Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Life on a Christmas Tree Farm

When we moved here in 1986, I had no idea how living on a Christmas tree farm would change our lives and how we celebrate Christmas.

As I recall, our life was pretty "normal" before we moved. We had lived quite close to civilization and a trip to the grocery store or shopping mall was only a few minutes away. Our son had been born in February of that year, so he was not quite a year old. I was still adjusting to being a mother and suddenly a trip to the grocery store involved logistics I had never dealt with before - forget the mall!

We had moved in the week before Thanksgiving and, as I had for the past few years, I made Thanksgiving dinner for a large bunch including the three of us, my mother and 4 siblings plus spouses and a couple of kids.

At that time, the way the tree farm worked was that customers would come to tag their trees and specify when they would pick them up. My husband would go up early in the day and search through acres of trees to find the ones that were tagged for that weekend, cut them and bring them down to bag and have ready for pick up. As we sat down to eat that year, the doorbell rang. People started arriving to pick up their Christmas trees!

It just went on like that and we thought it was a pretty interesting thing to happen, to move into a new house and have people coming from all over to give you money!

That year my Christmas shopping was done from an LL Bean catalog and a quick trip to a general store nearby. I remember the guys got stuff like mustache wax and key-chain compasses along with hooded sweatshirts. I don't even remember what the women got, but I'm sure their gifts were equally odd and useful!

Really, once Thanksgiving hits, there is no time for shopping, or the leisurely baking and candy making I once felt was a major part of the holidays.

This is our yard during the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Actually, this year, for the first time, we seem to have a system in place for people to find safe places to park their cars... in the past it has been a nightmare and heaven forbid someone decides to bring a trailer along for their tree...

Of course, you probably think our tree would be the most beautiful of the lot. Well, no... Back in the beginning, the selection here wasn't as great as it is now and we usually waited til everything was picked out to cut our own tree.

This is my husband and son choosing our tree last year. You can probably see all the clear area around them from the trees that had already been cut.

We have learned that - for us - a tree with a few holes in it or an odd top can be just as beautiful as the most perfect one as long as the family decorations are finally put on it (which for us usually means a week before Christmas.)

The other thing that has happened is that (I think) our son has really come to like working on the farm over the holidays.

When he was small, he minded us being so busy for that month, even though we still managed to pull it all together on Christmas day, it was stressful for a little guy.

As he got older, he gradually learned how to find his own place in the business and this year, I think for the first time, he is at school and has had to miss one of our busiest weekends. He'll be back this week and while complaining, he'll probably be loving it.

The best part about a Christmas Farm is that our customers are almost always in a wonderful mood. I know I get to wish hundreds of people a Merry Christmas or Happy Holiday during these few weeks.

The things that we may have lost by having a business at this busy time have been replaced with other wonderful traditions. We see customers who have become friends over the years. We see their children returning with their own and enjoy meeting them all... We feel we are surrounded by friends and are a part of their own holiday fun.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Custom Soaps

We do a few custom soaps for people using their materials or their special formulae. It is fun and gives us a little break from our usual "production" work.

Last evening, we made these 6 soaps (for 3 different customers,) the soaps on the top left are actually a replacement for a vanilla batch that seized when I forgot how persnickety vanilla fragrance oil is in soap! The one's directly to the right are the unsaleable ones that we will happily use ourselves, or maybe add to our women's shelter box.
I "posed" them in front of the fireplace in the shop. Usually it is blocked by shelves, but this week, my husband found us some reasonably prices dollies that we put underneath our shelves so that we can change the arrangement any time we like.

The moosehead is something I made from paper mache years ago as a gift for my oldest brother, John. I inherited it back last winter and it has a happy home now over the fireplace - which was built by my next oldest brother, Tom, a number of years ago when he got a "Merry Christmas" brick from a supplier. That brick is the one that is in the center of the arch and was the reason for the whole thing!

If you follow my blog long enough, I suspect you will eventually see the entire shop!