Since starting to write The Family Tree back in 2006, I relied heavily on the Internet and practical experience to write about the tree farm aspects. I’m no stranger to trees and how they grow, and I did try to find sources. I would call and leave a voice message or send an email to various and sundry tree farms to see if I “might ask a few questions” but I never got a response. Until this spring when I decided I was traveling to California to see family and friends, and to Placerville to do some research. The week before I left, I called two tree farms and received positive replies from both – coincidentally the families are related and right next door to one another!
I enjoyed a very nice hour-long conversation with Mike and Phyllis McGee of McGee Christmas Tree Farm – I treated it as though I was going to write a feature article by preparing with a few questions and then just let the information flow. Afterwards, Mike took me on a two-hour tour of the farm — and his knowledge and instinct about trees did flow from him – like sap from a tree!
Stump-culturing, (a practice which will now occur at The Family Tree), involves new trees trained from branches that grow from lowest two whirls of remaining boughs after the Christmas tree is harvested. It is an individualized and time-consuming process, but rather than pulling stumps and planting seedlings, the stumps with their extensive network of roots, provide more nutrients and more protection from pests and disease, so a new tree takes fewer years to grow into a harvestable tree.
It was a beautiful day, and I felt like I had walked onto the stage of my own book… even Mike McGee truly looked like the character of Charles, and the history of their family and Christmas tree farm shared many similarities. Mike literally put words in Charles’s mouth, and Phyllis put ideas into Adele’s head, and I am looking forward to delving full time into The Rowan Tree again!