One of Dave Hodge's fondest memories growing up in Michigan was helping out on the family Christmas tree farm.


So several years ago, he and his family decided to give it a go themselves when they lived in Rancho Cucamonga. But the completion of the 210 Freeway, which eventually ran through his property, changed the course of their plans.


Hodge, however, was still determined. So six years ago he and his wife Susan found the perfect 2-1/4-acre lot on Lemon Street in Hesperia, moved to the High Desert and began the arduous task of making their front yard into a spacious Christmas tree farm.


"I had a dream of doing this since I was a teenager," Hodge said.


This holiday season, the Hodge family tree farm opened to the public. Customers can select and cut the tree of the choice for just $20 each.


But it's been a very long road.


"This was a desert," Susan said. "It was all tumbleweeds and gullies."


After landscaping the property, the family had to grow trees from seedlings to those ready for a family's living room. They purchased the seedlings from the State Nursery.


"They shipped the trees down to us," Hodge said. Later, they would drive to the Magalia Reforestation Center in Butte County and put the seedlings in their own vehicle.


He set up a drip irrigation system and planted both Alderica and Aleppo pines, which readily grow in Hesperia's arid climate.


But tumbleweeds weren't the only obstacles.


Gophers would eat the seedlings and almost kill their dream. Hodge tried several remedies including placing electric fans over their tunnels to get rid of the pests.


"That didn't work."


So he purchased a Rodenator Pro Pest Elimination System that delivers an underground shockwave to the gopher dens. That did the trick.


To get ready for the tree farm's opening, they solicited the help of son Andrew and his girlfriend Tessa who helped decorate the area with festive Christmas decorations including a large Nativity scene. Boy Scout parents Jeff Tahauri and Samuel Ward brought their scouts over to volunteer in a weed cleanup session.


"We couldn't have done it without their help," Susan Hodge said.


Now, anyone can come to the Hodge tree farm, choose a tree (some are as tall as 12 feet) and use a handsaw supplied by the farm to cut down the tree.


"They turn it into a family experience," Dave Hodge said.


"Whatever they want, they can cut it," his wife added.


If they prefer, however, Hodge will cut down their tree at no additional cost.


Even if Hodge breaks a sweat, there will likely be a smile on his face.


"It makes me happy to see people enjoy Christmas," he said.


The Hodge Family Christmas Tree Farm is located at 18406 Lemon St. between I Avenue and Peach Avenue. The farm is open from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Trees are $20 each.