Chris and Steve Seets bought a tire swing for their grandson and a farm came with it.
That’s an inside joke the Seetses tell to explain why they bought a place in the country after moving several times to different houses in Abilene.
But once the move was made, the family discovered not only a tire swing, but also a new vocation as owners of a Christmas tree farm, an outgrowth of Chris’ passion for decorating the holiday trees.
On Saturday, Nov. 5, the Seets family will host a grand opening for their new business, Chris’ Tree Lodge, located seven miles north of Abilene. One reason for not including the “s” after the apostrophe is so it looks and sounds like “Christmas Tree Lodge,” Chris explained.
“I just want to have a party,” Chris said, speaking about Saturday’s planned grand opening. “I want people to come out and have a fun time.”
Chris will have a number of decorated trees available for viewing. Visitors will be able to order a live pre-cut Fraser fir tree, handmade fresh green wreaths and swags and can arrange to have her decorate their tree, if they so choose. She’ll also wrap gifts.
People also can enjoy some refreshments while checking out the “lodge,” a space that can serve as a “rustic” venue for family reunions, parties, meetings and other events.
“Chris’ Tree Lodge will have a tree for every reason and every season. It’s not just Christmas trees. If you want to have a birthday party here in July, I’ll make cupcakes, the kids can decorate them and run around and be crazy,” she said with a laugh.
In the future, the farm will include many different varieties of trees. While Christmas pines and firs will be available, there also will be apple, pear, cherry and other trees.
Since the “live” Christmas trees at the farm are less than a year old, they are not available for sale this season. However, visitors can choose a tree for $20 and harvest it in coming years when it’s large enough for their liking.
“The baby trees in the field won’t be ready for six to eight years. They typically grow a foot a year,” Chris said. “But you can pick the tree you want and we’ll put your name on a map, make a little nametag and you can visit your tree every year, watch it grow and have your picture taken with it. When it’s big enough, you can take it home.”
The day after Thanksgiving, on Friday, Nov. 25, Chris’ Tree Lodge will open for the season. Items ordered during the grand opening will be available for pickup at that time.
Love to decorate
The idea for the Christmas tree farm grew from Chris’ love of decorating trees. Over the years as her houses got larger, she started setting up a tree in each room, eventually putting up 14 in 2012, the year her father died.
“Decorating the trees made me feel happy,” she said.
Since the farmhouse is small, Chris planned to use an outbuilding on the farm — a hog shed that had been converted to living space by previous owners — as a place to decorate trees. But one day as she and husband Steve sat on the porch, he pointed to an area on the acreage and said it would be a good place to put trees.
“We called and joined the Kansas Christmas Tree Growers Association (KCTGA) and went to their winter meeting in January,” Chris said. “They are the nicest group of people. They’ve been unbelievably kind and have so many years of experience.”
Mike Kasl of Kasl Christmas Tree Farm in Belleville has been serving as Chris’ mentor, explaining how to get started, where to purchase inventory and even inviting Chris to use his wreath making machine.
While Chris plans to use the machine to make 100 or so wreaths, she also needs it to create one “huge” wreath that will adorn Cedar Crest, the Kansas gubernatorial mansion. She was selected for the honor during the KCTGA summer meeting in June.
“I’ll be going to Topeka to present the wreath on Nov. 14,” Chris said. Joining her during the presentation will be her mother, Cindy Harwood of Abilene, and good friend Marci Lindsey of Topeka. They have worked side-by-side with Chris, working to make the new business a reality.
“I work at Irwin Army Community Hospital in Fort Riley. Some of my military family, the soldiers, have come and helped with the heavy stuff. Everybody’s been very supportive,” Chris said.
Much of the heavy stuff involved demolition and cleaning of the lodge, which was in pretty bad shape. The ceiling was painted, new walls with shiplap were erected and other improvements were made. Still to come is a new bathroom.
Chris recently had a “test” party to see how the facility worked out. “I had 40 people here, my family and my family from work, just to get some feedback from them,” she said.
Chris’ plans for the farm include making it a year-round destination, holding bonfires, building an ice skating rink, holding “decorating” classes and other ideas.
Chris will allow people to “rent” her artificial trees, decorated with the theme of their choice. Some of the themes she’s done in the past include Santa, hunting and fishing, beauty shop (complete with hair curlers), Frozen (the movie), peacock, cardinal, candy cane, K-State, vintage, even a “Metallica” tree named for the heavy metal band.
“Let me know what you want to do and we’ll work it out — your tree or my tree, real or artificial, tall or short,” she said enthusiastically.
If someone is unable to put up and decorate their own tree, Chris will come to their home and do the decorating. “I’ll put it up, take it down and treat all their ornaments with love,” she said.
Speaking about her new venture, Chris says her family thinks she’s crazy.
“But they keep coming around to help,” she said with a laugh. “I’ve heard nothing but positive feedback from everyone I’ve told.”
If you go
What: Grand Opening of Chris’ Tree Lodge, a new business offering fresh cut trees, wreaths, swags, decorating services and a venue for parties and other events.
When: Saturday, Nov. 5, 1 to 4 p.m.
Where: 3081 Hawk Road.
How to get there: The farm is located north of Abilene. Take Kansas Highway 15 north to the Kansas Highway 18 junction, continue north on the gravel road (Hawk Road). The farm is located ¾ of a mile north of the intersection on the west side of the road. If you reach the water tower, you’ve gone too far.
Special attraction: Although the “Christmas trees” planted in the field are too small to harvest, people can choose a tree for $20 and harvest it in coming years when it’s large enough for their liking.
Hours: Chris’ Tree Lodge will open formally for the season Friday, Nov. 25. Hours are noon to 6 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays until Dec. 18.
Phone number: (785) 280-1321.