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Diary of Steve Bartels -Bartels Christmas Trees & Treasures Week 3- April 11-17

Published Apr. 19, 2011 | Discuss this article on Facebook
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Bartel's Christmas Trees & Treasures-Steve, Judy & Brian Bartels

Monday April 11   

There are many old sayings, and many come from farmers’ observation of the weather. One of my favorites is “ If it rains on Monday it will rain three days that week”. If you look at this from just the percentages, you might want to bet on it. Since it rained on the first day of the week, it only needs to rain two more days of the six following days to win. If you live in Ohio in April, put down your money, it’s a sure thing. It happened last week, rain Monday up until after mid night, carrying over into early Tuesday. Then it rained again Saturday. See if it happens this week?We are somewhat concerned about the trees with the soil so full of water. In the ideal world for a plant, 50 percent of the tiny pore spacers in the soil are filled with air and 50 percent are filled with water. When you get as much rain as we have received, the pore space is filled with water. It’s like over watering a houseplant. The roots “drown” from too much water. All conifer trees suffer if their roots are in water for more than 48 hours. Some Christmas tree growers, with poorly drained soils, build ridges that are about 12 inches tall and plant their trees on the ridges. When excess rain falls, it goes through the ridge into the trench along side the tree. We believe the texture and the structure of the soil, where our trees are planted, are such that the water will be able to get away from the roots of the tree, in all but the most extreme conditions. Trees that will be planted on our farm in the future will not have it so good. We will need to lay drain tiles 30 feet apart in many of our future fields to drain the water away.Because of the rain it was again a pretty slow day. I worked for the crop insurance company a couple of hours. I also packaged up the soil samples to be sent to Michigan State for analysis. Last week’s diary didn’t get sent in until Monday evening.Another, old saying, to watch to see if it comes true this year. If it rains on Easter Sunday it will rain on the next six Sundays. With Easter late this year, I sure hope it does not rain on Easter.

uesday April 12   

It is too wet and windy again today for us to work on the Christmas trees. Looks like Thursday might be the day. I drove to UPS in Hamilton to send the soil samples to “that state up north”. When I got back I worked on an old fruit sprayer we haven’t used in years. There might be more work there than it is worth. I worked for three hours for the insurance company. I cut a little grass, after it dried from the morning rain. Oh yea, that’s two days of rain this week! I finished by doing what many of us do in the spring, farmer or not, cleaned up the flower beds a bit. I watched the market go down 36 cents a bushel for soybeans and corn go down 20.6 cents a bushel. Hopefully I can watch them go back up a little tomorrow.

Wednesday April 13    

What a beautiful day! We finished cleaning the flowerbeds today. It took a lot longer than I had planned. Does that happen to you? Both Judy and I, many times, have unrealistic expectations when it comes to how long a project will take. We also cleaned out roof gutters. That is such an important part of building maintenance. It is a task I do not do as often as I should. We will need to clean more another day. Tomorrow it looks like the first day of spring when we actually will get to work with our trees.

Thursday April 14   

Mother nature sure did cooperate with us today: little wind, no rain and only a few clouds in the sky. The rows for our Christmas trees are 2.5 feet wide. They are to be kept free of grass and weeds for several years so the young trees can get well established. We use herbicides to get this job done. We leave five foot of grass undisturbed between the rows. This helps prevent erosion. It also gives our customers plenty of room to wonder through the trees when they select their tree. Grass and weeds compete with the young seedling for moisture in July and August when we irrigate. They also compete for sunlight and plant nutrients with the trees. It took most of the day, but we put down our barrier to prevent as much competition as possible.Did you know that the number one pollutant of streams, rivers and lakes is soil that has been washed away from our land? Take a closer look at the Great Miami River, as an example, after a rain event like we had Monday. The soil actually makes it look muddy and brown. That is why many, many farmers have adopted no-till-farming practices. Tillage exposes the soil to rains erosive action. Many of the fields on our farm have been designated Highly Erodeable Lands by the Department of Natural Resources, because of the slope of the land and to the soil types. That is why we can not plow out the weeds and grass, it would lead to excessive erosion. We use no till exclusively, most years, on all our cropland, including our Christmas trees.

Friday April 15    

Traditional tax day, why did they give us till the 18th this year? I really doubt there will be fewer people who ask for extensions. If you are like me, I’d rather get it done and over with. We had hoped the soil might be dry enough to plant a few trees today, but there was no way. We could have made some real nice mud pies though. I went to Hamilton for annual lab work. The doctor sure likes them to pull a lot of blood. Every year, after fasting for this “test”, I treat myself to a big high cholesterol breakfast. When I returned home, I didn’t do much till noon. I think I was kind of worn out from eating all that food. In the afternoon I went to the farm and cut grass in the Christmas tress. In the evening Judy and I went to Reily Township Volunteer Fire Department’s Annual Fish Fry. We have a great time at this every year, seeing friends and catching up on what is happening on that side of the county. There is always a long line, but it moves quickly. Mark the Friday before Good Friday on your calendar for next year.

Saturday April 16    

It rained overnight and into this morning. See what did I tell you? The long-term observations of farmers are many times correct. Another example of “rain on Monday rain three days a week”. We have had over 5 inches in April and we are barely past the middle of the month. Today was a slow one in terms of work at the farm. We spent the morning working around the house. This afternoon we attended a memorial service for a friend at church. It was a great service with many of the contemporary praise leaders taking part. It began at 3:00 PM and ended about 4:00 PM. We have a wonderful tradition of serving a meal after any funeral. I took pictures of some of our trees that I have attached. I hope you can see how much the trees grow in the second and third years in our fields. Also for a few of the largest trees the pruning and shaping of the trees begins. This is the most labor-intensive part of growing Christmas trees. From the third or fourth year until you sell the trees, they must be pruned to get that full, thick, filled in look we all want of our perfect tree. This is all hand labor. This next summer Brian may will be pruning between 1000 and 2000 trees and in 2018, maybe as many as 8000 trees in one season.

Sunday April 17   

The normal Sunday routine, up in time to be at church by 8:00 AM: Sunday School, Church,  Fellowship reception, then on to Eaton.  It was such a nice evening, I cut some more grass in the planting. Talk to you next week.  

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