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« Neglectful Gardening | Main

How we became Christmas Tree Farmers

Everything on the farm is green now, all but purple lavender. Green grass and green weeds grow vigorously. Green leaves unfold furiously from shrubs, trees and green vines twining sky-high up, into the blue. The June sun has been shining brightly and the lushness of new fir needles begins to fill in all the spaces, until we are awash in a sea of green.

Six years ago, when we first made our home in this landscape, it was also sunny, actually hot and quite green. Day after day of that disbelieving summer, my eyes were drawn to the army of Christmas trees marching ever slowly towards December… their needles gradually changing from a bright, soft, droopy green to a dark, hard, woody green that eventually would need to be sheared. In those early days, the trees looked all the same to us. The now so apparent nuances of their differences were then lost to our untrained eyes.

That first summer the trees felt quite far away, like soldiers stationed at a camp that happen to be on our family farm. We sometimes walked the grounds in the evenings and whenever friends came to visit, awed by the magnitude, paying our respects to the evergreen troops though we did not know them yet. We were still very much newcomers, bystanders, strangers in this land. We could not have known then how this place would grow on us, plant love within us and how we too would grow to shape it.

Of course, our story begins well before that first summer. Like many good tales, the seed of this one was planted in the cool, darker days of the preceding winter. It was an introspective season, largely consumed with the then still secret knowledge of first pregnancy. A time to evaluate what matters in this life, what inspires, what is worth working for. We had visited farm plots, our hearts in our hands and our hands reaching for the pen to sign paperwork on a new chapter but never had all of the stars aligned to bring it together, until the only time it truly did, at the end of the Oregon Trail. 

So quietly with new life growing, the world as we knew it swiftly began to change. It first began to change in much the same way that it does for most new parents. My dance studio was reborn a nursery in our Northeast Portland bungalow, hung with the sweetest and tiniest ruffled clothes. There was a packing away of fragile items that occurred over a period of time and eventually an abrupt curtailing of something which most parents and modern folks seriously lack called personal time.

Anxiously, excitedly we had anticipated becoming new parents, a journey which fairly quickly coincided with becoming new farmers. Milestones and good humor along the pregnancy voyage could at times be marked by cutesy, fruit sized references of how large the baby was— from peppercorn to olive, orange to cantaloupe. Though it seems, new life need only reach the size of a tiny apple seed for change to set in.

When the earth had traveled long enough around the sun that deciduous leaves crisped from green to gold and fell in crunchy drifts, our tiny apple seed had indeed swelled. As she grew well beyond cantaloupe size, almost two weeks past due date, it was a time quite literally ripe with anticipation. On a crisp autumn day in October our daughter was born in the City of Roses. She changed everything in every possible way. She inspired a Westward movement and the grandparents came a long way to be near her and stay.

After muddling through months with a newborn, the strength and vulnerability of new motherhood still fresh, deprived of sleep, uncertain we were doing it right, we haphazardly also became greenhorn farmers. We daydreamed about the possibility before parenthood. The beauty of a life close to the land always calling to us, especially in pur beloved, picturesque Oregon.

When our our daughter was 9 months old, with our baby’s grandparents generously partnering to share their life with ours, the farm dream became real. We sold our improved, well-loved starter home in Portland and took the plunge with the promise of everything possible. And just like that we were Christmas tree farmers. An irony that was not lost on us, neither of us being especially fanatical about Christmas at the start. We had to pinch and laugh at ourselves a lot that first year. A new baby and a farm, really…?! The trees all around kept watch. Six tree seasons, much trial, much error, some learning and another baby later we are truly at home here on the farm.

I’ve shoveled my fair share of dirt with a baby strapped to my back and it feels like hitting the jackpot to do this work, manifesting this dream. It is an effort. We are often way behind. There is more to do than we can make time for or pay to get done at this moment and more that we dream than we have been able to actulatize, yet...  but the sunsets and the mossy place had me so very long ago. Our babies who moved and were born here are young children now. There's no looking back.

We’ve been deepening our roots, changing the landscape, planting apple and pear trees, growing and trellising hop vines. We cultivated a garden, constructed a greenhouse, host seasonal yoga classes, raise a flock of chickens and grow flowers, herbs, beauty and a hopefully a wee bit of inspiration. We learn as we go with a compass that draws on the past to inform and point the furture forward for a new emerging generation of farmers.

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