CHRISTMAS IS A COMIN’

Many years ago when my nephew was 7 or 8 years old he saw a segment on PBS about a local (if the Hereford zone is local) Christmas Tree farm where you could go and cut your own tree. For some reason he found that just the greatest idea in the world. Now, I regularly purchased my tree from the Optimist Club because they had a good selection of trees, they used some of the money for charity work and they truly were local. I would guess they probably display about a hundred trees at a time and I roam around looking for the best one I can find often taking an hour to pick one.

Anyhow, my nephew started lobbying (aka pestering) me to go to this farm so we could cut our own tree. When his mother began talking about what a great experience it would be for him I finally relented. It has been a long time ago so my memory is fuzzy, but I think it was over 50 miles. We arrive and pull into the parking lot – or should I say parking field – where a million other cars have parked in the previous couple of weeks. The term “sea of mud” comes to mind especially as it goes so well with the terms “cold and blustery” We trudged, slipped and slid our way to the check in/out desk. Of course, we had to buy some hot cocoa the farmers were selling. The deal was you go out and find the tree you want and you cut it down and when you see the tractor pulling the tree wagon you get their attention and they come over and put it on the wagon. Then you walk back to the check out desk while the tree wagon carries your tree to the same spot. I can’t remember if they had a baler or not, but they would take the tree back to your car if you wanted and help you tie it on.

The check in/out spot was slightly elevated so you could look out and see a good chunk of the farm – though definitely not all of it. What you have to understand about a tree farm is this: they don’t display a hundred trees – they display thousands. There was the helpful fact that the various varieties of trees were segregated in different sections. I don’t remember what variety I went after, but we trudged through the mud to the appropriate section. And that section had hundreds and hundreds of trees. By now my sneakers weighed well beyond their normal weight – carrying as they were a halo of thick mud. This despite the fact that I was periodically scraping the bulk of the mud from my and my nephew’s shoes with the edge of the saw I carried.

So I start my routine. I walk around the tree to determine the best side. Looking for voids that must be hidden. Looking for a nice even layering of branches – the way the artists on PBS always draw or paint evergreens. Some trees take only a few seconds to reject. The ones worth considering can take several minutes to evaluate. About 15 minutes and 5 or 6 trees into the process my nephew begins a series of announcements “I’m cold.” “Can I get some more cocoa?” “I’m cold.” “Can we go now?” “I’m cold.” “I have to go to the bathroom.”

OK, here’s my advice on tree farms. It can be a wonderful experience if you adhere to the following principles. Don’t go within a week of significant rainfall. Go on a sunny day. And whatever you do, don’t take any kids with you.

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