When my dad was very young, he had a dream. His dream was to own a Christmas Tree Farm, and when he turned 22, he made his dream happen. Everyone thought he was crazy, but he bought 204 acres of land that he felt was perfect for the farm he had always dreamed of. The only thing that wasn't perfect about this piece of land was that it was 6 hours away. He didn't really mind. He would drive up on Friday nights and return on Sunday evenings. He was determined to make it work. He built a house on the land and planted trees. He began selling them at the convenience store he owned in Wilmington, and later on, when he sold the convenience store, he found a lot that he would sell on every December. My dad loved the farm, and he loved selling Christmas Trees. He loved talking to people when they would come to buy from him and he loved that he had return customers year after year. He was very proud of his trees. He put time and effort in to every tree and he was proud of the fact that he raised them.
The farm was a part of my life from the moment I was born. In fact, my dad set my sister and I to work in the fields as soon as we were old enough to work. :) I can remember tagging small trees in the rows so my dad didn't mow over them. There are many pictures of my sister and I trimming the smaller trees as well. We loved going to the farm. Our favorite trips up were the ones when we left at midnight. My parents would come in and wake us up and let us pile in to the car in our jammies. My sister and I felt so special riding up in our jammies. We would stop along the side of the road and sleep when my dad got tired and we would typically stop at Mister Donut in the morning for donut holes and a restroom break. We thought we were so cool going inside in our jammies.
The farm was a place where we would explore. We loved the old railroad beds that were filled with rocks and would play with slugs and snails. We would collect monarchs in September, we would wait on him in November when he would be cutting the trees to bring down and we would wander the fields in the summer. We looked forward to our time up there. It instilled in me a work ethic, and truly a love of selling trees. December was a time we would go to the lot and visit our dad, and spend hours at the lot with him. It was long hours for him. But we loved it. :)
When we got older, long trips in the car were not as fun. And we got busier with our lives. When I skated, I stopped going up so much. I could no longer spend two weeks up at the farm in the summer or wanted to spend 12 hours in the car after a week of training. And I must admit I got lazy. But there were times my dad was able to convince me to go up, and we would spend the weekend together. I still loved the farm- I was just being a teenager and was more worried about my life. I always hoped that one day when my dad decided he had had enough, that I would be able to run the farm myself.
My dad saw the farm through a lot. He realized his dream of owning cattle. He cried when the house caught fire and most of it was destroyed. He was determined to rebuild everything and make the farm what he wanted it to be. He knew it could be a very successful venture, and he planned to move up there full time once he retired. And when he retired, he started going up to the farm even more frequently. But he had only been retired three months before his diagnosis.
When my dad got sick, he had to decide what to do with the farm. He was surprised for some reason when I told him that I would be devastated if he decided to sell it. I wanted it more then anything. And my sister said the same thing. I will admit that that surprised me a bit. Even though she loved to be up there, my sister was not as outdoorsy as I was. She didn't really care as much for manual labor. And that was a difference between the two of us. In the end though, my dad decided to leave the farm to both of us. I knew it would be a lot of work, but I was up for it.
For the past 4 years, the farm was a huge part of my life. I did four tree seasons. Each was successful. I began to make the farm my second home. I started fixing up the house. I left some of my animals up there in care of our manager. I bought my first ever horses and was so excited they were there. It was a place I would go to escape. A place where I felt my happiest. A place where I felt so close to my dad. I saw him in every little thing at the farm. Each of the trees, in every field. Riding on the equipment and working the fields. He was there. I was walking in the places he walked. It might sound weird, but it made me feel better to be there. I would spend every summer there and work hard to get things where they needed to be. For 5 weeks, from the day after Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve, I would be in Delaware selling trees. I knew holding a job in Ohio I couldn't fully commit myself to the farm, but I planned to make my life there once I was more established and had the farm generating more income.
There were a lot of things working against me from the moment we took over the farm. My sister eventually lost interest and didn't want to keep running it. My family didn't believe in me. And, the farm was actually put in a trust to be distributed when I get older...my dad thought this was the right thing (it was not...I would never suggest doing this...). Well, to make a long story short, the bank that holds the trust did not want to keep a property. They have fought me tooth and nail. Eventually they pushed and withheld funds enough that I was forced to agree that we would sell the property.
This was a very hard decision for me. It meant giving up something I felt I was destined to do. I loved every aspect of the tree business. I really loved running the business and selling trees to customers my dad had been selling to for over 30 years. It continues to hurt when I think about not being able to go up there anymore... B was influential in my decision to sell. I knew he wouldn't be happy with me leaving for 5 weeks in December to sell trees in Delaware. I committed to being with him in Ohio and we decided to start a life on a farm in Ohio. Traveling 8 hours to a farm every month would not be something that excited him.
Well...believe it or not, when I finally said I would sell, the rest of my family freaked out. They didn't think the farm would ever be out of the family. Regardless of whether they wanted the responsibility of taking care of it. I guess they thought I wouldn't sell. Kind of hard not to when everyone is doing what they can to prohibit you from succeeding though...and somehow I always knew they never really wanted it sold...they just didn't want to be the ones to care for it. My sister especially became upset when I said I was going to sell...and eventually we decided that we would keep the house and 10 acres and sell the rest. And right now, we are currently in the process of finding a buyer and getting our stuff from there. Or more, I am trying to get my stuff. And my animals...which I have worried about for months since our farm manager had to find another job...one that took him out of state for most of the month, and the animals were pretty much left on their own in the pasture.
B and I made a trip up to the farm Thursday night. 8 hours. We slept in the truck when we arrived...got about 4 hours sleep, woke up, ate breakfast, and got to work. 3 hours later we had packed up more of the tools I had up there and loaded up the three remaining animals I had up there...my horses. We then drove 8 hours back. 16 hours of driving in 28 hours. We were tired and exhausted, but I can't even tell you how much better I feel knowing that my animals are finally home with me, and I know they are being taken care of the best they can be.
Going up to the farm was hard for me. Seeing the trees no longer trimmed. Knowing that this year, for the first time in close to 40 years, those trees will not be sold in Delaware. That people are planning on me being there to sell those trees...trees they love to buy because they knew my dad, and they knew we cut them fresh. Also, seeing that the house isn't in very good shape because people broke in...seeing that they also broke in to my camper and have been using it to party. It hurts me and is very hard. B doesn't understand. He feels the farm is just a place that will be a burden for us. I've tried to explain my connection to the place. That it is the last piece I have of my dad...that it was the one thing I did that I felt truly good at and successful doing. It is hard to let go. Maybe one day I'll get there...I'm not sure.
I'll share pictures and more later. But that is where I've been the last two days...