The perfect Christmas tree

Jerry Apps
The great Christmas tree debate on the Apps' family farm is a fun, holiday tradition.

Dark and dreary. Chilly but not cold. Our day for searching out and cutting Christmas trees at our farm. An annual event for the past several years. Always fun, and ever a challenge as over the past couple of decades we’ve planted about twenty-five thousand trees to choose from. Most of them are red pine. A few of them Norway Spruce. A handful are jack pine.

Add to this list several hundred Scotch pines that self-seeded and are of various sizes. The searching crew—daughter-in-law, Natasha (with the saw), daughter Sue, and two young lads that Natasha cares for.

And add several hundred, maybe thousand, white pines to the mix. When we bought the place in 1966, there was a former cornfield just south of our cabin. On the west and north sides of this field, previous owners had planted a white pine windbreak in the 1930s. This was during the depth of the Great Depression and the associated drought that raised havoc with the sand country in central Wisconsin.

Today, that cornfield, about six acres or so, is a naturally seeded white pine plantation, with white pine trees ranging from a foot or so tall, to those that are of timber quality. So the Christmas tree searchers had many choices: red pine, white pine, Scotch Pine. The spruce are still too little for consideration, and jack pines are in a class by themselves.

“How about this one?”

“Too scraggly?”

“This one?”

“Too short.”

And so the time passed as we searched, discussed, debated, and finally agreed on three trees. One red pine, one white pine, and one Scotch pine. What could be fairer?

THE OLD TIMER SAYS: What fun it is to tramp through the woods in search of the perfect Christmas tree.

Jerry Apps, born and raised on a Wisconsin farm, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of more than 35 books, many of them on rural history and country life. For further information about Jerry's writing and TV work go to