“Gifts are like time travel,” I think to myself as I purchase tickets for a spring game to give our nine year old for his January birthday. “Gifts are like time travel,” I remind myself as I pick out the right photo of my dad to adorn my niece’s Christmas ornament. “Gifts are like time travel,” as I pause with understanding.
Blog: Our Whole Whorl
At the risk of being predictable, this fall's blog theme is one of gratitude. You don't have to look far for a door mat or coffee mug that says "Thankful", but I'm not sure gratitude is something that can be overdone. We feel especially and uniquely grateful this fall. First, we are grateful for your patience, understanding, and flexibility as we limit tree sales this year. Grandpa Dan's will be closed to the public for the 2023 Christmas season. Being closed to the public is an unfortunate yet necessary plan. There aren't enough harvestable trees to support our customers, and if we want to be fully open in the near future, we have to limit how many trees we sell for a few years. If we let the current trees grow and continue planting large quantities each spring, we hope we can lift these restrictions soon. My initial instinct is to apologize for the low inventory and off season. But, more than sorry, I'm wholeheartedly grateful for our customers and their support.
This reflection came to me as I was trimming and removing multiple leaders from the trees. For some context, the top point of the tree (where you'd place a star or an angel) is called the leader. Sometimes a tree will develop more than one, and the additional leaders need to be cut down to avoid the appearance and development of split trees. It doesn't look great in your living room, and it doesn't promote even or healthy growth for the tree. This comparison to leaders in general literally hit me on the head as I was trimming. (It's a hazard of the job, being much shorter than many of our trees.) Here's my unpopular opinion: Not every branch (person?) is a leader. At least not always, in all ways. And then perhaps an even less popular opinion: Not every branch (person?) needs to be a leader. I can say this because I am not a typical leader. I say this for those of us who can hold our own, take up space, be ourselves, but not necessarily be described this way. It's an okay and necessary balance. Too many leaders creates too much competition, and not a lot of growth. It made me feel good about where we're at in this journey. It can be just as beautiful and brave to follow and protect the integrity of the tree. I think we're still talking about trees, right?
"We need to take the time to know what somebody can be great at...I remember him saying to me too, you don't have to do as much. Over time you'll start to realize that you carry your history with you...Stop moving, there's power in stillness." - Jake Gyllenhaal in an interview on the Armchair Expert podcast
Okay, I know this winter weather wasn't warm. We, too, put on the layers, froze while we worked, and desperately wanted to go back inside. So, no, typically Wisconsin winters would not be described as warm. But, hear me out. Here I sit, at a snow covered Christmas tree farm, feeling warm. I can't tell if I'm warm from the massive bonfire or the thoughtful support of others. Actually, I'm sure it has to be both.
It dawned on me while I was playing with our son, Danny. He decided to put together a floor puzzle. A puzzle we’ve had longer than we’ve had Danny. I remember making this puzzle together before, and I was about to climb down onto the floor next to him. In the past, we worked side by side to fit the pieces in the right places. This time, though, I stayed put and let him start independently. I witnessed in wonder how he was figuring it out. On his own. It got me thinking, perhaps because I had this newfound free time where I wasn’t crawling around looking for the edge pieces. I sat watching him figure it out on his own. I suddenly wondered, who’s watching us figure "it" out?
This is our last first fall. This is the last time we’ll experience a season for the first time. It’s the last time we’ve done any essential tree farming activity for the first time. Over the last 11 months, we cut, cleared, burned, mulched, planted, transplanted, watered, sheared, and trimmed trees. If I’m honest, I hope a few of those activities were done for the last time. Others we will do on repeat. Most I welcome the opportunity to do again.
Summer is a time of freedom. Less structure, fewer routines. It’s playful, warm, and bright. Our first summer at the farm has been all of these things. Summer has been an exercise in letting go of control and embracing what’s in front of us. There is freedom in going with the flow and letting the day take you wherever it wants. We’ve had to adopt this approach with our trees as well. There’s only so much we can control. The weather, bugs, snakes…they’ve all humbled us.
Our first planting season we ordered 1000 fraser firs, 300 white pines, and 300 black hill spruces. We planted one acre of fraser firs, three rows of white pines lining the entrance and exit of the "T", and three rows of black hill spruces. This year, the best way I describe the experience is planting between. Planting between flag football and birthday parties. Planting between family events and trips. Planting between, quite literally, stumps and growing trees.
Things may look different at the farm, but hopefully they don’t feel different. We hope the upgrades to the shed make you feel warm and welcome. Some necessary, some organizational, some stylish – the shed is on its way be being a more functional space for checking out, entertaining the boys, and storing equipment. While Aimie decorated the office and employee lounge in neutrals, Dan worked hard to paint the interior garage portion John Deere Green with a tractor, Gator, and all the "necessary" implements.
I write best, like most people I assume, when I feel compelled to write. When I feel inspired. It comes in waves in a way that when forced, I’m certain I’ve actually never been very good at it at all. The first entry includes excerpts from our offer letter, which was wholeheartedly inspired. Everything made us feel, made us believe, that this could happen. And when it did, inspiration. But here’s my challenge. What about the overwhelm of inspiration? How do you write about everything? That’s how the first season of tree selling felt. That’s where I feel a little at a loss for words. I’m not sure my words can do this experience justice.
Our adventure with Grandpa Dan’s Christmas Tree Farm began in 2018 with our first visit to cut our Christmas tree. We had recently moved to the area and welcomed our third boy, Danny. After googling close “You Cut” farms, we landed at Grandpa Dan’s.