It’s hard work

gloves

These gloves were new, not long ago.

When I am not shooting assignment photography or traveling with A Peace of My Mind’s exhibits, my family grows Christmas trees. We started planting ten years ago and we knew nothing about being tree farmers. Now we know just slightly more than that. Last week we finished our first big harvest and now my gloves look like this.

It’s hard work. But so is life.

Sometimes we forge ahead, with the belief that our dreams will make a difference. In the beginning, those seedlings are so small under the hot summer sun that it seems impossible they will ever take root and flourish…yet mostly, they do.

Sometimes we learn that we are not in control. In dry spells the trees struggle and there is little we can do. Unexpected spring thaws can force the trees to bud out early, only to see the new growth die off with a late frost.

Weeds can grow quickly and overwhelm new seedlings. I remember the first time it happened. I waited too long to mow and the weeds were taller than the trees. I couldn’t see the new seedlings. I stood up on the tractor to get a better view and did my best. Suddenly, it smelled like Christmas and I realized I missed my mark and cut down an entire row of baby trees.

I was frustrated. So we planted more.

We plant mostly Balsam and Frasier fir, and they are resilient…like people. If you neglect the trees for a few years (like we did early on, out of ignorance) the trees start to get unruly. They send out wild sprouts and they grow in unflattering ways. But, when they have been neglected for a while, that’s not the end of the story. The trees can be trimmed back and they will recover, but here’s the thing…it will take extra work. And it will take longer for the tree to mature. Best to give those trees attention and care from a young age…a little bit of love every year…and they will grow up healthy, strong, and beautiful.

When we put the trees in the ground, we are never quite sure how it will go. Some years are better than others. I thought it would take eight years to reach our first big harvest…it turned out to be 10. Every time we think we know what we are doing, it becomes clear to us that we don’t. On the years we avoid a drought, we usually get a flood.

But we keep planting. And we keep learning. And every year we do a little better.

Oh, and there’s this little gem…we never could have done all this on our own. Dozens of friends helped us out through the season this year. They cut. They baled. They hauled. And they loaded. It’s good to realize you need the help of those around you.

It’s slow work. And maybe peace is like that.

Keep planting seeds. Push back the weeds. Pour out all the love and care you can. You won’t see the change from day to day…the timeline is longer than that. But one day, you’ll find you have a forest…and won’t that be grand?

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