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Life among the trees

Life among the trees

Lines Family Tree Farm continues with generations of help

“A little to the left, no, my left. Now your way. Back a little. Rotate. Perfect!”

These directions are familiar to anyone who has helped put up a Christmas tree.

For most people, the relationship with a Christmas tree begins after picking out the perfect one. However, for Harley and Carole Lines, Christmas trees are a yearround responsibility. As the owners and operators of Lines Tree Farm in Mrble Rock, Harley and Carole toil year-round to nurture trees that will become a family’s living room center piece.

Shipped from Michigan and Minnesota, trees are planted as 10-inch long seedlings, Harvey said.

“It takes at least five years for Scotch pines and white pines and probably eight years for firs (to reach maturity),” Harvey said. During those five to eight years the Lines work to protect the trees so they can someday become someone’s focal Christmas decoration.

“The biggest problem is deer,” Carole said.

“White pine is candy to deer,” Harvey said. He described the way a buck will take its antlers and rub them up and down a young white pine, breaking branches and stripping it of its needles.

Some loss is expected in any occupation relying so heavily on Mother Nature.

“If it doesn’t rain, it gets dry, you lose half of them,” Harvey said. “In a good year you lose about 5 to 10 percent.”

To compensate for the estimated lost trees the Lines try to plant enough trees to meet their annual demand.

“We plant about 500 to 800 every year,” he said. “We got approximately 5,000 trees.”

Not all of the trees the Lines grow are fated to be decked with ornaments and lights, hovering protectively over brightly colored packages. Trees that are passed by year after year eventually grow too tall be considered a practical decoration for inside of a house. These taller trees will find their branches adorning front doors.

“A 10 to 12 foot tree is too big to be a Christmas tree,” Harvey said.

“We get five to six (wreaths) out of that.”

Wreaths are also made out of trees that are not as aesthetically pleasing.

“(If they have) a crooked or a bare spot on them,” Carole said of other prime wreath trees.

The Lines planted their first Christmas trees in 1990 and began selling them in 1995. Shortly after their initial Christmas tree sales, they began making and selling wreaths. At time, Harvey was also working at a grain elevator.

“I’d get off work and make wreaths,” he said.

He has been retired from the elevator for 13 years but jokes he works harder now than he did before.

“We’ve been selling trees for 20 years,” Carole said. “We were going to quit when we were 60 — we’re both 75.”

The Lines credit help from their grandchildren as part of the reason they are able to continue the tree farm despite wanting to have retired 15 years ago.

“The grandchildren come at tree planting time and shearing time,” she said.

“They’ve done it enough years they know (what to do),” Harvey said.

Their family is also helpful when it comes to decorating the wreaths. According to Harvey, their grandsons specialize in making “fancy wreaths.” All types of unique ornaments are added to create a variety of themed wreaths.

No matter the preference — pines, spruce or fir — Lines Tree Farm has a variety of tall, short, thin, fat, pre-cut or cut-your-own trees available. It’s the season to have a home that smells of fresh evergreen.

To prolong the health and vigor — and the wintery fresh smell of Christmas — the Lines recommend watering the tree with hot water.

“Hot as you can get it,” Carole said.

“It loosens the sap and forces the tree to drink,” Harvey said.

Before placing the tree in the stand, be sure there is a fresh level cut made on the bottom of the tree. Once the boughs drop, let the decorating begin!

Source: Iowa State University Extension

By Amie Johansen [email protected]

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