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Pining for Christmas ... Nicola Ruddenklau and Juno with a young tree, ready and waiting to be picked. PHOTO: ASHLEY SMYTH

Selling pick-your-own Christmas trees is becoming a growth industry in North Otago.

Five Forks farmers Nicola and Greg Ruddenklau have been growing pine trees (pinus radiata) on a block for about eight years, and for the past three the block has been open to the public as Golden Gully Farming Christmas Trees.

Mrs Ruddenklau spent a year in the United States and Canada when she was younger, and loved the tradition there of going out as a family and picking the tree.

“There probably wasn’t much option around here for that.

“For Christmas, we were always getting a tree off the side of the road, or cutting a branch off one of the pine trees in the tree lane.

“So I was like, actually, let’s … put the trees in, a couple of hundred every year, and then so people can come, and pick a Christmas tree and take it away.”

She hoped Golden Gully would provide the start of a tradition for North Otago families at Christmas time.

“We’ve got people, this is their third year doing it – they bring the kids, or it’s the grandparents that bring the grandkids out and pick it.”

Last year they sold about 120 trees, she said.

The selection was not as plentiful this year, due to the “dry and windy” weather the past two years.

“We’ve got to just rely on Mother Nature .. so some of them haven’t grown, and not all of them succeed, so we’ve decided this year, we’ve got a limited number of good quality trees, and we thought, to be fair, we’ll just open it up first to people who’ve purchased before, and then probably the last week before Christmas, we’ll open it up to the wider public.”

It never rains but it pours, however, and over the past few weeks the amount of rain had been a mixed blessing.

“We’ve had so much moisture, it’s been great, because it’s growing the trees, but it’s a bit of a curse because it’s a clay track to get there, and quite slippery, so we’ve been ferrying people up.”

It was the distinctive smell of pine that was the selling point for a real Christmas tree over a fake one, Mrs Ruddenklau said.

“That’s the one thing .. the smell of Christmas.”

The Christmas tree farm was open on Thursdays from 4pm to 7pm and then at the weekends from 11am to 4pm. Trees could be delivered on Saturdays within the Oamaru town boundary.

Call or message 027 295-4930 to arrange a visit or drop-off.