It used to be that most customers sorted through lots of Noble Fir trees until they found one they like. Today, although Nobles are still the most popular, other varieties make tree shopping more fun and challenging. Shadle has Fraser, Alpine and Douglas firs all in various shapes, heights and symmetry. Needles hang down, point up, wrap around and seemingly weep. Grand firs have a fragrant smell, strong enough, Shadle says, that its very pleasant smell can be detected when you open the front door no matter where the tree is located in the house. So-called Charlie Brown trees are gaining in popularity because of the large spaces between branches that allow for the more exotic, large and even animated ornaments that are hard to place on bushy Nobles.
Nor are trees necessarily green, although most are. Shadle's crews flock and paint trees in a variety of colors to meet customer requests. There are pink trees in princess decor for little girls, red and blue trees, white trees, and new on Shadle's lot are black trees for Oakland Raider fans who can decorate them with silver balls to have next to their TV sets in their dens.
To customers who hesitate to see a tree cut down for their brief holiday enjoyment, Shadle says every farmed tree he sells actually allows him to plant two to three new trees in that space. By cutting down a seven-year-old fir (the age of most marketed Christmas trees), there's more room and oxygen in the space it occupied. Every state grows Christmas trees and the business -- from planting, farming, trimming, harvesting and selling -- provides 100,000 jobs, according to Shadle. Plus, it's an American-owned and operated industry.
Shadle buys his trees from nurseries after they've been nurtured inside for two years and outside for another year. Those have passed the survivability test. He tells customers never to buy trees only grown in a nursery. They won't last through Christmas. Once planted, he and his crew "culture" the trees as they're growing, trimming them with thin-bladed machetes at least once a year so that the trees "bush out" and continue growing in the shape we like to see in our homes. When they reach seven feet, it's harvest time, although some firs, such as the Charlie Browns on Shadle's lot, are 26 feet tall, ideal for homes with atriums and businesses.
When he's not cultivating or selling Christmas trees, Shadle makes his living fishing in the Bering Sea and as a cattleman in Utah. He has high praise for the folks from Pleasanton and the Tri-Valley he's seeing on his tree lot for the first time this year, although he's not quite used to the freeways. They don't have any in Homer, which is an artsy community of artists and craftsmen, oil workers, fisherman and a few with dreadlocks located about four hours southwest of Anchorage.
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