Cutting Down Your Own Tree: A Christmas Adventure

When I make a meal, I look for recipes with the least amount of ingredients and prep time. When I go shopping, I try to steer clear of items with “dry clean only” on the label. There are very few steps in my daily getting-ready ritual, allowing me to get myself (and my boys) out the door in an hour.  

Basically what I’m saying is not that I’m lazy, but that I’m all about simplifying. Isn’t life hard enough already? Why make something more complicated than it has to be?

So even I was surprised last weekend when I suggested that the family go out and cut down our own Christmas tree, something I haven’t done since I was a skinny little pig-tailed girl. (What? Cut down our own tree? What’s wrong with just ordering a tree from Lunds/Byerly’s (they partner with Bachman’s), as we’ve done in years past? They even deliver the tree right to your front door for no additional charge and donate a portion of the proceeds to Second Harvest Heartland.)

Nothing is wrong with ordering a tree, or even going to Linder’s or Menard’s and selecting a pre-cut tree—we’ve always been really happy with our trees in the past—but this year I thought it would be a fun family experience to skip the store and cut down our own.

So we bundled up, got in the car, and headed down the road to Bernin’s Tree Farm in Hugo, referred to us by friends. The tree farm is tucked back in a residential area, so at first I thought we took a wrong turn, but after a few blocks we found our destination (they could use some better signage). We pulled in, borrowed one of their trusty saws, found a parking spot, and started the hunt. Aside from two or three other families, we had the place to ourselves, which was nice (it was still early in the season). It was chilly, but not unbearably cold, and there was no snow, so we were really able to get a good look at the shape of the trees. It was actually fun walking around, smelling the pine, imagining the possibilities. This is how the conversation went:

Christmas Tree HuntingMe: “What about this one?”
Husband: “I think that one might be too short for our living room.”
Four-year-old: “MOM! Ben is about to eat a pine cone!”
Me: “Come over here! Ben, NO! Put that down! What about this one over here? It looks pretty.”
Husband: “Yeah, but look at the other side, there are hardly any pine needles on the branches.”
Four-year-old: “MOM! Don’t step in that!”
Me: “Ahhh! Ok, how about that one over there? Oh, wait. Forget it. It’s lopsided.”
Husband: “Hey, look at this one!””
18-month-old: “TREE! TREE! TREE!”

In the end, my husband Aaron wound up finding our tree. You know how it is when you’re wedding gown shopping and you fall in love with a dress, but you keep looking “just in case” you find a better one, and after awhile you realize you’re comparing every dress to the original? That’s how it was with this tree. We looked around for another one, but they were all runners-up. This was the clear winner.

Aaron did the hard work of being the lumberjack and cutting it down (while we all yelled “TIMBER!”), sawing off some of the excess branches, and carrying it out to a spot where workers shook the tree (to get rid of dead needles and make sure there weren’t any birds’ nests or critters in there), wrapped it tightly, then helped us tie it to the top of our car. We enjoyed some hot apple cider and cookies before leaving.

Once the tree was “home,” we waited a few hours for the branches to settle down, then got out the ornaments and lights, put on a Christmas CD, and decorated our tree. This was the first year that it was actually fun decorating the tree, with my four-year-old Adam handing me ornaments and pointing out “good spots” as I went along. I like this tree more than any of the other trees we’ve had, maybe because I know where it grew before it did us the honor of lighting up our living room. 

I still can’t believe that our tree is up and the house is decorated—and it’s not even December. No hurried rush to order a tree or find one at the store, no frantic scramble to decorate, it’s all done, meaning we have more time to slow down and actually enjoy the holidays.

Now that’s simple living at its best.

Here is a list of some Minnesota Christmas tree farms.
*Tip: Many take cash only. *Another tip: PAM cooking spray takes out tree sap.