A Winter Day At A Bonsai Nursery

Winter Shimpaku In Field

     For a large portion of the bonsai community winter is the slow time of year but around here we’re still just as busy as we are the rest of the year. In this post we’re going to dive into a little bit of what goes on around the nursery day to day over winter months.

Tending Animals

First and foremost, every day starts with coffee, the sweet nectar of the gods that allows us to function before the sun rises. After a cup (or four) we set off to tend the animals. The animals are one of the most important aspects of our nursery’s day to day. They do the work of teams of people and lighten our workload 10-fold but that’s an entire blog entry for another day. There is a lot of feeding, watering, cleaning, and tending to be done every day but the hour or two we put into the animal’s daily turn into 18-20 hours of work we get out of the animals every day. It’s a good return on investment of our time.

Walk The Fields

After tending the animals, we trek through the snow to walk the fields. We’re located in the beautiful country forests of Penobscot County Maine but with the gorgeous location comes the wildlife. Every day we have to inspect to make sure deer, moose, mice, voles, and other critters are not sneaking into our fields and eating our crop of bonsai trees. We grow several different species of material and some of them are almost irresistible to some of the wildlife. Other wildlife we have to keep an eye out for are the coyotes, bears, bobcats, and other predators who would like to make a late-night snack of our animals which would greatly reduce our workforce on the animal side of things. It’s safe to say when we started this venture, we never thought we would have to become experts in identifying wildlife tracks but it has come in handy over the years.

Propagation

Once the animals are tended and fields walked, we move on to the most important part of our winter days which is propagation. Every fall we start tens of thousands of seeds and take thousands of cuttings in our greenhouse which will later become material that goes into our fields. Every tray, every plug, even the greenhouse as a whole is carefully monitored. Temperature, humidity, moisture levels in the soil, and several other variables are tracked, controlled, and adjusted daily. Between watering, rotating trays, checking mother stock, and combing through the past seasons yamadori we usually spend 2-3 hours a day taking care of material every day.

Infrastructure

With any time that’s left in the day we usually spend it working on infrastructure. We’re always expanding our fields which requires a lot of labor putting up fencing, clearing the ground, growing the soil microbiology, etc. We’ve always got structures to build or fix, improvements to the ground and facilities, compost to turn, wood-chips to make, machines to maintain, and any other one of many things that comes up over the week.

Summary

In summary, farming bonsai is more than a full-time job. It’s time consuming and very involved. Every one of our trees get the attention of a newborn baby and when you have thousands of pieces of bonsai material to care for you can quickly find yourself running out of time in the day no matter what season of year it is. 

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