Stump Culture

Stump culture is a very old, very practical way of growing trees. Instead of cutting the tree close to the ground, we cut the tree above several tiers of branches. This keeps the stump alive, and the next year, it puts out lots of sprouts like this:

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By selecting the sprouts we want and cutting the rest, in a few years you get this:

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If you do this for thousands of trees over the course of sixty years, you get this:

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You guessed it: this is coppicing. The nice thing about stump culture/coppicing is that you don’t need to plant any more seedlings, nor do you need to mow between rows. Because they are using an established root system, the trees grow quickly and are less susceptible to drought. If you are really clever, you can leapfrog several trees on one stump, with the next two generations growing in under a tree about ready to cut:

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Trees that get too large are cut down and their branches used to make wreaths. The slash is piled up and allowed to rot down, improving the soil and–along with the undisturbed roots of the massive stumps–checking erosion on what was originally steep, rocky, marginal pasture. Now it is a managed forest, with a maze of paths winding back from the road. Along with the several species of conifers grown as Christmas trees, there are numerous species of understory shrubs and ground plants, making for a wonderful, species-rich habitat.

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This way of growing trees defies mechanization. There is no easy way to use a tractor or mower, nor do we want to. Brushy trails are cleared with loppers and a scythe, and the trees are trimmed with an old scythe blade bolted to the end of an eight foot sapling. Trees are cut with a handsaw (albeit a wicked sharp one). Boughs are cut with a billhook, and when it is time to bring the bales of greens down to the road, that happens on Emmet’s back:

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What we lack in large-scale efficiency, we make up for with almost no overhead costs, which is why we can sell you trees for $25, any size. Which is as it should be– Christmas shouldn’t cost much, and the holidays should be about the time you spend with your family, not the things you buy.