MacLeod’s trees not only green when summer's here, but also winters cold and drear

John Brannen
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MILLSTREAM ROAD – For the last 40 years, the MacLeod family of New Glasgow has been fully aware that Christmas comes but once a year. 

Shirley MacLeod-Rushton stands with one of the hundreds of balsam fir and pine Christmas trees located on MacLeod’s Christmas Tree Farm. JOHN BRANNEN – THE NEWS

It’s why they’ve dedicated themselves to the planting, pruning and cultivation of Christmas trees in Pictou County.

About 100 acres of rolling hills just past Hopewell are peppered with perfectly shaped balsam fir and pine trees of varying shapes and sizes. But Millstream Forest Products – MacLeod’s Christmas Tree U-pick leaves the choice of your tree up to you.

The land is owned and operated by Ruth MacLeod. Her sister-in-law, Shirley MacLeod-Rushton, who now hails from Ontario, has been returning to Nova Scotia to help out with the family business.

“Even my mom, at age 89, came to help out with the operation last weekend,” said MacLeod-Rushton. “We all love to volunteer and pitch in.”

A small operation, which started with her brother and sister-in-law’s first few trees from the lot, has after 40 years become a staple of many Pictou County Christmases.

“The first trees he sold were on our parents’ front lawn on Maple Street in New Glasgow,” said MacLeod-Rushton. “Now, it’s a constant stream of cars on the weekend for people looking to get that special tree.”

She recalled the old days when people would go into the woods in search of a perfect tree. Now, she sees three or four generations of families coming to relive those times.

“Some find their tree in ten minutes or less while others walk around for hours,” MacLeod-Rushton said.

Despite the busyness of the holiday season, she said winter is the most restful time of the year. The preparation and maintenance of a Christmas tree is an all-year task.

“The trees aren’t naturally shaped or as full as ours are,” she said. “Pruning takes place in the summer.”

It takes about eight to 10 years for an average tree to reach eight feet tall. For taller trees it takes even longer.

“We had a man in here last weekend who purchased a 14-foot tree for his home. It’s quite special for him.”

The MacLeods’ trees are known well beyond Pictou County. Trees have been cut and exported to the U.S. for distribution in Massachusetts for several years. Trees have even been sent as far as Puerto Rico and Venezuela.

MacLeod-Rushton confirmed, until recently, at least one made its way to her property in Ontario.

“People should support real Christmas trees because a business like ours employs people and artificial trees aren’t biodegradable like real ones.”

New saplings are planted each year to make up for the trees cut. It’s a good thing, since some families are in for their Christmas trees as early as October.

“This weekend, Dec. 6-7 and the next will be the busiest weekends for trees,” said MacLeod-Rushton. “We’ll still have people in after then though, for wreaths, pine boughs.”

It’s interactions with families who come back year after year, sometimes with new families of their own, that make it all worthwhile.

“Knowing that our tree is in their living room is a really special feeling,” said MacLeod-Rushton. “It’s heart warming.”

The MacLeods’ Christmas Tree Farm is open Thursday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is located at 799 Millstream Rd. near Hopewell. Check out their Facebook page for more info or call 923-2988.

On Twitter: @NGNewsJohn

Geographic location: Pictou County, Hopewell, Ontario Nova Scotia Maple Street New Glasgow U.S. Massachusetts Puerto Rico Venezuela Millstream

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