January 20, 2018

Archives for August 2011

Battening Down The Hatches And The Bees!

Like everyone else across New Jersey, we’ve spent the last few days battening down the hatches preparing for Hurricane Irene at Wolgast Tree Farm.  We’ve stocked up on supplies, made sure emergency equipment is in good working order, and done our best to secure things that could become flying hazards in the impending winds.  We don’t think the severe winds and rain will present a big problem for our Christmas trees (unless a non-Christmas tree or branch gets blown onto them), but our bees are another matter.  The hives are pretty heavy, but the predicted severe winds could topple them over and expose the bees and brood to rain and wind which would likely kill the colonies. 

To guard against this Cathy used ratchet straps to help make sure all the individual hive bodies in each colony would stay together in the event the wind is able to blow them over.  If the winds are able to knock over the hives, the bees won’t be happy about it, but they’ll do better than if all the hive bodies flew apart. 

Now all we can do is settle in for the storm and hope our precautions were enough.  Hopefully we and the rest of the east coast will be able to come through the storm unscathed.  Let’s all keep our fingers crossed!

Sprucing Up Wolgast Tree Farm

Len using the SAJE machine to shear a Norway spruce.

If June is “Pine Time” at Wolgast Tree farm, then mid-July through August is when we are “Sprucing Up.”  That is, shearing spruces and firs so they have the tidier look of a real Christmas tree. 

Just like pines that are grown for Christmas trees, when spruces and firs begin to grow more than a foot a year they need to be sheared once a year in order to maintain a “Christmas tree” shape.  But unlike pines which must be sheared during the month of  June (see June 13, 2011 blog post), spruce and fir species just need to be sheared once year in between growing seasons.  That’s

Spruces and firs have buds along their twigs.

because spruces and firs have buds that form all along their twigs so there is always a source for next year’s growth. 

Pines have buds only at the ends of their twigs (see left of thumb).

Pines on the other hand, only have buds at the ends of their twigs.  The tender new growth that was sheared begins to harden off into wood and set buds at the end of June, which is why pine shearing is more time sensitive.

Theoretically, we could shear all our spruce and fir species in November (or even December) and it wouldn’t make a difference in terms of them being grown as Christmas trees, but we do them during the summer in the searing heat and blazing sun, and when it seems like every gnat in the County wants to investigate our eyeballs.  That’s because it gives the trees a longer time to heal over and not be all sticky with sap by the time the holidays roll around.   Plus, we have plenty of other farm work to do come autumn and its just the two of us doing the work!

Right now we’re finishing up the spruces (mostly Norway spruce), and will move on to the firs (Douglas firs, Canaan firs, Concolor firs, and Nordmann firs).  With any luck, we’ll have all the shearing done by mid-August, so we can start to get ready for the autumn chores.  There’s always something to do on the farm!