• Stone trees grow on farm
     | December 08,2013
    Kevin O’Connor / Staff Photo

    One hefty stone at a time, Jared Flynn works on a stone Christmas tree at the Elysian Hills Tree Farm in Dummerston last week.

    In a far corner of Elysian Hills Tree Farm in Dummerston are a couple of strange-looking Christmas trees.

    Their branches won’t break under the weight of snow, and never need pruning or trimming.

    They won’t ever get cut down to grace someone’s living room or parlor.

    They will never grow taller.

    They are made of stone.

    They are the work of Jared Flynn of Dummerston, who built one 14-foot tree last year at the suggestion of the farm’s owners, Mary Lou and Bill Schmidt. He just recently completed another tree, a 12-foot one, and he has plans for a third and final tree, this one smaller, to complete the stone trio.

    The trees, like their inspiration, are different shapes and sizes, and even colors, depending on what vein of rock Flynn used for his standing sculptures. The trees are even capped with a triangular-shaped rock, to bring the tree to a pointy top.

    Flynn, the founder and until recently the president of The Stone Trust, a southern Vermont organization devoted to dry stone walling, said last week the trees were the idea of Elysian Hills co-owner Mary Lou Schmidt, who in turn says it was Flynn’s idea.

    Flynn had been doing restoration stonework at the tree farm for several years, rebuilding stone walls. He said he knew of one section of the Schmidts’ Christmas tree farm that was so ledgy they would never be able to grow trees there.

    “Mary Lou picked two trees she wanted replicated,” said Flynn last week, while putting the finishing touches on his 2013 tree, which is 12 feet tall and 12 feet wide.

    “That’s not true,” answered Mary Lou Schmidt later, busy tending the couple’s Christmas tree stand on a recent sunny afternoon, as families and couples came to pick up a Vermont-grown tree or wreath.

    “We let him do his thing,” she said.

    The stone Christmas trees are just the latest of a group of public stone sculptures being built in the Dummerston-Brattleboro area by the local members of The Stone Trust, a group of Dry Stone Walling Association masons who eschew mortar to keep their walls and steps in line.

    They rely on weight and friction to build their stone works, Flynn said.

    The stone for the two trees came from two different veins where the state Agency of Transportation was blasting along Interstate 91. The taller, 14-foot tree has a reddish cast, while the slightly shorter and thicker tree might even be called the same blue as a blue spruce.

    Flynn says, in another life, the stone chunks might have been riprap along an embankment.

    Each tree took about a month to build, Flynn said, and they are solid stone, through and through, using the same principles that he uses building stone walls.

    “Bill and Mary Lou have a long history of public service,” said Flynn, explaining why the couple would let their stone trees be part of a public art trail.

    Flynn said part of the purpose of the planned stone art trail was to get people “out of their cars” and out walking around, looking at the stone work.

    “They donated time and they paid for the materials,” he said. “This is an unplantable ledge...’’

    Flynn said the trees could be considered giant stone cairns, the markers hikers build along trails to guide others behind them.

    On Tuesday afternoon, a bright sunny day with temperatures above freezing, Flynn was busy putting the finishing touches on the circle of stones — a low fence of sorts — around each tree, built to discourage people from getting too close to the stone trees and pulling out a souvenir stone.

    He built a small flagging patio around each tree with flat Goshen stone, and he is thinking of leaving stone for the trees’ visitors to build mini-cairns around the base of the trees.

    At the top of the 14-foot tree is a silver metal star, made by Mary Lou Schmidt’s grandson, Justin Morrell of Colrain, Mass., a metalsmith.

    There are a total of seven public stone projects in the area, he said, including the Dummerston Town Pound in Dummerston Center, and a stone arch on Rice Farm Road.

    There is also a long stone wall, 700 feet and growing, that the students at The Stone Trust, which is affiliated with Scott Farm, also of Dummerston, constructed during workshops.

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