I live among Christmas tree farms.
The trees in our neighborhood are native Douglas Fir trees, and once every year they are “sheared” with machetes, which make a whoosh! sound that is quite distinctive. The workers move over the field, swinging machetes against the trees, slicing smooth all the surfaces to create a perfect cone. (Some farms in other places grow varieties that don’t get sheared, like Noble Fir or White Fir…)
Several times a year the fields by us are sprayed. Usually the sprays are administered by crop-duster planes or helicopters, swooping low. It’s very exciting, like an air show. But often there is a breeze blowing our way, and drift occurs.
Some of the sprays contain herbicide, to kill all grass and weeds in the field. (I keep thinking there must be an alternative. Chickens maybe. Or mowers.)
The drift from herbicide spray sometimes kills leaves on our roses, raspberries, rhubarb, maples…It happens in the spring, when the plants are growing and new and I am so enjoying the gardens.
Of course I can’t know for certain without testing, but the sporadic damage shown in the images (and there were other affected plants) appeared soon after an aerial spraying of the trees.
Once, years ago, we were over-sprayed so severely that we filed a lawsuit.
I think it was someone from the Department of Environmental Quality who came and collected samples from the plants. They determined that the drifted spray material was indeed present, and after about a year we recovered enough to pay our legal costs. But all we wanted was for the over-spray to stop, and that farm owner DID stop doing aerial applications near us. But then the farm sold to a new owner.
The trees are harvested in November, then trucked or otherwise shipped all over the country. Helicopters are used to move huge bundles of them from the field, as shown here. (The bundle of trees is suspended below, at the end of a long rope.) Today the helicopter in the photograph flew most of the afternoon.
Now, to me it seems like you would need to use tape, or maybe glue, to attach Christmas ornaments to the sheared trees. Because of where we live, when we want a Christmas tree we are able find some retired sheep farmer or other guy who has a couple acres of trees he grows for a little holiday money, trees which are not sprayed and not sheared.
We hike around the field with Max and maybe with the farmer’s dog too and Mr. O gets all muddy cutting the tree with a hand-saw, and then we carry it out of the field and take it home in the truck. But I know not everyone can do that.
I tried having a live Christmas tree one year. It grew in a huge pot and after the holiday we planted it outside — and it died. But I know some people who had a live tree every year through all the years of their children growing up. And every year, after the holidays, they planted the trees in their city lot and now they have a beautiful shady urban forest around their house.
I do think a Christmas tree farm sounds fun, like a lollipop bush or a chocolate factory. Happily, there is an increased demand for organically grown trees.
Really I love Christmas and it’s many traditions. Maybe, if I am very very good, Santa will make our neighboring farms go organic.
Or possibly they could grow turnips instead.