Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Annual Loading of the (Trees for Troops) Trees is a Festive Affair at The Rocks Estate

Snowflakes drifted earthward Monday morning as students from Bethlehem Elementary School arrived at The Rocks Estate for the annual loading of the trees, part of the local effort to provide farm-grown Christmas trees to U.S. military personnel around the world.

With 584 Christmas trees stacked in long rows before them, the school’s fifth graders got to work,
occasionally breaking into spontaneous caroling. Each tree had to be tagged and loaded into two FedEx trailers waiting to carry them to Fort Gordon in Georgia. It’s all part of the national Trees for Troops program, which delivers Christmas trees to military families throughout the United States and abroad.

The Rocks has participated in Trees for Troops each year since its inception in 2005, and BES students have been an integral part of the local effort since 2006. The trees piled at The Rocks Monday morning came from 20 Christmas tree growers throughout New Hampshire and Vermont – and will carry the sweet fir scent and the spirit of the holidays to military personnel and their families who often spend the holidays far from home.

BES students begin working on their annual Trees for Troops effort in the fall, contacting area businesses to solicit donations – between $1,000 and $2,500 each year – keeping track of funds
raised, sending thank you letters to contributors, and writing out a tag for each tree. The tags include holiday messages, the name of the donor or farm for each tree, and often a student-drawn holiday picture.

“This is something the kids look forward to. It really matters to them,” said BES teacher Sue Greenlaw, who helps orchestrate the effort. “I’m always amazed at the level of enthusiasm and the work ethic that comes through when we’re loading the trees.”

Helping load trees Monday were BES Principal Shelli Roberts and Superintendent of Schools Pierre Couture, as well as members of the North Country Chapter of the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association and a contingent from Mountain Star Farms.

Since its inception in 2005, Trees for Troops has delivered more than 176,000 Christmas trees to over 65 military bases. FedEx is a vital partner in the program and has donated well over 653,400 miles to deliver the trees. This year Trees for Troops expects to donate and deliver 21,000 trees from 450 farms in 25 states.

To learn more about Trees for Troops, visit the Christmas Spirit Foundation’s website. To see the 5th graders in action, check out this WMUR clip from Monday.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Non-profit Elves Share Holiday Spirit at The Rocks Estate

At The Rocks Estate, spreading holiday cheer is a community effort. To help make sure the season is jolly, The Rocks partners with local non-profit organizations, who provide a bit of elf help at the farm. This year, Second Chance Animal Rescue, Adaptive Sports Partners of the North Country, and members of the student council from Daisy Bronson Middle School will send elves to help Christmas tree seekers at The Rocks.

Students from nearby Littleton and Lisbon high schools will be on hand at The Rocks November 25th, 26th, and 27th on behalf of Second Chance Animal Rescue (SCAR) to help customers select and load Christmas trees. SCAR is a volunteer-run, no-kill shelter that rescues homeless cats, orchestrates adoptions, and offers affordable spay and neuter clinics monthly and vaccination clinics twice annually.

“Our shelter is always full, and we always have a waiting list of cats that need shelter and medical care,” said Jackie Allison, SCAR president. “Whatever funds we make during our weekend at The Rocks will be used for feeding and caring for these animals.” 

Daisy Bronson Middle School’s student council members will take over elfing duties the weekend of December 3rd and 4th.

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Adaptive Sports Partners of the North Country will also return to The Rocks this year, offering food concessions each weekend of the season. ASPNC offers a variety of activities to area residents throughout the year, from gardening and mountain biking during the summer and year-round swimming and climbing programs to sled hockey and Nordic and alpine skiing during the winter months.

ASPNC will be selling chowder, chili, hot dogs, chips, Clementines, baked goods, bottled water, hot chocolate, coffee and tea. All proceeds will go directly to offsetting the costs of ASPNC’s programs.

The Rocks itself is owned by another non-profit: the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. So all proceeds from Christmas tree, wreath, and gift sales go toward land conservation and education in New Hampshire.

The holiday spirit is strong at The Rocks, and our volunteer elves make sure good cheer is spread far and wide!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Tree Maze Opens at The Rocks Estate

Tree maze at The Rocks.
Corn mazes have become an autumn tradition in New England. Now Christmas tree shoppers can join in the a-MAZE-ing fun at The Rocks, where a new tree maze meanders through the fields of firs.

The tree maze is one of myriad activities holiday shoppers will find at The Rocks when the farm opens for the season this Saturday, November 19th. 

Looking for the right way...
“There are certain things our regular customers expect when they visit the farm, like our horse-drawn carriage rides and the fire pit for roasting marshmallows,” said longtime Rocks Estate Director Nigel Manley. “But they always want to know what’s different, too. We try to add something new each year to make everyone’s experience here exciting and memorable.”

Aimed toward younger children, the mini labyrinth is marked with fencing and leads wanderers through the fragrant trees. A wrong turn will lead to a dead end, and the signs don’t always point maze explorers in the right direction.

But once kids find their way through, it’s a good bet they’ll want to run back in and do the maze again.

The Rocks will be open daily (closed Thanksgiving Day) from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. from Saturday through Christmas Eve for cut-your-own Christmas trees (or pick one from the lot), shopping in the two gift shops, and other holiday festivities.

(To read more about our giving-made-easy mail order program, check out this Blog post from October.)
We hope to see you on Christmas Lane this season!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The Rocks Marketplace: Boyd & Doyle

Historical artifacts have long intrigued Ken Chester. As a teenager, he collected antique bottles. As an adult he turned to a larger hobby – restoring old houses. Ken and his wife (and business partner) Heidi now live in a late 19th century farm house in Lancaster, which is the fourth old house Ken has worked to refurbish. The former horse barn on the property serves as the hub for Boyd & Doyle, the company Ken started in 1996 and which he and Heidi now run together.

Boyd & Doyle is a merging of the old and the new and comprises three brands: The Bottle Wick, White Gate Glass (with pieces hand painted by Heidi) and Hancock Iron Works, which includes a wide array of items, from coat hooks to candle holders to wind chimes.

We talked with Ken about what inspires his work. Here’s what he had to say…

Many Boyd & Doyle items seem to be grounded in nature. Do you find inspiration in the outdoors?
Heidi and I love nature and have always spent time in the outdoors. We are most often outside gardening on our property, hiking and cycling in the mountains of New Hampshire, or escaping to the Maine coast.

Where else do you find ideas for your work?
The main driver is what our customers need and want. We often have customers looking for a certain design, and we create an item to fill that need. We ask customers for direction, then we look for ideas either out in the field through antique items or from friends who have been great for suggesting designs.

What’s your favorite item from your catalog?
I like The Bottle Wick, which was my first item for Boyd & Doyle. It allows you to transform a nice bottle – which would otherwise sit on a shelf collecting dust – into a candle. We have three 19th century bottles with Wicks on our dining room table.

What do you like best about your work?
During the last 18 years, we’ve had so many calls from people telling us how much they like what we do. It makes us happy when a person sends pictures of our products in their homes. You know they love it if they go to that kind of trouble just to say thanks.

The Candle Wick and several Hancock Iron Works items are included in the fine selection of home goods offered by local vendors at The Rocks Marketplace. The Marketplace opens for the season next Monday, November 7, and will be open daily from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Christmas tree sales at The Rocks begin November 19!