Sunday Sentinel Sunday, November 30, 1997     Page 5

Harvest a holiday memory

Continued from page 3

"The problem with deer seems to effect tree farms more and more every year. Last year a Utica farmer was practically eaten out of business.

"Deer are only interested in Christmas trees when they're starving. That's in January, February and March. But, spruce is very low on their list of things they will eat and blue spruce is practically something they won't touch at all."

The spruce has "nice firm branches and a nice shape. The blue spruce is particularly good if you have small children and cats that like to tangle with the tree, they won't do it" with a (blue) spruce. "Norway spruce is noted for its rich green color and the white spruce is a silvery green-gray and has a very nice shape."

Bob plants the three-year-old seedlings between March and May when rainfall is likely to be plentiful. In 10 to 15 years, the spruces are seven to eight feet tall and ready to harvest.

He figures he dedicates about four full-time weeks a year to this labor of love, planting, mowing, shearing and harvesting. "Shearing has become a must. They won't grow to the shape that the consumer wants without being sheared every year."

He also has to keep a watchful eye out for the pine weevil which lays it's eggs in the top whirl of the tree. The grubs eat the cambium, killing the top and possibly the entire tree if not caught early enough.

Bob got away from dangerous pesticides and handles potential problems by watching for early signs of infesta-

ation and cutting away where the insects are. "If you get it early, there's minimal damage."

An engineer at Rome Laboratory for 26 years, Bob uses this hobby as an escape. But, he admits that his meticulous mind doeg wander into the fields, occasionally. For example, he maps out each tree in the field on paper, keeping track of the planting and harvesting.

This record keeping also helps him monitor any thievery. "It's not a serious problem," Bob said. "I have a little network of people up there. They are very observant."

He's never figured out how much he makes an hour for all his work and dedication. "I'd be afraid to do that. It wouldn't amount to much," he said. But, the intangible benefits of tending his roots are well worth the effort.

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