To say that this year has been busy is truly an understatement. And many of the challenges are directly attributable to the intensity of last winter. The weather was so cold for so long a time that almost all plant material fell into a state of extremely deep dormancy. This condition has not been seen for a number of years. The Christmas trees and all the natural growth used that time to rest and recuperate, then when spring arrived they emerged with a nearly explosive flush. And the growth intensity has continued through much of summer.
Weed activity in Field D quickly overtook the newly planted trees and significantly complicated the field's initial maintenance. Actually, the planting of Deodar Cedar had to be postponed because the seedlings could not be lifted on schedule since the ground at the nursery in Olympia, Washington was frozen; a never before encountered situation.
Vine growth was of mind boggling proportions. And the big indigenous trees produced foliage with unbelievable speed and in huge volumes. In two cases, the big trees actually produced more growth than they could support. The structure of these trees failed due to the sheer weight of the spring flush. The first loss occurred in mid-May when a Live Oak limb broke in the middle of the night in dry conditions with not a breath of air stirring. This single limb was 65-feet in length and 2 1/2-feet in diameter at the butt. The second loss came in early June when the trunk of a Water Oak broke at dusk one evening. Again the failure came during dry calm conditions. The Water Oak was 70-feet tall with a butt diameter of 6-feet. In both cases the cleanup proved to be extremely dangerous. The Live Oak limb remained partially attached to the trunk about 9 feet above the ground and the Water Oak trunk had broken about 14 feet up with the top of the tree sitting on the splintered stump that remained. Disposal of both these trees was done with extreme care and meticulous planning. But all went well with no loss of life or body parts. Hopefully, this natural culling is complete and will not be repeated at least for a while.
But Christmas is upon us once again with winter in tow close behind. So, we hope to see each of you again at this magical time of 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.
We Gernons arrived at Shady Pond in the mid-1950's. And since our former home was in New Orleans, we were viewed by many local residents with a significant level of skepticism. Actually we did not find this overly alarming, after all we were the outsiders. Limited acceptance such as this would have been expected in almost any small community.
Although this standoffishness surfaced regularly, not all of those living in the area were so
restrained. And one of those welcoming residents was Mr. Gibbs. For some unknown reason he
took a liking to Shady Pond. It was never really clear whether his fascination was with the place
or the occupants. Nonetheless, he visited regularly. But those visits rarely had a happy ending. He
seemed to always get into some kind of trouble at the farm. This was no real surprise since Mr.
Gibbs was Equinus in nature. This mule had a mind of his own. He had a definite set of
values and priorities which he would attend to without regard to anyone else. He clearly had a
'to-do' list and was intent on completing it whether you liked it or not.
Actually, mule afficionados have often described this kind of behavior. Mules are in a class by themselves. They are reproductively sterile and can only be created by crossbreeding a horse with a donkey. Mules have a highly developed sense of awareness about their surroundings and can detect danger that would elude humans. In South America, and other areas, they are used regularly for transportation in the mountains. They are entrusted with the task of safely carrying their riders from one location to another and rarely fail to perform. Actually, they seem to be more focused on their own well-being with the rider's safety being incidental. The competence and cautiousness of mules is often mistaken for stubbornness.
Mr. Gibbs would help himself to any animal feed that was not fully secured. He would pull bales of hay apart. And he would trample landscape plants; truly offensive. Our displeasure and frustration with this unruly mule quickly reached the point where it was difficult to control. Something had to be done.
A small amount of research in the local community quickly revealed that Mr. Gibbs was fairly well known. His owner was Willie Fleming who lived at Boyet Farm a very short distance from Shady Pond.
We contacted Willie and discovered that he was quite forthcoming almost as much so as Mr. Gibbs himself. Willie had wondered where the mule had been going and promised to keep him under control. And should he show up at the farm in the future, Willie assured us that a telephone call was all that would be necessary.
As time passed, it became obvious that Willie's ability to control Mr. Gibbs was limited. We called on many occasions but soon tired of the ordeal of having Willie capture the mule and take him home just to find him back again a couple of days later. And since we were becoming more skilled at minimizing the damage that Mr. Gibbs could do, having him around every now and then was less of an issue. Nonetheless, Willie was always accommodating and made every effort to limit the mule's visits.
But during one of his excursions to the farm, Daddy was apparently in a grumpy mood and decided to try shooting Mr. Gibbs with a BB-gun in hopes that the mule would just go home and leave us alone. He found Mr. Gibbs in an old pole barn eating hay. When the BB hit the mule in the rump. He reared then abruptly collapsed to the floor of the building. Daddy was stunned and confused. It just simply did not make sense that the BB could have killed Mr. Gibbs. But Daddy checked the animal and concluded that he was in fact dead. This unfortunate situation of course meant that Daddy would have to make what appeared to be the final call to Willie. When Willie answered, Daddy said, "Willie, I think I've killed Mr. Gibbs." Willie, of course, asked what happened. Daddy explained, "Willie, I shot him in the rump with a BB-gun and he collapsed. He's laying on the ground in the barn and appears to be dead." Willie said, "Just hold-on Mr. Gernon, I'll be right there." When Willie arrived and accompanied Daddy to the pole barn, they found Mr. Gibbs on the ground beginning to come to. He was still wobbly but managed to get up on all fours. Apparently he had struck the top of his head on a low ceiling joist when he reared and knocked himself out. Willie and Daddy were so relieved that Mr. Gibbs was still alive that they failed to realize that this event had finally gotten the mule's attention. He never visited Shady Pond again.
Nonetheless, all the interaction with Willie Fleming over Mr. Gibbs had produced one of those relationships that could only be described as permanent and enduring. Although Mr. Gibbs no longer visited, we had regular contact with Willie for many years. And even after his passing our link to the Flemings continued through some of Willie's descendants.
Actually, the citrus that many customers have obtained at Shady Pond during Christmas time is provided by Nate Fleming. Nate is Willie's grandson. So, the next time you bite into a Naval Orange or a Satsuma, or sip lemonade made from Lemons you selected at Shady Pond; think about Mr. Gibbs, the unruly mule that was the instigator of it all.
Nate and Sherry tell me that the citrus trees were severely damaged during the intense 2013-2014 winter. Nate removed the dead wood and the trees have added significant new growth but will not produce fruit until the fall of 2015 at the earliest.
But be sure to contact Nate Fleming for your firewood and smoking wood needs for this winter. Call Nate at 985-285-0802.
For the past several years supplying trees for use on movie sets has become a regular spring
activity at Shady Pond. More often than not, the production companies need one or two
Christmas trees to create a traditional scene that includes a decorated tree more or less like the
trees used in individual homes. Occasionally, the movie folks ask for guidance as to tree varieties
that would have been in use during a specific time frame or in a specific region. And because of
the large number of tree varieties grown at Shady Pond, we have always been able to provide the
This past spring the movie tree call came from Universal Studios. It was clear from the beginning
that their needs were well beyond the normal set decorating requirements. The Universal
greensmen came to Shady Pond for a preliminary visit. We reviewed the set sketches and
discussed the possible candidate trees to be used in the various locations. As the scope of the
project began to take shape Arizona Cypress-Silver Smoke and Eastern Redcedar-Burkii become
the trees of choice based on size and foliage structure. The set would require 15 of these giant
The Universal greensmen proved to be highly knowledgeable plant guys with substantial
experience on massively large greens projects within the film industry and in other venues. And
after a significant amount of back and forth communication about every imaginable detail, the
pickup day was scheduled. The Universal greens crew arrived in 4-trucks with 8-men to handle
the trees. The trees were harvested with extreme care, and the cutting and loading proceeded
without a problem.
In the run-up to pickup day it came to light that the film's production title was Ebbtide but in truth it was Jurassic Park-4 and will be released mid-2015 as Jurassic World. The filming locations included Hawaii and New Orleans.
Surprisingly, the greensmen returned a couple of days after the initial harvest for more trees.
When asked if the dinosaurs had gotten loose and eaten part of the first load, the admitted that
they did but their handlers got them under control quickly. They only ate 4-trees and seemed to
really enjoy them. The tree farm crew cautioned the Universal folks to please keep the big lizards
corralled and not to let them get into the Honey Island Swamp or they'll eat the whole thing.
If however the likes of Emeril Lagasse or John Folse were to concoct a dinosaur recipe, the tree farm crew may view things differently.
When Billy Lynchard discovered his interest in honey bees as a young boy, he was unaware that he had chosen a path rooted deep in antiquity. He had no inkling that his calling had been shared by other humans for a mere 15,000 years. He had no idea that depictions of attempts to domesticate bees were found in Egyptian hieroglyphs created 4,500 years earlier. Or that jars of honey had been entombed with the pharaohs. It never occurred to him that the Mayans had bred a species of stingless bees before the collapse of that ancient civilization a millennium before his birth.
But for Billy, things were not nearly this complex. They were actually quite simple. He just liked honey bees and thought they were really fascinating little critters.
As time passed, Billy managed to infect his brother, Lawrence and Lawrence's wife, Barbara,
with the same enthusiasm. And together these three produce honey at Evans Creek. Beekeeping
is known in formal language as apiculture. The area where the hives are kept is an apiary. And
Billy, Lawrence and Barbara are apiarists.
Modern bee hives consist of a lower section call the body where the queen has access to the hive
cells for reproduction. Above the body are additional sections called supers where the bees fill
the cells with honey and from which the honey is harvested. The queen is prevented from
entering the supers by an excluding device. Pre-formed cell foundation material is mounted on frames that
are placed in the supers to encourage the bees to build uniform hive cells from which the honey
can be easily removed in a centrifuge. The beeswax remains in the frames and can be removed
separately for use in candles.
Apiculture is a truly symbiotic endeavor benefitting the bees, we humans, as well as vegetation in
the area though the transfer of pollen.
So, when you visit Shady Pond this season be sure to pickup a few jars of Lynchard honey. It makes a thoughtful stocking stuffer or a yummy light breakfast with butter on toasted raisin bread. It will be available plain or creamed.
You can also contact the Lynchards directly at 985-863-0136.