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Women and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea.
Robert A. Heinlein

The Yearly Cycle

Late March, early April

_March 17th. Pond day! The culvert under the lease road has been running for four days, and the pond has filled up. It used to fill up overnight, but the pasture now soaks up snow melt and takes days to a week. It's not officially pond day until it goes over the spillway. _

_Today, I start taking willow and poplar cuttings. Bundles of 3-4 foot cuttings then bury them in the snow on the north side of the garage until ready to strike them. _

When snow starts getting soft, it's time to make poplar and willow cuttings. While poplar and willow can be rooted throughout the first half of summer, success rate is much higher with cuttings taken early, and struck as soon as you can move dirt. It takes 4 months to turn a cutting into a salable plant. If you start in late June, they aren't ready until late June the following year. Start them in early spring, and they are ready for fall. This is one of the tasks that can be done now, freeing up time in May.

*April, after snow melt. *

April 20th. Heavy frost again last night, but most of the snow is gone. A slow walk through the tree yard shows that Mrs. Moose has been through, pruning. I lost the top foot of most of the 2 gallon birch, but they will recover just fine. Doesn't look like much winter damage -- but it's too soon to tell until they leaf out, but the tips are springy, not brittle. They haven't died.

The dirt pile is thawed enough that I can start filling pots for cuttings and seedlings. Too cold right now, but after lunch. It takes twice as long now, but two hours now means one hour less work in the busy season. Normally I do this in the fall, but snow came in mid October this year.

This season is often called, "Mud." Catch up on the cleanup you missed last fall. Set up the irrigation system, as soon as we start getting frostless nights, and highs in the teens. Fill pots. Jeffries Order (ornamental trees and fruit trees mostly) arrives at the end of April. Bare root trees are heeled in in clumps in large pots. Start fertilizing with slow release.

May

May 10. The poplars are mostly in leaf now, except the Hill Poplars. They run two weeks late. And the oaks are always slow in spring. Grass is long enough that I need to think about mowing. Maybe try the new kid on the mower.

_The Jeffries shipment arrived last week. What a zoo! We had 8 people this year to help unload. Chili and beer/wine after, and 15/hour credit toward any tree on the place. Only took an hour and a half to unload a semi-trailer. Anyway, we're still sorting it out. _

_The potting crew is working on the one gallon pots today -- mostly saskatoons, grapes, and goji berries. _

Triage winter injury. Potting up bare root material. Sales and packaging and shipping. Yearling trees in plugs come in from Boreal, PRT, Linnaea. Laura is answering the phone, running into town several times a week to either pick up trees or drop off trees at the bus depot.

During this time I often have 2-4 school kids working from 3:30 to 6:00. The better ones will be kept after school is done. I have to work with them. Many have no work ethic at all. Pay min. wage until the end of school. When they can work on their own reliably, give them a 2/hour raise.

June

June 12. More rain today. June is usually rainy. We get a third of our annual precipitation in June most years. Gives me a bit of a break from the weed, water, sell cycle. Tomorrow we have a return customer coming down from Grand Prairie. Wants another 150 golden willow.

The last of the seedlings were done this week, either shipped off to their new homes, or safely ensconced into pots here.

I'll spend today and probably the rest of the week fertilizing. That's easy to do in the rain, and the even distribution of the water will soak it in.

More sales. More potting. First big weeding push. Enjoy rainy days. It's a chance to catch up on phone calls, possibly grab a nap.

You will get a raft of job applicants when school ends. I prefer the farm kids, and the ones from Olds college. Give others a try, but tell them that it's a one week trial. By the end of the month it should be a routine of weeding, transplanting, watering. You no longer have to be in three places at once.

*July *

J_uly 20. Hot today. Supposed to get up to 30. Started the water cycle at 6:00. Visited all the timers and reset them up by about 20% -- the downside of growing trees in containers, is they have only a limited amount of soil to store water. _

No transplanting today. Too hot, too much stress on the trees. More weeding. Will have the kids right behind the sprinklers -- weeding what was watered two hours ago. Makes the weeds easier. This afternoon we'll all walk the driplines, checking for clogged drippers. Often end up getting soaked, which isn't bad on a hot afternoon.

Start of transplant season. With warmer weather more frequent checks of water state. Watering can go 24 hours a day in hot spells. (Over 30 C) More weeding.

*August *

August 15. Taking my nephew and two of the high school students who work here to the mountains for the week. The hort student from Olds is in charge of keeping everything wet. She has a project in the display gardens to work on too. Laura will handle any sales that come up, but August is generally pretty slow.

Take a deep breath. Sales drop off a lot. Weeds slow down. All that has to be done is watering. This is also a good time for consulting, for workshops.

September

September 12. The labour day rush is over. We've started the transplants on the the leftover Jeffries trees, but will leave 3-4 of each for now. Sales have another few weeks yet.

We haven't had any frost yet, let alone a killing one. The poplar are starting to turn, and of course the ash are bright yellow. They are always quick in fall.

Transplants continue, now the leftover stock from bigger pots. Decide on orders for next year. Try recruiting a few after school kids. The local school is semestered, so some of the seniors are free after lunch.

October

October 19. We ended up selling a few of the freshly transplanted Norkents. I charged the old price. They weren't any bigger, after all. But I asked them to bring the grow bag back.

Started the expansion in Finlandia. Got 12 of the 20 posts needed to anchor the ends of the irrigation system in place. It will take a couple years to fill it, but this gives us capacity for another 3000 growbags.

We've had our killing frost. The Sugar Maples are spectacular this year. And yesterday we had a skein of trumpeter swans go overhead.

In the woods today: Found an interesting plant like a raspberry, but much heavier canes, and practically thornless. Wonder if it's a thornless blackberry? Will have to pot one up in spring and see what it does in sunlight.

Clear decks for spring. Bunch plants together for better protection. Put up snow fence for sensitive trees. Final watering as needed. Shut down irrigation system. Maintenance on anything with a motor or gears. Fill pots. _ _

November

November 15. Snow is on the ground now to stay. The White Witch of the North has come for her annual visit. I really understand why northern peoples without central heating are so often sun worshipers. Started cutting firewood yesterday. I'll work on it a few afternoons a week from now until Christmas. Cut and stack for now. Start moving it when the ground is frozen enough that the tractor's weight won't compact the soil.

Firewood. Looking at catalogs. Running my fall pre-order a campaign. Work on web page.

December

December 10. The phone keeps ringing. "Can we come and cut a Christmas Tree?" "Sorry, no," and I recommend a couple other farms.

Firewood still takes my afternoons on nice days. Mornings I've been working on the web page, and finalizing my Jefferies order. One of my suppliers said they won't have scots pine seedlings this year. Spend three hours phoning around to find 300 scots pine seedlings.

More of the round of learning, selling, web page writing, planning.

January

January 8th. Opened a lot of kijiji ads today. Went to each one, and checked that the landing pages for the ads worked. The wood shed is full now. Remaining cut and split wood will be stacked under spruce trees, to start the filling next year.

Email picks up after Christmas.  Probably spend 10 hours a week on email and the phone. Hopefully the firewood is all in the shed now.  I have often done a reno project during January and February, getting my exercise inside instead of outside.

February

_February 21. Read an interesting article from the FAO on breeding poplar. Wonder if it applies to other trees. _

The days are getting noticeably longer. The sun has a bit of strength in it, and you really notice it when moving from sun to shade. Today on my rounds I found porcupine tracks. Went back to the house, got the .303, and tracked him to where he was perched in a tree. A .303 is a bit overkill. Practically turned him inside out, but better than a .22 which has to be exactly right for a quick kill.

Check the pre-orders. Look for trends. Update quantities for spring delivery.

_March 10. The earth is warming. Despite the snow, everything smells wet. Creek isn't running yet, but any day now. _

Typical Pine

Lodgepole Pine in our front yard.



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Sherwood's Forests is located about 75 km southwest of Edmonton, Alberta. Please refer to the map on our Contact page for directions.