Stalking the wild Christmas tree

It’s that time of year. Christmas has snuck up on us once again. The pressure to get a tree is Intense. T’was two days before Christmas Eve and time to get a tree. On the farm we go in search of wild trees partly because it is nostalgic, partly because I am cheap. The forest is full of trees, why spend big bucks just to get a perfect one?

Getting a wild tree is stressful especially if it is a hunt by committee. Committee hunting always includes at least one person who is searching for the perfect tree. A perfect tree is symmetrical, thick with branches, evenly distributed in the round. A “You know it when you see it. An HALLELUJAH tree .”

Wild trees are not perfect for a reason. They have not been pruned, pampered and groomed for ten or more years as part of a cash crop deal. They are by nature ugly. It’s probably nature’s way of protecting them from premature harvest by Christmas tree seekers.

Here is my strategy for a successful wild Christmas tree hunt. (Bear in mind I am ultimately responsible for getting the job done because it involves a team of horses and a sled). Wait until the last possible hour to set your plan in motion. That would be approximately 3:15 pm on December 23. It’s takes about twenty minutes to get the horses in the barn and harnessed. That puts you at about 3:40 for hitch to the sled time. Add an additional 5 minutes to find the saw. By this time the approaching dusk is almost noticeable. Load the committee on the sleigh and head out to the woods.

Upon approaching the harvest zone alert everyone to be watching for the perfect tree. The longer the shadows the better. To get things started, say “hey, that looks like a good one” making sure it is a really ugly one. Expect moans and groans. Continue the search, knowing full well the temperature is dropping with the setting sun. Test the mood by pointing at another. If things are on track, they will ask you to stop the horses for a closer look. No, too skinny, too crooked, too few branches. Not too worry, it needs to be a little darker, body parts number.

As the moment of truth nears, individual committee members will begin pointing out candidates. Trees will be rejected, scrutinized by the committee. Remain silent until the right moment. Sooner or later someone will exclaim “That looks like a good one!”. Without hesitation, jump in with “Wow! That is a beautiful one!” even while straining to see it in the diminishing darkness. Quickly toss the lines to the identifier(to keep them occupied while you grab the saw and cut the chosen one off at the stump). Add a little ” boy that is a nice tree” as you toss it in the back. It doesn’t hurt to remind the committee how cold it is getting as you swing the team towards home. Chuckling them into a trot increases the wind chill factor. There is nothing like a shared suffering to cement an agreement on the fact that “we” found the perfect tree.

If properly executed, the plan will carry through the setting up and decorating process. Once decorated and brightly lit, an otherwise “ugly” tree becomes a special tree.

Christmas is about shared memories and love. What’s more special than bringing a less than perfect tree into your home and making it the most special tree in the forest? Christmas is about accepting people and things for what they are. The end justifies the means right?

Merry Christmas 2013

Whisker freezing cold. Perfect

20131223-200426.jpg Lugging the wild beast into the house. Doesn’t hurt to review how cold and successful the hunt was.

All decked out and beautiful! Another wonderful memory.

Bitter bitter cold

The sound snow makes when the temperature drops into the depths of sub zeros, the fresh crispness of the air, the frost crystals on the sheep’s wool, the white vapor from the horse’s breath. Doing chores on mornings like this is special.

Nature has a way of looking after its creatures. The horses increase their hay intake, the pigs burrow into the straw and the sheep look especially comfortable in their woollies.

Being a farmer under these conditions makes one acutely aware of the fragility of life and the heightened responsibilities in making sure everyone is prepared to make it through. The best feeling of relief is seeing the waterers steaming but open and full. The worst is realizing the breaker tripped sometime in the night and everything is frozen solid. Double checking that the frost free hydrant is closed is a good idea. It will be a long time before spring comes if you have to carry water. Been there, done that.

As I pull down some square bales I remember the sweltering hot day I stacked them. Minnesota is truly the land of climate variety.

20131208-102017.jpg Mr. Ed self portrait, a few frosted whiskers.

20131208-102238.jpg Nothing, even cold, seems to damper Winston’s eagerness to help with chores.

20131208-102507.jpg Fonzie and Rosie love romping in the snow.

20131208-102706.jpg Joe and Vinnie digging into a big bale.

20131208-102835.jpg A steamy waterer is a welcome sight on a frigid morning.

20131208-103028.jpg Sheep all warm in their woollies.

20131208-103204.jpg Mick and Bud letting me know they are thinking a sleigh ride would be fun.

20131208-103506.jpg Sweetie covered in frost doesn’t seem to mind the cold as long as there is plenty to eat.

20131208-103729.jpg Sam looks good with a little “frosting” on his mane.

20131208-104023.jpg Casualty of the cold, a frozen, cracked egg. Sorry Miss Chicken, I’ll make sure to pick eggs at noon next time.

Horse drawn rides

We are offering horse drawn wagon rides on our public days included with regular admission. About 20 minutes long, a little bumpy but really fun. Today we saw four deer on the hay field.

20131018-195453.jpg Bud and Mick, shown on the grain drill, did the honors today.

Directions to the Farm

It’s pretty easy to get to Mr. Ed’s Farm. From Hibbing. Take Highway 37 east to Highway 5 South. Go South on 5 three miles and turn right (West) on Foss Road. For GPS enter 10796 Foss Road Hibbing 55746

School groups

Mr Ed’s farm is now taking bookings for school groups. Home school, Preschool and old students welcome. Call 218-966-1354 for available dates.


Oh what a grand day

The much anticipated grand opening has come and gone. Thanks to many friends, family and volunteers many children and parents enjoyed a memorable day on the farm. Mrs Ed and I are so grateful to so many people including those who took time out of their busy schedules to visit. The positive feedback is inspirational. Need a good nights sleep, then beginning to plan forward.

20130907-210550.jpg The threshing machine operated by a vintage Farmall Super M performed flawlessly.

20130907-210837.jpg Bringing a team into a Threshing machine operating at full speed can be tense. Sam and Sue must have remembered their summer on an Amish farm. No problem thanks to teamster Duane Barrow.

Smells of summer

Duane and I tried out the New Idea hay loader today. Sam and Sue performed magnificently. The second crop hay smelled heavenly. One more day to the grand opening. Tomorrow we pick up the rye bundles.


A few details about the Grand Opening

Hours are from 10 to 4 on Saturday September 7th. The farm yard will feature the animals, the Snoop House a child’s giant play house, a MooTell full of fun and a field full of draft horses at work.

Parking will be in the field across the road. Tractor drawn people movers will be running to give visitors a ride between the sites. Field demonstrations will feature the horses performing a variety of farm work. Plowing, disking and seeding will be done in the morning. The haying and threshing demonstrations will be done in the afternoon.

Admission is $5 per person. Children 3 and under are free.

20130904-070037.jpg Setting up and testing our the Case threshing Machine.

20130904-070542.jpg The MooTell construction crew posing at the end of a big job.

Grand opening just around the corner

These days are filled with tension and excitement as the Grand Opening Day approaches. The Big day is this Saturday, September 7th. Yesterday we got the threshing machine ready. Today we are putting the final touches on the MooTell, the Snoop House and the Welcome Center. Need to work in a little grass cutting in somewhere. Duane is tuning up horses and getting equipment ready.

20130904-064311.jpg cutting the rye for the threshing demonstration