PLINY, W.Va. (AP) — While there is something magical about choosing the perfect Christmas tree, growing a superb holiday decoration takes dedication.
The owners of Hidden Acres Christmas Tree Farm work throughout the year. Running a tree farm requires planting, trimming, shaping, and protecting the crop from culprits ranging from deer to disease.
It also means mowing between the rows and tidying up in preparation for families soon to arrive at the choose-your-own Christmas tree farm.
"I work all the time," said David Osborne, who runs a paint and body shop during the week and tends the farm as a hobby on weekends.
While the farm requires lots of attention, he can't imagine not continuing the business his parents started in 1968.
Families begin arriving the day after Thanksgiving to harvest the results of his hard work.
"It's nice to hear the kids running through the fields," he said. "You hear them laughing. That's pretty neat."
His parents, Edna and Carl "Sonny" Osborne, started the farm more than four decades ago by planting more than 5,000 Scotch and White Pine trees purchased through the West Virginia Department of Agriculture. They had been married 59 years when Carl died in 2010.
Carl "Sonny" Osborne ran a service station for many years and ran the tree farm as a sideline in order to build a retirement nest egg. Once the initial crop was big enough to cut, the couple sold Christmas trees on a lot in St. Albans near the service station.
When David Osborne was growing up, he helped tend the farm and tree lot.
The tree lot closed in 2010 when his father died and the business now focuses on the families who come to Pliny every year to choose and cut. Some bring along their own saws, but Osborne generally does the cutting with his equipment for customers.
While Osborne, 50, does the outdoor work, his 82-year-old mother takes care of the bookkeeping.
She owns about 48 acres and he has nearly 30 of rolling Mason County land where several fields hold about 15,000 trees, including White Pine, Blue Spruce, Scotch Pine and Norway Spruce. David uses a power trimmer to shape them and his friend, Mary Hill, prunes the tops by hand. Most of the trimming is done in June and July.
It takes six to 10 years for a tree to grow to Christmas decoration potential. New trees are planted every year in late March and early April.
Mowing is an ongoing task and issues with the Gravely tractor have made mowing difficult for a few weeks. Osborne is eager to get the machine back from the repair shop so he can get the farm in shape before Christmas tree seekers begin arriving after Thanksgiving.
"I love mowing," he said. "It's relaxing."
As he works in the solitude of nature, Osborne often sees wildlife including groundhogs, snakes, bears, deer, mice, rabbits, foxes or coyotes. The only critters that annoy him are the ones that munch on his trees.
Artificial trees can't hold a candle to the magic of live ones, he said.
"We get more people every year," he said. "We had 50 to 60 families last year."
Picking a tree is a family tradition for many. But growing them is a hobby for the Osbornes.
"There's not that much money in it," Edna Osborne said.
Trees range in price from $20 to $40 and the farm is open to visitors each Saturday and Sunday beginning the weekend after Thanksgiving and continuing until Christmas. Hours are 10 a.m. to dark.
Hidden Acres Christmas Tree Farm is located at 2102 Mount Union Road in Pliny. For more information, email osbornex...@aol.com or call 304-419-5571 or 304-727-4848.
Information from: Charleston Daily Mail, http://www.dailymail.com