They continue to attract the same families year after year. So they keep the gates opened on their farm, even though they're in their 70s.
Inside a garage on the property Friday Raymond happily welcomed back people by name and asked others if they wanted to sign a guest book on the cashier's desk. Jeanette Ayres of Snohomish flipped back page after page of the book until she found her signature she penned during her first visit to the farm.
The date next to her name was Dec. 3, 1994.
"Now my grandkids are here," Ayres said. "My daughter and her husband are out looking for a tree. It's a family affair."
Business was slow in 1994, Raymond remembered. That was the first year she and Rousseau, 78, were able to sell trees on their six-acre lot. Back then the farm was open seven days a week. They sold 150 trees and it felt lonely, Raymond said.
"We only had three people a day so it wasn't worth turning on the pot of coffee or burning the firewood," she said.
The couple two years later decided to open just four days and sold 400 trees. They've been able to consistently sell between 300 and 350 trees planted every year since then. They work to plant, shear and fertilize the trees on four acres of their property on their own schedule when the farm isn't open.
Find your tree
Click here for our list of Christmas tree farms open for the season.
A friend, Darwin Armit, 77, builds wreaths sold at the farm and helps direct parking. This year, they were open the Friday and weekend after Thanksgiving and plan to open again on Saturday.
Being open just four days of the year fits them, Raymond said.
"We're comfortable with what we are and we're able to pay the state some sales tax," she said.
It's also not about competing with other Christmas tree farms in the area, Raymond added. It's about having fun and giving their new and returning customers and their families a place to experience cutting down their own Christmas tree.
Rousseau said he and Raymond spent six months looking for a piece of property before they bought the farm two dozen years ago. Neither was looking to start a tree farm but after three months of ownership they both liked the idea of clearing some of the big trees on the site to plant Christmas trees.
The couple planted 3,000 trees in 1988. She retired from her job as an elementary teacher and he retired from his job as a supervisor for King County Solid Waste in 1990. They spent their time raising the trees until they were big enough to sell. They offered those who were looking for a tree a choice between Douglas, grand and noble firs until about 1998 when they stopped planting Douglas firs and a fungus forced them to stop growing the grand firs.
Now Raymond and Rousseau worry that an unknown fungus will force them to stop growing their noble fir trees. The diseased trees started dropping needles three years ago. Even with treatment their most popular trees aren't showing signs of improvement, Raymond said.
"We're getting worried about it hitting other farms so we have to do what we can," she said. "We're not hopeful that the nobles are coming back."
The couple is hopeful that they'll keep the farm open and continue to sell Fraser and Nordmann fir trees next year.
"We'll see what we have for trees," Rousseau said. "One day we're going to give it up but I don't know when."
Another season at the Tree Patch would help Haley Angell of Lake Stevens and her family keep their holiday tradition. Her children enjoy walking along a short Troll Trail at the farm that features stairs with small cars and other items embedded into them, a "Hemlock Grotto" of painted rocks, and carved wooden deer. A nook with a stuffed Santa and a small desk supplied with paper is at the end of the trail for children to write letters to the North Pole.
Her family also likes sitting near an outdoor fireplace at the farm even when they don't find a tree they want to take home, Angell said.
"We come here every year," she said. "We always sit here and warm up and have hot cocoa. A lot of people seem to know about (the farm.)"
Amy Daybert: 425-339-3491; email@example.com.
Saturday last day
The Tree Patch is open one more day this season, on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 5029 Robe Menzel Road in Granite Falls.
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