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Tree farm offers a chance for owner and customers to get back to nature

November 15, 2005|by TRISH RUDDER

trishr@herald-mail.com

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - Kerry Noon, owner of Sleepy Creek Tree Farm in Morgan County, loves to watch people pick out their Christmas trees. Having a freshly cut tree to celebrate the season brings people joy, she said.

Tucked away in the New Hope Road area in Berkeley Springs, Sleepy Creek Tree Farm has eight acres of Christmas trees growing from seedling size to more than 8 feet tall.

Noon purchased the property in the early 1980s, quit her D.C. microbiologist job in 1993 and moved to the farm. In addition to being a tree farmer, she also established Sleepy Creek Bed & Breakfast on the property.

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Noon grows Norway and blue spruce trees, and white and Scotch pines. She said she likes using Scotch pines for Christmas wreaths.

She also grows the aromatic Concolor fir trees that are still "babies" and not yet for sale, she said.

Visitors can cut down the tree of their choice or Noon will cut it. She sells her trees starting around Thanksgiving week.

She will even bale a cut tree, if necessary, to fit in or on top of a vehicle for transport.

Noon sells about 60 Christmas trees in a season, she said, most of which are 6 feet to 8 feet tall.

She said she has many repeat customers. The weekenders sometimes buy two trees - one for their cabin and one to take back to the city.

On Dec. 2, from 6 to 8 p.m., Noon will present a workshop at the Nature Niche, where she works, on selecting the right Christmas tree and how to make live ornaments.

She will give tips on how to pick out a Christmas tree, offering samples of tree varieties, and what to look for, such as a nice shape and she said.

Noon suggests customers measure the area in which the tree is going to be placed before buying one.

One important way to make a Christmas tree last longer is to keep it watered. Noon said to check it every day "because it drinks when it's thirsty."

"When it drinks, it will take a big drink," and it might be dry if you don't check it every day, she said.

Noon said she plants tree seedlings in April and "sometimes it's too dry, like this year, and for two years it was too wet," she said.

It takes three to four years to establish 8- to 12-inch seedlings if they do well with the right amount of rain, she said.

Her pine trees take six to eight years to reach 6 feet, and the spruce and fir trees take eight to 10 years to reach that size.

"I love watching things grow," she said.

As far as tree farming, she said, "you learn to recognize what you can and can't do - but you can plant next year." Some trees are drought-resistant and some like "wet feet" to survive the challenges of the varieties of nature, she said.

"Just keep planting," Noon said.

The deer feed on the undergrowth, she said. If there are other things for them to eat, the deer will not eat Christmas trees.

She said she learned a lot about tree farming from other farmers after joining the West Virginia Christmas Tree Growers Association and attending its meetings.

Noon said she is happy in Morgan County and is glad she left city life behind. The difference is "the joy of giving is still part of the culture here in Morgan County," she said.

Poet William Wadsworth wrote "Let nature be your teacher," and Noon knows that well.

"The more connected you stay to nature, the more stable you will be in facing all that life throws at you," she said.

For more information, call 304-258-4324.

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