Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Our Family Tradition: Christmas Trees From a Cut-Your-Own Farm

Cut Your Own Christmas Trees

Cut you own Christmas tree The cold snap of fresh evergreen hangs in the air, and Thanksgiving with the ensuing madness of Black Friday has come and gone. My thoughts drift to decorating the house for December 25th, and the first step is to choose the Christmas tree. I am proud to say I have never used a fake tree, as they are a blight on the season and will never look just right. I need a fresh tree, and that means selecting my own at a Cut-Your-Own Christmas tree farm.


Before I Head Out
 
Cut you own Christmas tree I like to be prepared, that's a given. I call ahead to the farm to see what types of trees are available, how many, and the general sizes. It's not a warm feeling to pull up with the family to find the place is closed, or that the tallest tree left is only three feet before cutting. I prefer to pay with cash, because there's no hassle, but many places will take a personal check so it's worth asking about payment option. Also, I take time to locate my work gloves to keep my hands safe while I cut the tree. The morning of the harvest, everyone in my family makes sure to wear warm clothes and sturdy boots. It can get chilly, and we never seem to be quick when selecting a tree. Boots are important because the older the farm, the more stumps seem to crop up in the fields, and tripping on one of these could ruin my day. Also, I never know how wet the fields are, and I like to keep my feet dry and comfortable.

Cut you own Christmas tree
What To Bring
 
I enjoy being with as many people as I love every chance I get, so we invite everyone in the family to join us, from my sisters and brother, all the in-laws and the grandparents. We like to make a special day by going together, and everyone can recap their Thanksgiving stories. We also pack some light snacks for the car ride, but will reserve plenty of room for the inevitable goodies for sale at the farm. Many of these farms offer coffee, hot cider, and seasonal snacks like apple donuts so we can enjoy a local treat and help support the farm even further. As a note, I will toss a saw into the bed of my truck just in case, but most reputable Christmas tree farms have saws to use free of charge, so if I forget it, I don't worry.

Types of Trees
 
Everyone has their own suggestions and ideas of what makes the perfect tree, down to what type - I seem to recall my younger sister preferring Balsam fir tree, while my brother is more of a traditionalist in buying a Scotch pine. I like a Douglas fir if I can find one, as the smell alone is worth the effort to lug it back to the truck. There are also Blue spruce, Fraser firs, and a few types of cedars. Our troops serving in the middle-east may be familiar with an Afghan pine, decorated to remind them of loved ones at home.

What a Tree Says About A Person
 
Cut you own Christmas tree I can tell a great deal about a person by what type of tree they have up in their living room. If the tree is full all the way around, has dense needles, and is neatly trimmed, I know this is a person who accepts nothing but perfection from everything in life. If the tree looks great from the room, but there are large gaps in the back where most folks can't see it, this person values a good deal and cost-cutting measures by presumably haggling with the lot owner to give a discount based on condition. If it's a large tree, one that is almost too big for the room, that person has an inflated sense of self and needs to be number one in everything they do. If it's that small Charlie Brown tree, with three scrawny branches and extravagantly decorated to celebrate life, that person has a romantic and sentimental heart.

Cutting the Tree
 
Cut you own Christmas tree As I mentioned, most tree farms will have a selection of saws to use for free to harvest your tree. Once I select my Douglas fir, I will look it over one more time before cutting it down to make sure there are no tags on it letting me know someone has already taken it. Usually it will be a red or orange tag, or even a bit of colored tape. I try to cut as close to the ground as possible, and I let anyone who wants to take a turn with a few strokes. Once it starts to tumble, I will cradle it into a cart, if available, and give a preliminary shake to remove any loose needles. Then it's off to the farm stand to pay for what I'm sure is the finest tree on the lot. Most homeowners can expect to pay between $40 and $70 for a 5-7 foot tree. At the stand, the folks running the farm will offer to even the base, lop off a few lower branches to clean it up, and even hoist it on top of your truck or car. For these helpers, who work pretty much on tips, I'll bring an extra $10 to show my appreciation. Then I head home to start the decorating!