PINECREST TREE FARM, WYMORE, Neb. That’s Gary Trump bopping along on the green tractor, towing a 1,200-gallon water tank, fighting a battle he knows he has lost.
In seven or eight years, he says, yuletide consumers around the Midwest are apt to have trouble finding a certain size of Christmas tree. It will be the kind whose top just reaches the ceiling of most homes, with maybe enough room up there for a star.
Today, that tree is about 2 feet tall and dying on Trump’s farm.
“I've lost every fir I planted this year and last,” he says. “Fourteen straight days of dry, 100-degree weather. What can you do?
“There comes a point, you know, where you just have to give up trying.”
But Trump won't surrender. Not just yet, not even with temperatures well into the 90s, not even when a half-inch overnight constitutes a “good rain,” the first in about weeks.
So he gets on the tractor, and with that water tank, he inches alongside a row of eight yellowing bushes at a time, where he will place eight hoses offering a 15-minute trickle. Then on to the next row of eight.
He has 60 acres to tend. He adds about 5,000 seedlings each spring.
The shoulder-high Canaan firs he planted a few years back now show brownish “sun scald” on the branches facing south, where the sun will not relent. Those trees with only isolated patches of brown can be saved, but if the heat and drought persist, death will envelop a Canaan fir the way rust consumes a tin can.
“Just over that ridge you’ll see about 30 of them all lined up, and there’s no way. Forget it,” he said. “When they’re toast like that, they’re gone. We’ll just have to cut and burn them in the fall and start again.”
The worst of nature’s ways struck the baby White Pines this month. About knee-high, they went from mostly green to the color of a dried kitchen sponge in 10 or 12 days.
Before returning to the green tractor, Trump says he has been running Pinecrest Tree Farm for 18 years, and no other summer comes close to being such a bust.
| Rick Montgomery, email@example.com