While planting, digging, dead-heading, plowing and seeding the fields, mowing, etc. all come to a grinding halt come December, there is still plenty to be done in preparation for next season at Horsford Gardens and Nursery. Happily, there is no sense of urgency so everyone is pretty relaxed.
The company cats take their relaxation very seriously and dedicate hours to perfecting it.
Pruning deciduous trees in our fields is a big project. Our ultimate goal is to produce a well-shaped tree with strong leaders and branching that starts at about five feet or more off the ground. This means that when a customer buys it to plant on their property they can plant under it, mow under it, park under it or hang a swing from its branches. Pruning and shaping a tree while it is still young makes for a more attractive tree as it matures.
Some trees may show signs of insect damage, disease or rodent damage, or have weak trunks. They get the saw. There is not a sadder sight or sound to a nurseryman than a saw in the field.
Over the course of a season we accumulate a massive amount of debris. It is all separated into individual piles: compost, recycle and burn. The burn pile can become quite dense. We routinely burn it throughout the season. In February we burn whatever has been piled on since November so we can begin in April anew. This would include trees and evergreens that have been out of the ground for just a little too long as well as trees that have obvious signs of disease or insect damage. Not extra Christmas trees and greens, though. All of that went to a goat farm here in Charlotte. ( Their milk may have a slight balsam flavoring to it for a few weeks.)
We walk the fields often on the lookout for signs of the presence of rodents: rabbits, mice and voles. Rabbits are uninvited pruners, nibbling the tips of shrubs such as lilacs and ilex. Our defense is to spray the area with a non-toxic but foul smelling liquid that will hopefully send them else where for meals.
The destruction happening by voles, moles and mice is impossible to see when the snow is deep. That is because they burrow close to the ground where they have set up residence. But once we experience a thaw, look out, those critters are everywhere. The only defense we have, or rather the only defense we are willing to use, is to protect every crabapple and fruit tree on the property with a plastic tree guard. This $2 item is truly a money saver. To keep the little rodents away from our tasty shrubs would require broadcasting poison and we are not willing to do that. There is too much wildlife on the property. So we just cross our fingers and hope that the coyotes, bobcats and hawks know that this is the place to come for the best winter buffet.
Not everything is all work here during the winter months. Those of us who enjoy it take advantage of the cold snowy weather both here in Vermont and out West. We have lots of skiers, riders, and cross county skiers. Should the ponds, rivers and lake freeze, quite a few of us strap on skates and spend hours bundled up skating up and down rivers and round and round on ponds.