DILIGENT RIVER – For many, cutting down a Christmas tree remains an important part of the holiday tradition. For Michael Fuller, his “u-cut” tree lot has become just as much of a seasonal pastime for him.
For 36 years Fuller has offered fir trees from a grove near his Diligent River home. The stumps of those first trees are long gone, but the memories of more than three decades of providing that special tree to a family on the hunt remain strong.
© Andrew Wagstaff - cumberlandnewsnow
Michael Fuller prunes one of the trees on his u-cut Christmas tree lot in Diligent River, where families have been cutting their own tree for more than three decades.
“It’s fun,” he said. “I wouldn’t have kept at it unless I enjoyed it as a seasonal offering. In the spring, it’s just great to get out before the mosquitoes and the bugs and start shearing the trees.”
He may have used the word “shearing,” but what he actually does more of now with his trees is pruning by hand, a lengthier process but one that is starting to yield results after about 4-5 years.
“I used to use a hedge trimmer but they became so uniform and thick, they became so there was no place for ornaments to hang from,” said Fuller. “Not it takes me a bit more time, but I hand-prune, and take out branches so it looks thinner but there is still density to the inner part.”
Fuller took interest in producing Christmas trees on a small scale in 1977, after he had cleared a stand of mature fir trees on his property, and noticed some great young trees sprouting up. He took a two-day course at Nova Scotia Agricultural College on how to manage the trees, and opened up the u-cut. Those who want a tree can visit the lot and tag their tree ahead of time, and then come back at a later date to cut it.
While the basic rules and procedures of managing the lot have stayed the same over the years, the qualities people look for in their trees have not.
“Tasted have changed, and how to service those tastes are a little different now than they were then,” he said. “We’ve gone through a cycle of a lightly sheared tree to a heavily sheared tree, and now it seems to be going back to a more spaced out tree.”
The rise of the plastic tree also changed the marketplace, but then dropped off some, according to Fuller, who said a lot of young families still come to the lot, looking for the experience of cutting their own tree.
Over the years he has watched parents bring their children to the tree lot, and now sees those children growing up and coming back with their own families.
The years have also not come without their mishaps, such as the time he was shearing tree and stepped right into a hornets’ nest. Or the rare occasion where someone tagged a tree, and then someone else came by and tagged the other side of the tree, not seeing it had already been taken.
“Last year, for the first time, someone actually cut someone else’s tree,” he recalled. “I went looking because I was planning to deliver their tree, and I couldn’t find it.”
Meanwhile, another tagged tree remained on the lot that he expected to have been picked up already. Turns out the customers had similar names, and got mixed up over their tags.
Fuller has kept his tree lot small, and has no interest in expanding, or tapping into the export market. But as long as the trees keep growing and the people keep coming back, he’ll keep returning, with pruners in hand.