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December 3, 2015 • Headline News
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Tree tradition
Cutting a live tree builds memories for many

Mary Mattingly

Traditions and memories. That’s what Christmas tree farms sell, but it’s wrapped up in the shape of a six foot tall evergreen! For many, traipsing through fields of evergreens in brisk temperatures in search of the family tree is a favorite Indiana family tradition. One young newlywed couple from Butlerville held hands and were all smiles as they watched their chosen tree netted at a local farm. It was a family tradition they grew up with and one they want to continue.

Connor and Megan MorrisonMARY MATTINGLY PHOTO
Newlyweds Connor and Megan Morrison of Butlerville select an evergreen from the 80 acres of trees at the Bohman Christmas Tree Farm.

This past Thanksgiving weekend was not just the kick-off of the shopping season but also the beginning of the hunt for a perfect live Christmas tree. Ripley County has two local farms, the 50+ year old Sheets Tree Farm in Osgood, and newer to the business, the 7-yea-old Brown-Abplanalp tree farm, off of CR North 450 West, Osgood. And, nearby five miles west of Batesville in Enochsburg, is the Bohman Tree Farm, where people from Ripley County also visit.

Mike Bohman actually learned the trade from Gayle Sheets in the 1960s, and then started his own tree farm that today with 80 acres is one of the biggest in the state. “I remember Mike helping when I was a young boy,” Kebe Sheets recalled. The Sheets family farm is located on North CR 200 East, off of SR 129 near Delaware. Many city and country folks want to keep the holiday real and natural, and live trees help make it so. “You’re liable to find a bird’s nest in one of our trees!” Roger Abplanalp said.

Guests are welcome to trek through their four acres of Scotch pine and fir trees to cut down a tree, or if they prefer, to choose one already cut. A can is left out for payment, just in case the two are not around. But, they usually are, as they take off work during part the month for the business. “How many communities can you do that, just throw a can out,” Abplanalp said. A few regulars will call and trust Brown and Abplanalp to choose a tree for them. But Abplanalp acknowledge a Christmas tree for a home “is really a personal thing.” Most have their own thoughts on what would look good in their home.

The two and their family members also are busy making wreaths out of evergreens. Last year they sold 75 wreaths. People who may be allergic to live trees can get away with wreaths hung outside, Abplanalp commented. The Sheets also make wreaths and garland from the evergreen farm. They’ve got 40 acres of trees, and will sell some 1000 trees before the season ends. Sheets said 2015 was a good growing season. “It was wet when we planted in April, and then dry until June…It’s not been too bad of a season,” he said, adding he planted 4000 trees. It takes six to 10 years for these trees to mature, depending on the type of tree planted. Their most popular one of late has been the Canaan Fir. People will pay more for the fragrant smell and the fact that the needles don’t fall off easily.

Last weekend was a good start for the tree business. “It was fantastic,” Sheets said, despite being a fairly wet weekend. It made for some sloppy tree hunting, but it didn’t keep people away. He and the other tree farmers expect to be busy this weekend too, since the weather forecast looks good. “A little snow would help. It puts people in the mood,” Sheets said.

The following weekend, Dec. 12-13, should also bring out folks, but business will then start to taper off. Sheets said they used to have a few people who wanted a tree on Christmas Eve, and his own family did back then, but these days that is too late for most people. Most seem to want to start the tradition and memory building earlier, and enjoy the decorated tree longer.

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