“Can you tell the difference between a balsam and a Fraser?” Steve Moffatt grills his tree hauler, Seth Johnson, a young farmer. “Yep,” replies Seth, who grows beans and wheat, raises beef and horses, and moonlights as a trucker when his growing season stalls. Together they load the culmination of Steve’s decade of labor—planting, fertilizing, weeding, grooming, harvesting, and baling. Now Seth climbs onto his trailer and begins driving in the bed stakes that will gird this precious cargo. Then Steve hands over the first of 500 eight-foot balsams and Fraser firs. Seth lays them in like shingles, butts and tips sheltering each other, protecting each tree’s topmost branch. In the cold, it can snap like glass, and a tree without a tip, as both driver and grower know, is useless. The cold air fills with a balsam perfume as the Christmas tree layers accrue. Finally, Seth stretches his cables and cinches the load. He climbs into his cab, equipped with his CB radio, Thermos, and Santa hat. As Seth’s truck eases onto Wild Branch Road, Steve watches the results of his labor—the forest he began 10 years ago—glide off in a diesel sleigh.
Welcome to the monthly Farmer’s Calendar podcast. These essays come from The Old Farmer’s Almanac annual publication. They are recorded by Julia Shipley, the author and poet. She draws from her life raising animals and vegetables on a small farm in Northern Vermont.