the third life of an abandoned tree field

Our farm predominately survived the Holiday Tree Farm Fire in Oregon, here’s what happens next

Last June we made a post, The Second Life of an Abandoned Tree Field, telling you about a project we had been undertaking to turn an abandoned tree field into a supply of specialty trees and wreath materials. Never could we have predicted what fate had in store for that field.

In 2017 when Mark Rohlfs first decided to tackle the field we call Old Fern Flat he looked at an overgrown tree field and saw potential. Those trees turned into one of our most popular trees, Natural Style Noble Fir. Looking at this picture from a customer, it’s easy to see why they were so coveted. A lot of space, sturdy, and majestic, the popularity of these trees grew every year. At Santa & Sons here in Oregon we were putting a lot of work into cleaning up these trees, getting ready to have an ample supply of them at our Van Nuys lot. Nevertheless, 2020 of course, had other plans.

  • Burnt timber stands in a toasted landscape
  • Burnt brush and Christmas Trees with mountains in the background.
  • A cat prepping burned Christmas Tree fields for replanting.

Mid September came and forest fires ripped though most of Oregon and the rest of the West Coast. Including the areas directly surrounding out fields. While we are very lucky with how little we lost in the fires, the biggest loss of trees we suffered was in the fields dubbed, Old and New Fern Flats. Old Fern, home of the Natural Noble Firs and adjacent to New Fern, an acreage we had just freshly planted. Thousands of seedlings, hundreds of man hours, all gone in a matter of days. Once we were able to safely get back into our fields, there was only one thing to do, begin the process of starting over.

Clearing fields of burnt timbers was at the top of the list. We brought in large equipment and spent a week clearing the larger timbers and then turning the soil of these fields, prepping them for replanting.

Three people work in a dirt and grass field, planting seedlings. Majestic mountains and trees in the background.
A small patch of field with burnt trees in the background and burnt seedlings in the foreground.

Our field crew planting seedlings

Burnt remains of the 2020 seedlings

With the field prep done for 2020 it was back to getting ready for California and getting what beautiful trees we had left, into your homes. A whirlwind of a season (it’s own post to come soon), a brief rest and we’re back at it in the fields. While most of the country was experiencing sever weather, record cold, ice, and snow in many places; our crew is hard at work getting THOUSANDS of seedlings into the ground.
Lucky for our field crew, we were able to get the ground turned before the frosts came, helping, ever so slightly to ease the laborious work of planting.

The work is just beginning once we get the all of this years seedlings in the ground. One of the most vital steps in making sure these seedlings make it to maturity is getting bud caps on all of them. Take a look at our post from last year, Spring time on a tree farm. Follow that up with, pruning, weeding, shearing, and watering if we’re in a drought year. Most people think our work is done once Christmas is over, but it’s just the beginning of a different type of work. With our crew in the fields every week, it really is a year round job for us.

Here you can watch Mark planting out in the field this spring, 1 down only 21,999 to go! The remnants of burnt trees he’s laying around the seedling, those will provide a bit of extra shade for the young trees tender roots.

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