No Charlie Brown trees here

The giant Christmas tree flickering on Jack Cable's living room television seems unnecessary. Unnecessary because the real thing, an impressive two-metre-tall white spruce, stands directly next to the picture on his television set.

The giant Christmas tree flickering on Jack Cable’s living room television seems unnecessary.

Unnecessary because the real thing, an impressive two-metre-tall white spruce, stands directly next to the picture on his television set.

His tree, expertly trimmed and decorated, is one of the first crop of Christmas trees Cable grew himself.

Look out over his property on Tahkini Hot Springs Road and you see literally thousands of Christmas trees crowding his yard.

There’s Colorado spruce, white spruce, lodgepole pines and alpine fir trees all standing obediently in tight rows.

His tree farm has been 10 years in the making, a hobby that he began working on while he was still the Yukon commissioner.

An avid gardener since the age of eight, Cable has always been interested in growing things, he said.

Next to his home he has a large garden plot where he tends to vegetables and berries in the summer.

A decade ago, he started experimenting by adding pine trees to the mix.

First, he tried plucking seedlings from the side of the highway and replanting them on his land.

That year he didn’t have a well on his property, so he was trucking water in each day and hand-watering all of the trees.

But those trees didn’t survive.

So he began sending away for seeds, just like any vegetable gardener would.

Cable goes to his freezer and pulls out at least five or six varieties of tree seeds stored in large Ziploc bags.

Some look like dark sesame seeds, others, like the alpine fir seeds that are native to the Yukon, look like light brown animal kibble.

He proudly turns the bag of seeds over and explains how difficult the process can be to start pine trees from seed.

“Some of the seeds need to be stratified. You can’t just plant them in the ground otherwise they won’t grow,” he said.

The seeds need moist peat moss, a cool fridge and granite chips to really get going.

Then they bathe in the warm light of Cable’s solarium for a couple months before being planted in the ground.

But they’re not quick growers by any means. By the end of summer, the trees will only sprout 20 centimetres.

And even then, some of the trees will still die off, either from winter kill or from unfortunate run-ins with deer, which, apparently, love them.

Cable now has his tree lot fenced in from the deer. Still, many trees don’t make it.

“I had 300 Scotch pine trees planted. Now there’s only 10 or 15 left,” he said.

“But I haven’t given up on them.”

Scotch pines aren’t native to the Yukon so they are a challenge to grow. But the challenge is worth it, said Cable.

“They’re beautiful, they’re the perfect Christmas tree,” he says with a smile.

Cable has been continuously perfecting his green thumb since he started growing these trees 10 years ago.

“At first, I had to read a lot about it. It took several years to accumulate all this literature,” he said holding onto a bursting, red folder of pamphlets and notes.

“But I had a bit of help from some forestry people along the way.”

He started growing the trees hoping one day they would become a supplement to his income.

Now that he’s retired he has more time to tend to his trees and hopes that he will get to the point where’s selling 200 to 300 trees each year.

Last Saturday was his first major cutting day. Loads of families descended upon his lot to pick out Christmas trees for their homes.

Young children were running between the trees while guys from the Ecumenical Men’s Breakfast Group were busy chopping down pines.

In the end, they cut down 57 trees, the proceeds of which went to support Braeburn Christian Camps.

There are still about 50 trees left to cut in his lot, but he’s already planning for next year’s season.

And with only two other tree farms in the Yukon, he’s bound to grow a healthy market for his trees.

“Our kids have gotten really excited about it,” said Cable’s wife, Faye.

“Usually my son goes out into the forest and drags out a Charlie Brown tree for his family.

So his wife is happy because now they don’t have to.”

Contact Vivian Belik at

vivianb@yukon-news.com

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