"Well, what are we going to do today" is a common phrase used by most nurserymen during the drawn-out months of winter. While most of our landscaping cohorts are hooking up their plows and salt spreaders to reap the benefits winter has to offer, us nurserymen are left with minimal engagements. Spring ordering, office work, and maintenance are imperative this time of year, but only take up a small piece of our wintertime agendas. For many years, we tossed around the idea of selling Christmas trees and were always apprehensive of pulling the trigger. Our nursery's foundation is built upon selling quality plants and we were uneasy of putting our name on subpar trees. So, the source became pivotal in our decision. Through our tight-knit nursery community, we came in contact with an exceptional grower of Fraser Fir trees that could cut and ship weekly, ensuring our customers would truly be purchasing a "fresh cut" Christmas tree. Additionally, we sold hand made wreaths and grave blankets using cuttings from around the nursery. We had a few laughs as my Dad and I ceaselessly made attempt after attempt at tying bows for the wreaths. Yes, this did make it certain we were novices in the Christmas tree business. Looking back on it, the social time, bonding, and camaraderie made with family, friends, and customers made this new experience priceless. We certainly look forward to making this a yearly tradition at Ostrich Nursery.
Many of our friends and customers routinely ask us, "What do you do out there on the nursery when its so cold? If you don't migrate south or plow snow-- What on earth is there to do?" One of the chores around the nursery includes gathering firewood for the winter. In order to do such a task, you must have some knowledge of the forest and which type of wood burns easily. Evergreen trees such as pine, spruce, or fir, are hazardous to burn indoors. These resinous woods will adhere to the side of your chimney and start to form too much soot, which could eventually cause a fire. An experienced individual knows to look for wood that is already dried for immediate burning and to store the freshly cut wood until it becomes dry enough to burn. Dead, dry wood can be spotted as broken or slightly broken branches that ideally are still up off the ground. I always look between the crotches of trees, as this is commonly where these broken branches get wedged. Dead wood that is left to rot on the ground is typically too moist to burn and has a cork-like texture to it. This type of wood is better off left alone. When culling a live tree, it is best to remove misshapen and/or trees with poor branch structure (i.e. co-dominant leads or split crotches located close to the base of the tree). The experienced woodsman will also be able to detect any signs of disease or decay within the trees. These trees should be taken first. Removing structurally poor trees from the forest helps the more vigorous ones grow taller and stronger.
After the wood is cut and brought back in from the forest, it needs to be split and put away for storage. Conveniently, we always keep a sharp axe on hand. The easiest way to split wood is to read each piece individually before you splice it with the axe. Wood naturally dries from the ends first, causing cracks or checks to appear on the surface of each end. When you take a swing with the axe, aim for the areas of wood that are naturally beginning to crack. This chore, which was something I've done since I was a kid, taught me how to read a forest and broaden my knowledge of larger trees. Also, the feeling at the end of the day, when all the wood was gathered, split, and stacked engenders a great personal satisfaction.