Finally, the spring rains, that feel as though they drag on well into what should be summer have gone away, and the hot sun is drying out the tree fields. It is of course that rain that we complain about so much that gives us our most favorable growing season for trees. For each week we spend complaining about the wet weather, the tree puts on another inch of new growth – growing taller and filling in to make a beautiful Christmas tree for someone’s holiday decorations.
Once the sun blesses the fields with its presence the emphasis of the trees changes from growing to shutting down in preparation for the dry season. This activity usually takes place right around Independence Day, although this year it came a few weeks later. When the trees shut down they turn from the limey-green of new growth to lush dark green and the branches stiffen up replacing the droop of soft new growth with upturned branches.
Now that we have reached the middle of August and harvest is fewer than sixty days away the culturing process is in full swing. The crews are worried about getting all of the trees cultured before harvest begins. Every tree gets touched every year so there are millions of trees to be cared for. Walking through the fields of freshly sheared Douglas fir trees with the wonderful smell and the welcome mat of cuttings on the ground it becomes difficult to remain grounded; the fresh cuttings add to the fragrant air and brings to mind memories of setting up the Christmas tree, even in the August heat. It almost seems crazy, but the thoughts still flow. The sounds of the shearing knives whisking along the edges of the trees perfectly timed is lulling – the chatter, or the occasional singing, of the workers brings a smile to my face.
What I am really walking through is the craftsmanship of a talented group of individuals with 18-inch shearing knives perfecting the look of these trees while providing for their families. It’s a double sense of pride that goes into these trees. I watch as they swing a dozen times on each tree bringing out the taper. “It doesn’t look that difficult,” and “I could do that” runs through my head. Then the opportunity for me to “do that” comes along and good grief! Why is it, when I shear the tree, the top is no longer in the center and the taper isn’t consistent? These guys are more talented than given credit for! Then there are the guys that do one tree right-handed and one tree left-handed all the way down the rows – very impressive to watch.
That carpet of cuttings on the ground will quickly decompose and become nutrition in the soil for the trees to use during future growing seasons. Thus, closing nature’s ever present cycle and sustainability.
The idea of the holidays, family, friends and community that is the Christmas season is nurtured and cared for even after the last bit of wrapping paper has been vacuumed up and Valentine’s Day is highest on everyone’s list, guaranteeing a new crop of beautiful Christmas trees for families everywhere.