Christmas time is a special time of the year for many people. At Watts Tree Farm it takes on a whole new meaning. Since we are Christmas tree growers we think about the Christmas season more than most people. It is a real privilege to grow trees for the many families who come to us each year in search of a tree. Each year on Christmas Day, I stop for a few moments to think about the happiness that is taking place, in many homes, around one of our trees.
A lot of thought and care goes into the growing of Christmas trees. Since it takes, on average, about ten years to grow a tree from seedling to a salable tree, I get to spend a long time with my trees. It so hard to imagine that from the day I plant a little seeding that a decade will pass before It will become the centerpiece of someones Christmas. But, time does pass and I am happy that we started on this journey over three decades ago. It’s a small operation for us and I like to refer to it as a “Hobby Business” It’s sort of a hobby but it is also sort of a business as well. Sometime it feels like more than a hobby when I am trying to get everything done through the summer months. Yes Summer! Most of the work takes place in the summer. That’s when the time-consuming job of shearing takes place. Shearing is one of the main tasks in creating the shape and density that most people are looking for.
Enough about the work of preparing the trees and on to the time of year when all of our family comes together to make magical things happen. I do most of the above mentioned labor work by myself. But, when it comes to harvest time, it would be impossible for me to go it alone. The whole family pitches in at this time of the year. We have a choose and cut tree lot so when harvest time rolls around it takes many hands. Even for a small operation like ours it takes a lot of help. The trees are all per-graded and tagged with a colored ribbon that denotes the price. The grading is based on my personal grading system and I very comfortable with it. Prices are based on the quality of the tree and not on its size, although larger trees will tend to get a bit of a price upgrade, due to their extra work both in growing and handling. At Watts Tree Farm we do not turn people loose with saws in hand. In fact we do our best to keep close control over the sawing of trees. We do have some customers who come out early, in November, and per-tag a tree, which they expect will be there when they arrive back in December. Turing people loose with saws in hand is just asking for trouble.
Most of our sales take place on weekends in December. Families arrive and quickly scatter through the two hectare (5 acre) lot in search of the perfect “treasure” that will be the center of the Christmas season for them. We constantly cycle through the lot offering to help, in any way we can, as they look for a perfect, or near perfect, tree. Once they settle on one, then one of our staff (that’s all family here!) cuts the tree and helps to carry it to roadside. It takes a lot of family time to get through these days. It’s always a guess as to which days are going to be the busiest and how many family members will we be needed on any given day. Usually we guess pretty well but not always!
Cutting the tree is only part of the journey and only part of the experience of getting a tree at out tree lot. We do our best to make it an enjoyable experience, from the time folks arrive, until the moment they leave. We pick up most trees in a small trailer that is towed behind our All Terrain Vehicle (ATV). I insist on the trees being carried and not dragged, whenever possible. After all, people spent a lot of time finding this beautiful tree and I want to see it arrive safely at their home in the same condition they saw them in the tree lot. The trailer gets used to carry more than trees some days. Many of the children want to have a ride in back with their tree, as it gets transported from the tree lot to the hub of our activity, “the little green building.” There is almost always enough space at the front of the trailer to do this. More than once, I’ve arrived back at the building with a crew of children singing out “Jingle Bells” to the delight of everyone. Many parents have heard me say over the years ” The Children have almost as much fun as I do!”
We offer to bale the trees, except the largest ones which our baler can not handle, and most people accept this added service. Having the trees baled in netting makes the handing process so much easier for the families. Easier to transport, take into the house and even set up before removing the netting. And far less chance of the tree getting damaged on the trip home.
I have the most amazing family and extended family who pitch in each year. Some are in the above photos and a few others are more camera shy or not around on the days when I was taking photos. I couldn’t do this without them!
I have been thinking about getting out of this “hobby” as I am not getting any younger and the work is pretty hard, especially at harvest time. I was thinking that my children, now adults with families of their own, would have better things to do with their weekends in December. However, they seem to actually enjoy coming out on those weekends. I pay them a fair rate, not a lot but a fair rate, for their work and I suppose like all of us a little extra money at this time of year can come in handy. However, I know they would do it for nothing, just to help out. They convinced me to keep planting and just see how things go. There is a next generation coming along now and maybe, just maybe, they will be able to take over much of this enjoyable work in the future.
Until next time, keep safe and well.
*** Click on any photograph to get a larger image.***