The sun is still shining outside and the first winter snow has yet to make an appearance, but at Woodland Christmas Tree Farm, the holiday season is about to begin.
The Lumby farm welcomes families with children of all ages — and their dogs — to select and cut down a tree for Christmas and then get warm around the fire with a cup of hot chocolate.
“ We supply the saws, and hot chocolate,” said Linda McAllister, who runs the farm with her husband, Allen McAllister. “We will cut the trees for people if they don’t want to, but cutting is half the fun!
“We have a flat woodland, where the trees are, so there are no slippery hills to climb. We also have a lovely warming fire, and we will shake your tree for you on our mechanical shaker. We provide hay baling twine so you can tie your tree to the roof of your car, or inside your van or in your large trunk — we will help you load the tree as well.”
About to celebrate their 44th wedding anniversary, the McAllisters never imagined they would be running a Christmas tree farm and it’s been a circuitous and interesting route to their life in rural Lumby.
Allen worked in policing in Vancouver for many years before taking early retirement. Linda was a stay-at-home mom until the couple’s youngest son was in Grade 7. After a successful career in retail, she returned to school and took a phlebotomy course at the age of 41.
“I was in a class with 20-year-olds and I got a 4.0 grade point average and I loved it. I worked at that for awhile and we decided to up root,” she said.
The couple moved to Vernon in 1995 with their two sons, who were then in their teens.
“I had never even been to Vernon,” said Linda. “That first winter it was minus-22, but now I love it here.”
Allen returned to school to study at the Okanagan Valley College of Massage Therapy in Vernon, and when he graduated he and Linda opened their home-based clinic, Kalamalka Therapeutic Massage Centre and Spa, where Allen was booked morning to night.
In 2009, the McAllisters were ready for a new adventure. They sold the business and packed up their things before hitting the road on two motorcycles.
“We rode across Canada for almost five months and in the States — it was a faith journey, and there were times we asked ourselves, ‘what are we doing?’”
Returning to Vernon, they rented a 600-square-foot cabin and pondered their next move. In 2014, they became the proud owners of Woodland Christmas Tree Farm.
“We stumbled across this place — we wanted land and quiet, that was our number-one, and it’s a gorgeous property. We are very blessed.”
Allen is now at Kalamalka Physiotherapy three days a week. And when he’s not working with clients, he’s busy working the farm.
“He loves it, he used to be a sculptor but now he sculpts the land,” said Linda. “We have approximately 3,500 Christmas trees, and yes the wildlife love our farm. We often find a deer or two taking a noon nap in amongst the trees in the summer when the fir trees provide cool shelter. You might be lucky and see one or two squirrels while you are here as well. They love our wooded deciduous forest of birch and aspen that provide lovely shade for our woodland trails.”
Linda said in this age of environmental awareness, choosing a real Christmas tree over an artificial tree is still the environmentally sound choice.
“What could be simpler or more natural? Buying a real Christmas tree is definitely an environmentally sound choice,” she said. “Many young families are attracted to the tradition of celebrating Christmas with a real tree in their home.
“Christmas tree farms stabilize soil, protect water supplies and provide refuge for wildlife while creating scenic green belts. Often, Christmas trees are grown on soils that could not support other crops.”
As well, she said Christmas trees benefit the atmosphere by absorbing carbon dioxide and other gases, emitting fresh oxygen, and helping to prevent the earth-warming greenhouse effect.
“One acre of Christmas trees produces the daily oxygen requirement for 18 people,” said Linda. “And when you are finished with your tree, taking it to a chipping lot recycles your tree and is a lovely way to add mulch to a garden or garden path.”
The farm opens for the season on Saturday and is open daily from 10 a.m. to dusk until Dec. 23 when it will close for the season. Any tree is $40 each, and sizes range from four to 15 feet, with 10 different varieties.
Now the proud grandparents to four grandchildren, Linda and Allen encourage families to make a day of it, by bringing their sleds to enjoy the long, steep sledding hill that opened last year in the 10-acre hay field.
“Some families stayed and played for a few hours, having snow ball fights, and sledding and just enjoying the peace and quiet,” said Linda. “And please feel free to bring your dog off leash if well behaved, on leash if he/she’s a jumper or a happy greeter in respect for all the little kids who come here. We are dog lovers, but know that some people are nervous around dogs.”
Woodland Christmas Tree Farm is located five minutes down Mabel Lake Road, from the village of Lumby. Head east on Highway 6 from Vernon to Lumby, about 25 minutes. Turn left at the four-way stop in Lumby, and keep left, passing J.W. Inglis school around the curve and head three kilometres out onto Mabel Lake Road to 49 Hurt Road. Turn left and watch for the signs — there is plenty of parking off the road.
“We love this time of year, and look forward to it for the other 11 months,” said Linda. “Come and visit us, and get in the Christmas spirit. There is nothing like the smell of a fresh cut tree over the holidays.
“The lovely thing about cutting your own tree is that they last for months in the house. A fresh cut just before putting it in the stand guarantees that your tree will last all through the holidays and well into January/February. All you have to do is keep it well-watered, and don’t let it go dry.”