He is LIGHT and LIFE and TRUTH! Look to Him for the ALL the answers. He will guide us, if we'll let Him.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.
Proverbs 3:5-6

Saturday, June 8, 2013

What Does A Christmas Tree Farmer Do When It Isn't Christmastime??

Do you ever wonder what happens to that Christmas tree farmer after all the Christmas rush is over?  

Well, I'm here to tell you that it isn't a life of ease all year until November!  A Christmas tree farmer's life is very labor intensive for most of the year!

In January we are--
1. Cleaning up the farm from the Christmas Season
2. Packing up and storing everything we had in the gift shop
3. Taking down all the Christmas decorations
4. Moving all household items back to the house
5. Clearing stumps from the field where all the trees were cut
6. Making sure all pre-sold trees are marked and logged in spreadsheet
7. Taking down all directional signs/banners in surrounding towns, etc. 
8. Taking soil samples from the field we will be spring planting in.

1. Planting, planting, planting! Click the links to see previous posts about our planting from this year.  Day 1 Day 2 Day 3--in the snow
This year we planted 1250 baby trees.  We put 500 in pots.

2. Tending the potted trees and making sure to keep them free from frost.

3. Fertilizing--we use potash (potassium) and nitrogen mixed together according to what our soil samples say the fields need.

4. The mowing usually begins
 Poppie on the mower

Spring on the tree farm
1. Tending potted trees--we don't have a greenhouse and have to move them out into the sun and then back under the roof when there is risk of frost.  It's a lot of hauling of heavy pots.  My thumbs are usually really sore afterwards!  (I know, I'm wimpy).

 2. Mowing
Poppie--still mowing
3. Weeding around all the trees--a vetch grows up and around our trees after we fertilize each year.  It will kill the tree because it cuts off the sun, its water supply and air.  We sit on the ground and pull it out by hand.  We use some trimmers, too to cut out the thick grass around the base of the tree.
See how it just consumes the whole tree?
 After the worst of the weeding is complete

1. Tending potted trees
Mostly just watering now...and a little weeding out of the oak trees and cedar trees and some weeds that are growing in the pots
2.Checking the pump in the pond
 This was from a couple years ago.  The wire that holds the pump in place had come loose--actually rusted away.  So, David was replacing it all with some type of plastic band.
 The stand on top of the canoe is the thing that holds the pump in the water and helps it float.
Behind the canoe is the pump.  It's back in the water and floating as it should.  Don't you love the beautiful pond water?  Swimming, anyone?

3. Setting out and hooking up all the hoses from the pond to the 1st field. 
 Well, this was just a length of hose laying on the ground after we started laying them out.  I missed the whole pile of hoses!  That would have made a better pic.  Anyway....
4. Getting the 55 gallon drums out of storage. Start carrying them and positioning them in the 1st field we'll water.  It's a strategic dance to make sure you have them spaced correctly to insure the least amount of walking with 2 full gallon jugs of water.
5. Checking all the water jugs to see how they wintered over in our shed. The cold makes the plastic brittle and some will have to be thrown out due to breakage.
 Here they are just out of the shed.  Lovely, huh?  Everyone groans when it's time to water. :0)

We use old milk/vinegar/bleach/laundry detergent jugs.  We open the bags of jugs we've hoarded since last summer and begin to get them ready to use. 
 One of this year's bags
We cut the top off, pierce a small hole with a nail right at the front bottom for the water to drip out at a slow and steady pace. 

6.  Watering the trees.  It takes about 3 hours to fill all of the barrels on that particular field with water from the pond.  Then it takes another 6 hours to water each tree with the jugs.  We place a jug at the base of each tree.   The water slowly drips out onto the tree.  

A field of baby trees right after planting--3 years ago.  Look at Caleb.  Wow, he's grown!

It is a whole family affair! When the jug is empty, Hannah (10) and Caleb (6) gather them up and string them together in groups of 20. 
Hannah was 7 here.
 Then they carry the string of jugs to the next full barrel to be used again.  This is how we water over 1000 trees with only about 300 jugs.  Then we move to the next field.

7. Mowing, mowing and more mowing. 

1. Mowing--Mowing last year took about 20 hours per week.  This year we've added another field with 750 more trees.

2. Watering (depending on the amount of rain we get each week)
Our standard is that if we don't get an inch of rain in 7 days...we water every tree with one gallon of water.

If it rains, we mow
If it doesn't rain, we water

It took us about 30 hours each week to water each tree last year.

3.  Shearing begins on the White Pines. As we shear, we check each tree thoroughly for bag worms and pull them off by hand.  FYI:  these little buggers are gross!  I'll get some pictures this year.  Know you just can't wait to see what they look like.  Most Christmas tree farmers will spray to keep the bagworms off. (just so you know--we do not spray any pesticides on our trees).  Bagworms are bad news because they strip all the needles off the tree, one branch at a time.  It will eventually kill the tree.

1. Shearing ends (there is a 2 week window to shear--we will shear about 3000 trees by hand)
2. Mowing
3. Watering

1. Mowing
2. Watering

1. Fertilize again
2. Shear all the fir and spruce trees (about 1200 trees)
3. Mowing
4. Watering
5. Order our pre-cut Fraser Fir trees for the season

1. Lay out the fields for spring planting
2. Order trees for spring planting in February
3. Soil samples 
4. Begin preparing for the Christmas season

 Continue preparations for opening
We will open the tree farm the weekend before Thanksgiving.  
 We are still working to complete our gift shop.  We only had about 1/3 of it in use last year and hope to have more of it finished for use this year. So, David is spending as much time as he can sanding and polyurethaning wood right now to put on the walls and floors.  Poppie helps with a lot of the gift shop building/finishing, too.
This is my hand washing sink that David designed and built for me
This is the snack area and checkout.  Room in back is kids' craft room.
Pre-cut display area--with my handsome hubby, of course!

Poppie is doing most of the mowing for us right now. David is only having to mow the new field with all the baby trees and doing some of the push mowing.  Nanny Boo Boo has been helping to rid the trees of all the vetch and she also helps with the kids so I can be out in the fields working.  

I'm about to learn how to drive the zero-turn radius 42" mower, so I can do some of the mowing, too.  The tricky part is to make the turns on the rows without nicking a tree.  Hope I do better than I do with the Wal-Mart shopping cart. hehehe!  hmmm...maybe not so funny.  

And, something I forgot to mention in each summer month, much to dear hubby's chagrin, is fixing the mower.  At least once a month he spends a whole day in the shop welding something back together or trading out a new part for the broken one or designing and making a totally new part.  He and Poppie get their heads together and figure something out.  Today it was a busted wire that had to be welded back together and then when he got under the mower discovered the whole engine housing was coming loose--again!  This is a constant issue.  So, he spent the whole morning welding a part to hold the engine in place.  So glad he can do this--it's a blessing they know how to do these things!  Our mower has logged over 500 hours.  We are praying that it will make it through this summer.  We just can't afford a new one right now.  

Our son, Dakota graduated from college and moved out...he was our main mow-er and water-er for the last 4 years.  If it weren't for him, our farm would be a mess today and David never would have gotten so much done on the gift shop!  Boy, do we miss his help!  (but more than that we miss having him at home) :0(   

It takes lots of hands to make this farm successful.  We couldn't have done it this long without Dakota, Orval (aka Poppie), and Esther (aka Nanny Boo Boo)!!

Stay Tuned....we'll be shearing soon and I'll post pics of the bagworms! yay!

This was probably TMI...you could really do without knowing all of this!  But, really now, I know you were wondering!  :0)

Any questions?  Ask away!  I love having comments!

Thanks for stopping by!

I linked up here: Weekend Whatever Link Up


  1. FYI: We are currently talking to people who make their own "stuff"--from soaps, scrubs, lotions, wooden spoons, tree ornaments, Christmas decorations, sewn items of any kind. We are looking for anything that people would buy for Christmas gifts. We are looking for those willing to consign in our gift shop. It's an 80/20 split. If you are interested, please contact me at wildwood 2010 @ yahoo.com
    Thanks, Dawn

  2. Tree farming sounds like a lot of hard work, but I'm sure your children are learning lots of valuable lessons from it! I'm visiting from the Weekend Whatever link-up. :)

  3. Thanks for commenting and visiting stultsmamaof4. Yes, they are learning a lot of valuable lessons! Character building lessons. One being that you work hard together even when you don't want to. :0)


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