THE TREE FARM by Robert Treuer


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About 100 miles south of the Canadian border near Bena, Minnesota (pop. 186), Treuer operates a tree farm, 200 acres of pine and spruce that supply Christmas trees, poles, and similar items. In 1958, after a checkered adolescence and a brief career as a UAW organizer, he settled on this ramshackle farm with his wife, three sons, and a some what amorphous commitment to a more fulfilling life--""a whiff of Walden seemed within my reach."" From the start it was apparent that his small ($2000+) investment would provide an uneven livelihood and take years to mature and, indeed, for household expenses he's had to rely on off-farm jobs. But the benefits go beyond bookkeeping: a yearly retreat to a misshapen jack pine; family picnics with a view of two lakes; the river in winter--""a dark gurgle flowing past icy shores."" They endured hardships (a boy's prize sheep savaged by wild dogs, plantations wiped out by drought) and Treuer still battles those economic elements, fighting against the telephone co-op or opposing the profiteering and ""class war"" that accompanies each wild rice harvest--a grueling business. With his sons grown and gone, the first marriage dissolved, and a second wife and pair of sons to enjoy, Treuer continues to cherish the life he's chosen and to mull over the value questions it raises. A skip-around journal of conscience, soil components, and whist, just right for rugged individualists and their armchair admirers.

Pub Date: May 5th, 1977
Publisher: Little, Brown