouth of the bottle is stuffed with pine needles to create a sprinkling effect when slung much the same as sprinkling clothes with water during ironing. The lamp oil acts as a solvent softening the pine rosin and reducing the drag on the crosscut. From the very beginning, I liked the lubricant idea. This was clearly a step in the right direction in my view.
With the tools and supplies in hand, Mr. Sam and I headed to the woods. He had already marked the trees and estimated the number of joists each would yield. We began work on the first tree by bedding it. Bedding always goes slowly because of the required two cuts; one horizontal and the other angled downward to meet the first. It is a bit time consuming to get the two cuts to intersect properly but we completed that task satisfactorily and proceeded to the final crosscut.
After a few strokes of the big saw it was clear that things were not going well for me. Aside from the fact that my aging friend was making me look like a wuss, handling the saw was not nearly as easy as I imagined it would be. Using a long crosscut saw is a pull-pull operation. It is never ever pushed. And it is very important to stop pulling before your partner's knuckles strike the tree trunk. This is not good and tends to undermine the needed team spirit. I knew at least this much from the beginning but when I would pull the saw, I tended to feed it into the back of the kerf too aggressively and the saw would bind. Then I over compensated not feeding it aggressively enough and the cut did not advance. My rhythm was off leaving me unprepared to pull when it was my turn. My stance was wrong resulting in an awkward body configuration which if continued would have put me in traction. In contrast, when Mr. Sam pulled the big saw the blade would ring. It would travel through the tree trunk smoothly leaving a pile of perfectly cut worms of wood lying neatly at his feet. My deficiencies were impossible to hide.
It was more than clear that for this phase of the barn project to be a success, I would have to get my act together. I would have to focus on the use of the crosscut to the exclusion of all else. Failure was not an option. With coaching from Mr. Sam and intense concentration, things began to improve. Each pull of the saw was smoother than the last and more productive. We were beginning to make progress. The first tree went down. It sounded like thunder.
As we moved from tree to tree I was able to fine tune my share of the work with the crosscut saw. And when the blade began to ring on both strokes leaving piles of perfectly cut worms of wood lying neatly at our feet, I knew this part of the lesson was done.
Those beautiful old-growth pines made their way to the sawmill and then to Shady Pond to live on far beyond their normal life span as unusually stout rough cut floor joists in the barn.
Mr. Sam and I installed the joists. Using his giant Simplex screw jacks, we carefully jacked the loft floor to provide room to properly locate each. We were both very tense during the jacking operations. The lift had to be done to just the right point. Too little, and placing the joist would be an impossible task. Too much, and the existing structure would be damaged. We diligently counted turns and fractions of turns of the jack screws. As expected, the Boss judgement proved to be flawless. The joists were installed in record time. And the loft floor never sagged again.
There was far more at stake here than just trees and joists, or even the barn itself. This was a lesson in planning and organization to produce the needed result with minimum waste, a lesson in patience, in proper timing, self-discipline, achieving goals, precision use of physical strength, and absolute rejection of failure. Even as a 15-year old, I ended the barn project substantially better defined as an individual than at its beginning. The teacher had done his job and the student had done his, too. And my old friend and mentor seemed as pleased as I was.
I learned in later years that truly knowledgeable structural engineers refer to the floor system Mr. Sam and I created as 'battle decking'. The term was apparently used by wooden ship builders to refer to ship decks designed to withstand the impact of cannon balls.
The ornament team has been busy this past summer getting ready for Christmas time. This year's addition is a mixed ornament set including pieces in Red Alder and porcelain. The subjects consist of Barred Owl and Fountain in wood, and the Barn and Pond in porcelain.
A few of last season's Wood and Mineral sets also remain. And we will have Gift Kits to help with your wrapping needs.
Todd Schaeffer's Famlly Restaurant is founded on a long standing family tradition, only the best. The freshest seafood, the best recipes and outstanding customer service are the foundation.
Todd's dad, Mike Schaeffer, while working for Winn Dixie, had a burning desire to follow his dreams. Mike knew the key to success was to offer only the best. The solution was to open his restaurant near the docks of Chef Pass where he could select the freshest seafood directly from the local fisherman right out of the Gulf waters. Mike and his wife Charlotte had the perfect formula, old family recipes and fresh local seafood. Soon, their dream became an instant success. Wanting better, he brought his family and his recipe for success to Slidell. He established roots on Military Road. Just like Chef Pass, Slidell instantly fell in love with Mike Schaeffer's. Like his dad, Todd was driven to follow his own dream.
Upon Mike's retirement, Todd ventured off on his own to 348 Robert Road Blvd, bringing with him all the Schaeffer family recipes, the direct relationships with commercial fisherman, and his 30 years of perfecting the family recipes with his mother's help. Todd Schaeffer's Family Restaurant, on Robert Blvd, has renewed the family's legacy. Carrying on the tradition, families line up 6 nights a week for The Famous Corn, Crab & Shrimp Bisque, Turtle Soup, and The Seafood Platter. Todd's private banquet room is a favorite for the most important family or business gatherings. From special menus and table arrangements, Todd's personal attention and flexibility guarantee the success of your memorable event.
Accept Todd's invitation to come and experience all the freshness and rich recipes that his restaurant provides. Begin your own family tradition of enjoying the best. Visit Todd Schaeffer's Family Restaurant on the web at http://toddschaeffers.com/, or call 985-649-9003.
We are always searching for appropriate ways to incorporate modern technology in the unique Christmas experience provided at Shady Pond. Our rule is that technological methods must always expand the experience and never be a distraction from it. And we think QR Codes may do just that.
QR is an acronym meaning 'Quick Response'. QR Code graphics are square matrices of dots. As such, they are 2-dimensional codes. The QR Code system was developed by a division of Toyota for use in Japan. Its purpose was to track vehicles during manufacture. Because of their 2-dimensional structure, QR Codes can transmit more data than the more common 1-dimensional bar code.
Although QR Codes are often seen on product labels and in print advertisements, few people know what they are and even fewer actually use them. In some areas of our country, they can be found on highway billboards. Since everyday use of QR Codes is done by scanning them with smart phone cameras, the billboard application is a very scary concept nearly equal to texting while driving. But innovative realtors have discovered that including them on real estate signs is an excellent alternative to posting paper flyers in front of listed homes. Would-be buyers simply scan the QR Code with a smart phone and are linked to a web page providing all the particulars of the house of interest.
For the smart phone to recognize and decipher the QR Code, the necessary app must be installed on the phone. Bar Code/QR Code apps are normally available at the app store and are often provided free of charge. Investigating and testing QR Codes has been a fun project for us. Actually, we tested a number of apps for reading QR Codes and NeoReader went immediately to the very top of our list. Its performance was truly amazing. It instantly deciphered Shady Pond's QR Code in all light conditions, at almost every conceivable angle, and at distances that were hard to believe. You can download this free app at http://www.neoreader.com/.
So this season we will be testing the QR Code concept at Shady Pond. When you arrive, you will find a fairly large QR Code graphic at the tree farm gate. The size and position of the graphic ensures its readability at a significant distance. Simply pause at the gate and scan the code with your smart phone and you will be linked to a web based welcome page. The page provides a list of instructions describing the best way to select, cut, and handle for your tree. Some of the provided information falls in the category of suggestions while other items are required.
We hope that the new QR Code driven welcome page will make your time at Shady Pond more enjoyable and help to eliminate some of the confusion that occasionally occurs. And please do not hesitate to give us your reaction to this potential new addition.
Be sure to acquire a QR Code app before heading to the Farm.
Nate, Sheri, and the boys will be on site this season with a stock of firewood and citrus.
The firewood falls into two categories; seasoned oak to burn in the fireplace and smoking woods. The smoking woods include Black Cherry, Hickory, and Pecan. Add the warmth of the season to your celebrations by stocking-up on Nate's firewood. And use his smoking woods to give your Christmas turkey or ham a unique natural flavor.
Oak firewood is sold in cord and half-cord quantities, and smoking woods are available in logs or in bags of smaller pieces. If you plan to pickup firewood, come prepared with a truck or trailer. Also, call ahead to be sure Nate has the quantity and wood type you prefer ready at Shady Pond when you arrive. Nate can be reached at 985-285-0802
The Fleming citrus trees have produced an excellent crop of oranges, lemons, grapefruit, tangerines and satsumas. Sheri will have their fruit available in assortment bags and in single fruit bags. Although Fleming citrus is great for healthy snacks, it can also be used to make lovely natural centerpieces for your dining table or mantle. And your guests will be able to eat the decorations.