Tuesday, December 14, 2010

How to Cut Your Own Christmas Tree

(and still have a Merry Christmas)

It's been a tradition ever since my Dad was little; we cut our trees. In the wild.

Back in the 40s and 50s Grandma and Grandpa would bundle up the family in search of the perfect tree but once my Dad and Uncle Jim were old enough (back then that could have been around 11 or 12, who knows?) they were assigned the manly task of getting the tree.  Dad tells the story of one particular year while, as a teen, he was out searching for a tree with his younger brother and once they were way out in the middle of the wilderness with nothing but lots of snow and a large handsaw between them he turned to Jim and said in his wickedest voice, "You know . . . Mom and Dad sent me out here to kill you."

Yes, that's our family and the Christmas spirit. As a kid I thought the story hysterical. Now, as a mother I think it's an abomination, but what can you do? 

Normally we go tree hunting on a school day so the kids have the added thrill of missing a day of class but this year we've already had three "snow" days (and I put it in quotes because it wasn't for snow but rather freezing rain and black ice) and a round of flu, ergo missing more days seemed a little irresponsible this year.  So . . . Saturday we had our traditional IHOP binge, complete with a round of country-fried steak for my little cholesterol inebriates, and it was off to find the perfect tree.

You never know what you're going to get. Sometimes you get a year with no snow so it's easier to find a tree when everything is bare and snow-less but harder to drag it out over the ground without denuding it of its needles.  Sometimes you get a blizzard where, after ten minutes, you're practically entombed in drifted snow so that you don't care and end up taking the first tree in sight . . . as soon as someone digs you out. Once we went and the ground wasn't even frozen, let alone covered with snow, and my overeager husband four-wheeled it into the back country until we practically plummeted to our deaths over a ravine but then got the truck so stuck we had to cut down trees just to back it up and get out.  Good times.

This year I was prepared for a tough time of it.  As in: make sure you bring the snow shoes because we'd had so much snow--and whatever we have in Anchorage is sure to be doubled up at Johnson's Pass where we go to cut.  I was really expecting it to be a bear of a time (without the bears--they're hibernating of course) and thought how glad I was that this was a man's job.  Andrew cuts and carries, I decorate. It's a simple division of duties that has suited me well over the years.

But Andrew and the kids hadn't been gone five minutes; in fact, some of the stragglers were still visible from the road, when Andrew had got to the spot, found the tree and harvested.  Just like that.  Or I should say that Spencer harvested the tree as he did the actual cutting and hauling. Andrew tells me he's training Spencer to take over the job so he can finally pass that torch.

So after an hour for breakfast, an hour and a quarter of driving in, and an hour and a quarter of driving out and we were only gone a total of four--count them four--hours and most of the extra time was for tying the tree to the top of the car.  We are nothing, if not efficient.

And here's our beauty, decorated and vertical in the living room.  My man knows how to pick 'em.

When I was a kid my favorite ornament on the tree was a little bird in a nest that attached to the tree limb with a clothespin glued to the bottom of the nest. It was a partridge in a pear tree and we all experienced the true meaning of the season as the six of us fought and bickered about who got to put it on the tree each year.  I don't know how my mom stood it without throwing us into the snowbank and abandoning us to the elements.

Remembering how much I loved that ornament I made one of our own this year and it turned out so sweet and cute. You really can't get much easier than gluing a fake bird in a fake nest with a clothespin on the bottom.  It's crafting that even the most craft-challenged can handle and it looks so pretty--just see for yourself. I don't think ours is a bona-fide partridge--more of a chickadee perhaps--but it's still very pretty. One time we found a real bird's nest in our tree when we got the tree home and dried out in the stand, other years we might get only a lot of moose hair tangled in the branches but it's all part of the experience. Merry Christmas!


NorahS said...

Great tree! We are going to cut ours tonight. At a tree farm, in Michigan. But when we lived in Washington at the foot of the Cascades, we did the drive-into-the-wilderness-and-almost-get-stuck-permanently thing, so I can relate.

Janet said...

That's beautiful. We did that one time when I was about 13 or so. We loved it, but I think Mom was over it before we were done. We got an artificial tree the next year.

Serena said...

Oh, I'm laughing about the story of your dad and his little brother! It reminded me of my mom telling me of something my grandma would do. She'd be having a nice, normal conversation with someone, and then all of a sudden look up in horror at the window behind them, as if an axe murderer or something was there. She was the most loving, kind woman, but, oh, she had a fun streak. It might have been a survival mechanism for dealing with eight sons. ;)

I do love reading about your Christmas tree adventures.

Kate said...

I found you from Around the Island. I love your site. I’m going to poke around a little bit, but don’t worry I’ll put everything back where I found it!!

Shannon said...

Too much fun! We are stuck with a fake tree right now since we can never be sure that we will be able to find a real living overseas. It is pretty and pre-lit but I really miss the smell of a real tree! Your tree is gorgeous!

Amber D. said...

I miss cutting down my own tree! When I lived in Colorado we did that! Your tree is beautiful by the way! We will have to stick with our fake tree for now but at least it is tall!

I am new to the blogging world if you wanted to take the time to befriend me I wouldn't mind: ozarkmamareviews.blogspot.com

Thanks, Amber

cndymkr / jean said...

We cut our trees for a few years but gave it up. A tree that looked good in the woods suddenly grew a few feet on the ride home! So now we go to the nursery and buy a pre-cut one. Next year I may get a fake one but I've been saying that for 2 years now.

Inkling said...

Beautiful tree! I miss not getting to go to the mountains for our tree anymore, now that they've made it illegal and aren't passing out permits. Somehow, even cutting it ourselves at a tree farm seems too contrived. You make me want to move to Alaska!

Jenna said...

It's a perfect tree! Sounds very cozy indeed, but I imagine you're grateful you only have to do it once a year.

Jen Rouse said...

The brotherly "love" story is hilarious!

And I'm so impressed with your wild trees with moose hair on them! We feel special because we get our trees from a tree farm instead of a parking lot, but that doesn't compare to your experience.

J at www.jellyjules.com said...

I love that bird in its nest! Gorgeous!

bigguysmama said...

I love going and cutting our tree. We go to a tree farm instead of the wilderness. I have no idea where we could do that here in MN. Something I'll look into next year. I love the smell of reall Christmas trees!


Nanette said...

Pretty Tree - your kids will remember the tradition of going and getting the tree I am sure. Love the ornament

Krista said...

Such a pretty tree! What kind is it to have that bluish color? I should know as my dad was a forester, but I can never remember!
That being said, all the time I was growing up he would just bring one home from the woods and that was that. My mom always complained that it was a Charlie Brown tree, but I don't like the bushy ones you buy because this is what I'm used to!
Now that he's retired we have made it a family outing, actually since we've been married, to get 2 trees. This year it was 3, one for my brother too. It's so fun, but you're right, the weather has a major effect! This year it was hard to see the shape of the trees through the 12 inches of fresh snow! Some years there's no snow and just hard frozen ground, last year it wasn't even frozen and Cory was a muddy mess!
I think I missed out growing up, but my boys won't!

luckyzmom said...

I have a bluebird, much like the one you describe, that was pinned on our tree since my earliest memories.

Your tree is beautiful. Ours stayed in the garage this year!