For many of you, this 1989 Newark Star-Ledger photo of father and son in a field of Scotch pine was your first glimpse of the Rosemont Tree Farm. It's been whispered that the father seems amazingly unweathered by the 15 years that have passed since that cold December morning. As for the son, however, the spinning wheel of time has worked its unstoppable magic, transforming the toboggan-hatted tree farm taste-tester of hot chocolate and candy canes into the young man who this August packed his bags, called out a cheery "Adios," and jauntily headed off to join his big sister in that grand adventure known as "college." It is perhaps understandable that thoughts here in Rosemont have therefore been reflective of late about the changes in life: the happy and the sad, and even those undeniably exciting ones that can nonetheless leave a parent feeling wistful and oddly ambivalent.
But here we are once again turning toward the winter solstice, and we're comforted in the thought that with it comes the season for those things that will never change. It'll be Christmas, and we'll be embraced by the joyful memories of such a special time in our lives. Maybe too much food and drink? Certainly, sparkly lights that will brighten a long night, the smell of fresh-cut pine, heart-felt greetings, inspiring carols, hidden secrets in shiny paper, the shouts of excited children. Most important of all, whether it's just for an evening meal or for an entire school winter break, we'll share those unchanging joys of this time of year with those we love.
So, a reminder that, once again the Rosemont Tree Farm is ready for all who would like to share some fresh air and a ramble through a field of trees with friends and family. Saws are sharpened; hot chocolate and candy canes stockpiled. The tree farm mobile is charged and ready for those not up to walking. Six-inch "candle wreaths" will be available along with our old favorite 16" variety. Young nieces and nephews are eager to step into the boots of those hot-shot college kids, waiting to help you with that perfect tree.
Perhaps before you head out to field, we'll pause to look at each other for a moment to marvel how, in this life of constant change, we find ourselves remarkably unscathed by the past year. And, if talk turns to a sharing of the rewards and trials of parent and grandparenthood, you can be sure that the knowing nods of agreement come from someone who has learned in the last few months just what it's all about.
Sweep oars have replaced bow saws as tree farm graduates take to the banks of the ol' Raritan. R U, Rah, Rah! R U, Rah, Rah!
2004 Annual Greeting.
Fifteen Years And Counting
The Rosemont Memory Farm
I have a very distinct memory of my first visit to a tree farm. Must have been 4 or 5 and, while I don't have a clue as to what kind of tree we got (that could be it in the photo), I can still remember very clearly a field of trees that seemed to go on forever, and that the tree farmer was apparently not big on mowing since I can also picture myself wading through chest-high grass. Anyway, I'm wandering around (I'd like to think it was in search for the perfect tree, but I think I was just wandering), when all of a sudden I realize I'd lost track of my father. I call out and get no reply. I turn to holler in the other direction, and just at that moment I hear a terrifying war whoop as an Iroquois brave leaps from the tall grass, racing toward me, a spiked war club held high above his head. Anybody else seeing this might have said that it was only my father pretending to be an indian, but I know an Iroquois brave when I see one. I turn and start running down the hill (like, you're going to run uphill from an indian?). It's just amazing the little things you can remember from even so long ago. The unseasonable warmth of the sun on my face. The swish of the tall grass as my short legs churned as fast as they could. And, most vividly of all, I can remember just the sheer terror that swept through me as I imagined myself the hapless settler who, in just a few more steps, would be brought down by one thunk of that war club, and watch as, with one final whoop, my scalp is lifted skyward as an offering to the Great Scalp God.
Yeah, not one of your classic Christmas (or politically correct) stories, but it's a nice memory of me and my dad that was tickled back into consciousness as I was working on the trees one hot day this past summer. Many years ago, when I first started planting trees in Rosemont, and my kids were still the proverbial glint in their mother's eyes, I thought that tree farming was just about trees. Plant them. Grow them. Come and get 'em. But then, in the years after the farm was opened for harvesting in 1989, I started to come to the understanding that there might be something else going on that wasn't just about trees. Oh, sure, a tree farm needs well-tended trees, and you certainly value the chance to get a tree fresh from the field, but the laughter and shouts and squeals that I heard out in the field during Christmas tree season hinted that my customers were returning to the shed with more than the perfect tree. Could it be that the trees are just the prop for the harvesting of something else, something that will last for years to come, only to reappear in memory when you least expect it? Would it perhaps be more appropriate to start calling this place the "Rosemont Memory Farm"?
"May memory restore again and again the smallest color of the smallest day." Delmore Schwartz
Well, the name (for now) remains unchanged, but the Rosemont Tree Farm will once again be open Thanksgiving Friday to provide you with your Christmas tree and memory needs. Everything is pretty much as you may remember. Hot chocolate. Candy cane tree. An eclectic assortment of music sounding from the shed's speakers. Trees are still $35 & $45, and wreaths (while they last) are $10 & $20.
As for the memories that you and your family will take home? No charge.
2005 Annual Greeting
2008 Annual Greeting
Tree Farm Magic
Every family has its own particular Christmas traditions, and one of the traditions at the Rosemont Tree Farm on Christmas Eve day is to take a tour of the field to round up missing saws and carts, retrieve an assortment of mittens, scarves and hats, and just to check to make sure that nobody took home a tree but left a kid behind. Hey, you never know. It's also the time to take stock of the state of the remaining trees and, I've got to admit it, at the end of the last few seasons things have looked pretty sad. Demand for trees has been very strong, and every tree with any quality ended up being harvested, leaving a sorry-looking collection of scrawy, short and defect-ridden trees that even Charlie Brown would find unacceptable. "Doesnt' look like there's a tree more than 6' tall. Oy! There's no way that these will be Christmas-worthy trees next year. We'll just have to close for a year and hope that something will become available after a couple of years of growth."
With the arrival of April's warm sun, it's time to forget the dispair about the ruined tree farm and to get busy with the planting of the seedlings that (it is hoped) will become Christmas trees in 8 to 10 years. And, as I'm focused on spring tasks, I really don't take much note of the new growth that is emerging from the buds of last winter's scrawny, leftover trees. Even so, it doesn't make them look any better since now, instead of being scrawny, they've gone to being shaggy and scrawny with all of those limp and droopy new twigs. Well, whoop dee doo.
Except for a change in the things-to-do list, that's pretty much the way it is until well into the summer. Time to do this and time to do that, and what's the point when the labor's just going into producing short, scrawny trees? But then it happens. You'd think I've have figured it out by now, and that I'd stop being surprised, but there always comes a mid-summer morning when I walk out in the field and discover that something magical has occurred. Sometime overnight those scrawny, 5' and 6' trees that you wouldn't use as a chimney brush have turned into 7', 8', 9' and even 10' Christmas trees!
You probably don't believe me, so all I can do is invite you to check out what I can only call "tree farm magic." Just don't wait too long since, while the magic is pretty strong, it doesn't replace the trees that will be harvested in the weeks after Thanksgiving. But, if you'd like to show up Christmas Eve day, you can take a walk in the field with me and once again lament that there won't be any trees next year.
2009 Annual Greeting
Most people have a passing knowledge of the history of the Christmas tree. At the very least, they know that it had become a common holiday feature in Germany by the 1500s. That homesick Hessian soldiers fighting with the British in the Revolutionary War supposedly decorated evergreen trees at Christmas. And that the tradition gained its greatest popularity the instant that England’s Queen Victoria and her German husband, Prince Albert (long before they put him in a can) brought a Christmas tree into the family digs.
You certainly recognize that the Christmas tree is now the decorative holiday centerpiece in the U.S. and throughout Europe, but what you might not appreciate is how different the ideal of the "perfect tree" is from one side of the Atlantic to the other. In the U.S., the "industry standard" is a very full and dense tree that requires careful annual shaping by the tree farmer (Yes, Virginia, trees don’t grow that way naturally). You shouldn’t be able to see the tree’s center stem, and any tree that you can see straight through is dismissed as being "scraggly." And, while you’re at it, the tree must be full, but make sure it has lots of room for the ornaments. A pretty good trick, eh? Required time from the planting of the seedling to the harvest of an 8’ U.S. Christmas tree? About 8 to 10 years.
Now, the Europeans just don’t get this "full tree" thing at all, and they (somewhat derisively) refer to the U.S. standard as a "Donald Duck" tree, a reference to the type of tree that Donald Duck harvested in a 1949 Disney cartoon (click here for video). For them, the "perfect" tree needs to be very open with a wide scaffolding of branches because on Christmas Eve the family has to gather and sing carols around a Christmas tree adorned with (yikes!) lighted candles. This is a particularly nice tradition for the tree farmer since these open-grown trees don’t need the shearing that would otherwise hold back growth, and you’re also ready for harvest in only 4 to 5 years.
suitable for lighted candles, but we’ve been pleased with the variations in style that have been added to the field overall. For those of you with the special, heirloom ornaments that need to be properly displayed, the more open branch spacing might be just what you’re looking for.
During the last few years the annual shaping of the trees at the Rosemont Tree Farm has included thoughts of the European style of tree, and we’ve been doing a bit of experimenting here and there with a "looser" type of shearing. We don’t think we'll ever have trees that are
So, whether you’d like to try out some "European styling" this year, or just want to stay with the good ol’ US of A, "Donald Duck"-type of tree, we’ve got about 1,000, 5’-12’ trees of varying shapes and densities ready for your inspection this year. Since we don't want to exclude anyone from the "Donald Duck" or "European" tree argument, the Tree Farm Mobile will be ready to carry any family member who might have trouble getting around. And, if energies start to flag, the candy cane tree and the hot chocolate will be ready to give your blood sugar a boost. Before you leave you can even pick out one of our "Donald Duck" wreaths.
Rain or shine, we'll be here Thursdays through Sundays from Thanksgiving until Christmas.
Bis später !
Eine tannenbaum mit raum für zierrat? Ja! Wir haben sie.