Archive for December, 2008

New Year’s Eve Post.

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008


DECEMBER 31, 2008

December is winding down with a light snow — for here, that is — three to five inches. It seems like yesterday that I was taking my first picture for my blog,  but a year has passed. And what a year! War, recession, foreclosures, bailouts, record high gas prices, a new president, despair, hope … Mercifully, fuel prices have come down, so I’m able to heat my home this winter after all, even if I’m keeping the thermostat lower than where I feel comfortable to stretch the oil out as long as possible.

A number of my photojournalism friends have gotten laid off from their jobs this year. They now face the struggles and uncertainties that I’ve been enduring for the past few years since my job ended. To all of them, and to anyone out there in cyberspace who chances upon this blog, I wish all the best in the new year. I pray that we can all weather the circumstances that have been thrust upon us. I hope we will all come, eventually, to find that “the future” is something we can anticipate with excitement, rather than terror. Godspeed, everyone.

Scarborough 350: Mary Pearson

Monday, December 8th, 2008


When I stopped at Beech Ridge Christmas Tree Farm in search of winter weather pictures, I made the acquaintance of Mary Pearson, who was shuttling families around the 150 acres on a tractor-pulled wagon. Her parents, Jim and Nancy, bought the property in 1969, but didn’t begin planting trees, balsam fir and blue tip spruce, until 1987. Although Mary is a sergeant with the Scarborough Police Department, where she has worked for more than 20 years, she has been helping out on the farm since she was a kid. She told me that it takes about 10 years to bring a tree to maturity.

I was surprised to learn what a complicated process it is. The trees begin as “plugs” at a year old. They are planted and fertilized, but are transplanted when they are two to four years old. Before replanting, the roots are trimmed to stimulate growth. The trees must be pruned every year to help them grow into a nice shape. Mary says the biggest problem arises when crows land on the trees and break off the fragile top. Upward growth will be stunted unless remaining branches near the top of the tree are bound tightly to the trunk and then pruned to leave one longer, which will grow to become the new leader. (Where else would you put your star or Christmas angel if you didn’t have that slender top piece?)

Mary cheerfully repeated the story of her family’s history on the farm to each group of people she transported out to the field. The story will come to a close eventually. At one time the farm had 25,000 trees growing on it. The number has dwindled to about 12,000 since her parents stopped planting new trees about four years ago. “My folks are in their 70’s now,” she says, “and since it takes 10 years to grow a Christmas tree, they don’t feel they can continue to care for that many trees into their 80’s.”

A little Christmas cheer.

Monday, December 8th, 2008


DECEMBER 7, 2008

We got our first snowfall of the season today — fat, wet flakes that accumulated to about an inch. After I cleared off the driveway, I headed out to look for a good “snow picture.” I cruised past the marsh, which looked as though it had been dusted with powdered sugar, and then turned up Beech Ridge Rd. I’ve driven a short way along this road before, but this time, I wanted to see where it would take me. I came to a four-way stop, and all the cars seemed to be turning in the same direction. I followed in line and soon saw that their destination was a Christmas tree farm. That seemed like a likely spot to photograph, so I pulled into the parking lot.

Families were laughing, smiling, as they headed down the path to search for the perfect tree — everyone in the holiday spirit, no frazzled shoppers, and not a Christmas Grinch in sight. I came across a young couple grinning ear-to-ear, even though they were struggling to tote a 10-foot tree uphill. I learned that this was the first year that Jeannine and Jamie had ever cut a tree of their own. They live in South Portland, but Jeannine, who moved here five years ago, is originally from Germany, and Jamie, who has lived here 11 years, is a native of El Salvador. Very fitting to have an international couple as a symbol of the worldwide holiday of Christmas. God bless us, everyone.