This year’s tree adventure was a little… different. We have traditionally cut down our own tree, from the same farm my parents went to when we moved back to this area and started to get a live tree again. This particular farm up by Butler had always been a great place to get a tree. They had many varieties, large fields, and an easy process: Drive out to the right field, cut your tree, get it back to the pay shed, they bundle it and you pay. And it was inexpensive. And fun. Well, for the past couple of years, the farm has been open but seemed to be in decline. The fields weren’t tended well anymore, the selection wasn’t great, and what was there was either totally overgrown or mashed into other trees. They were still inexpensive, but last year in particular was a struggle to find a reasonable tree. If the comments on various review sites are to be believed, when the gas wells came in and wanted to drill on their property, that was the beginning of the end.
We decided this year to try some new places. I had a good recommendation from a firefighter friend to try McKinney’s Tree Farm, which ends up being really close to us (I don’t have a good link for them, but they do have a Facebook page if you search there). I had no idea they were there, actually, until I aksed my friend where he went. I put them first on our list, and a nearby farm (Ski Tree Farm) as a second in case McKinney’s didn’t work out. Of course, if we struck out at both of those, there were some further options, and we could always go back to our original farm up past Butler.
I had considered going last weekend, but was still getting over this nasty cold (which still isn’t completely gone, but at least I can mostly breathe now). So we delayed and figured we would go this weekend. Unfortunately, Jenny came down with the same cold late last week. I wasn’t about to take her out trudging through a tree farm in this cold weather, so we talked about it and I went out on my own late this morning.
I arrived at McKinney’s a little after noon (after I made an extra loop back to an ATM because I was on my way and remembered that I needed to get some cash to pay for the tree). I got out of TruckStor and was greeted by a nice attendant who informed me that they just closed the cut-your-own fields this morning.
GIANT. SAD. FACE.
She did say that they brought in trees from one of their commercial fields a day or so ago and had them available for sale. They were all Fraser Firs, which is fine, because that’s what I wanted anyway. I didn’t have much hope, but figured I would take a look anyway before I took off for the next farm on my list. I was surprised to quickly find three candidates that, if I had seen them in the fields, I would have cut down any of the three to take home. See, I don’t like over-groomed trees. They need to be imperfect. They need to have big open spots for our big ornaments, and nice spaces inside to hide the little surprise ornaments that one only sees after looking at the tree for a bit. And it needed to be tall to fill to our old-house ceiling, while also not being six feet wide. That’s a tall (and not wide) order! Ha!
I spent some time with my best candidate. I considered my options. I was down an Adventure Buddy, who was trying to recover at home. The next farm was a big question mark, since I’ve never been there and didn’t know anyone who had gone there. The further-out farms were even bigger question marks, and I know that at least one of the ones on my list was not open on Sundays.
I was a little dismayed. I liked this tree, but I felt like I was betraying my process. There was no hunt. I didn’t walk my wonderful and patient wife up six hills and down three before crossing a muddy stream and wandering through a pack of brambles, then find a tree that we have to take up six more hills and down two and across a different creek and down a muddy embankment before we get back to the safety of TruckStor. But, this tree was talking to me. It had some of its cones still attached. It was wonderfully random. It was just about the perfect height to trim the top and freshen the cut on the bottom and fit exactly in our space.
I picked it up and had them wrap it for me. Nine feet of tree. And they had beautiful wreaths for reasonable prices, so I grabbed one of those, too.
Moments later, my sister and her family showed up. They were planning to come out, too, but I had just texted them a little bit earlier to tell them that the fields were closed, though they had some cut trees that looked pretty good. They also ended up with a tree, and I got to see my little nephew Andrew for a bit. We talked about trucks and trees and signs. He was fascinated that we put both trees in TruckStor. He loved the candy cane his Dad got while paying for the tree. When I dropped off their tree at their house, he really wanted me to come inside because it was cold. He’s a cute little guy.
A short time later, our tree was inside, being inspected thoroughly by kitty Dandelion, who is confused ever year when we bring some of the outside into the house. It quickly becomes her favorite spot, though, and I’m sure she’ll set herself up on the tree skirt once I get it out.
It is now lit and angel’ed. I like to let it be that way for a day or so for kitty to get used to it before we start putting glittery moving bits all over it. She tends to get less excitable about it. And, if she decides she’s going to start pulling it over for some reason, I’d rather she do that when it isn’t filled with glass things.
So now we have our tree. It’s the right tree for this year. When they gave me change, it included a single penny, and that penny was from 1978 (my birth year). So that seems like a win. Yay Christmas.
Postscript: I get a lot of questions about our tree stand every year. I found it years ago when I got utterly frustrated with the craptastic bent-sheetmetal stands that seemed to bend into useless shapes if you looked at them wrong, and the plastic fantastic stands that seemed great until one tried to actually use them for a tree with any weight to it. The company, “Santa’s Solutions,” sells two models. There’s the big one that we have, and a smaller one that is probably fine for most users. At the time I bought it, they didn’t have the smaller one. If I was doing it all over, I might buy the smaller one instead. But, kind of like TruckStor, I’d rather have something a little more capable than be caught out when I most need the capacity. I expect that the only reason I’ll need to replace this one is when the plastic water container gets damaged, which hopefully isn’t something I’ll have to worry about for quite a while.