Which is a better option for a Christmas Tree? An artificial or a cut live tree? Or maybe a live tree that you plant in the yard after the Christmas season is over? For reasons probably having to do with tradition, people have strong beliefs about their Christmas Tree. How about you?
I’ve heard all the arguments. The cut live tree (LT) smells great! The artificial tree (AT) just doesn’t have that same authenticity. The LT needs to be watered. It drops its needles and it’s a fire hazard … it’s just messy. The AT is convenient and lasts for years. They’ve improved the quality of the AT so they no longer look plastic-y. The LT has more character. It’s not perfectly shaped like the AT, it’s somehow more personal. The LT is a waste of natural resources to cut and use for only few weeks and dispose. And on-and-on the arguments go. Do you have a preference? I’ve discovered a new tradition and I love it – and I won-t apologize for cutting my own tree and joy it brings!
It started last year when my neighbor suggested I join her family for a day in the Bitterroot National Forest (BNF). The purpose was to cut down a Christmas Tree. Of course there are rules, regulations and a $5 permit is required to cut a tree in the BNF. The most important rule in my mind is to be respectful of the forest. You only take what you will use. Second, you reverently harvest your tree. This includes cleaning the area so that any remaining branches are scattered and the trunk is trimmed close to the ground so that no future growth occurs. This creates a clearing in the forest for nature’s rejuvenating growth.
Last Saturday at noon, a four vehicle caravan of grandparents, aunts/uncles, cousins, siblings and kids makes its way up the West Fork and into the Bitterroot Forest. I ride with Dean in his fully loaded pickup truck. The kids call Dean Grandpa. He is a retired National Forest Service (NFS) employee. Dean knows the woods from years of working for the NFS, hunting and trapping. Dean is more at home in the woods than in town. He selects the place to stop by exclaiming, “This looks like a good spot.” What was loaded in the truck bed? First and foremost — Firewood! A fire is started and Dean’s pickup bed serves as the food station for the next 4+ hours.
The different families spread out in all directions searching for the ‘perfect’ tree. Since I’m a lone wolf, I start my search independently but quickly migrate back towards the others. I hear the pros and cons of one tree’s merits versus another’s. Too small, too tall, too wide, not a good shape, good on one side but a hole on the other, brown needles, yellowish color, the needles are too prickly, etc. In the meantime, it starts to snow. Of course there’s the issue of species: lodgepole pine, Douglass fir, ponderosa pine, or spruce. I notice myself listening to the chatter of the others. It’s fascinating to hear their comments on the worthiness of a given tree. I select a tree after another group rejects it and moves on. For me, it’s perfect.
After a few hours, everyone has cut their tree. A few inches of fresh snow is now on the ground. The real fun starts — Food! A Dutch Oven containing Uncle Bob’s potato soup is placed directly on the hot coals, hot dogs are cooked on a stick over the fire, apple and orange slices enjoyed, banana bread, chips, homemade cookies, marshmallows & s’mores. It was a feast in the cold and snow with the warmth of the fire and friendship.
For a $5 permit, I had the joy of being outdoors for an afternoon in the snow with good people sharing a potluck meal. AND, I have my own special Christmas Tree! I consider myself fortunate to live near a National Forest where the trees are plentiful and cutting a tree is a real option.
The wonderful thing about America is we have choice. We can put up an artificial tree, we can buy a cut tree from the Christmas Tree lot, or we can cut our own tree in the forest. One choice is not better than the other — whichever choice a family makes is perfect for them. Do you prefer a live tree or artificial tree? Would you consider changing your choice of Christmas Tree in the future? Either way, I hope you enjoy your tree and have a Merry Christmas!
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Next Blog Date: Monday, December 14, 2010