Search for perfect tree turns into great debate

Colleen Kottke
Wisconsin State Farmer
We were searching for the spirit of Christmas at the tree farm. That year the debate over choosing the right tree was spirited alright.

I read an Associated Press report today that people were panic buying Christmas trees. One tree lot owner in North Carolina likened the frenzied buying of evergreens to the rush on paper towers and toilet paper in the early days of the pandemic.

The owner say many customers were pulling into the tree lot and filling trailers full of trees. Whether they were buying for family or wanted an extra helping of Christmas this year was anyone's guess, he said.

It's perfectly understandable that people are craving some normalcy, peace and loveliness in their homes and what says comfort like a Christmas tree adorned with soft glowing lights and handmade ornaments.

Years ago as a young mother with a house filled with young sons, I too was in search of that ideal scenario. Picking out a tree at the local lot wouldn't do. We were going for the full experience of cutting down our very own, hand picked tree.

Filled with dreams of fresh, fragrant boughs of pine, we loaded the car with three kids and headed up north to a Christmas tree farm; no dried out trees for us that year. About 40 miles into the trip the whining began. Only a few more miles my husband assured them. After what seemed like hours, we pulled into the parking lot only to find that hundreds of others had opted to cut their own trees.

With a saw in hand we headed towards the sea of greenery. Every time we saw the 'perfect tree' we cringed when we found the orange claim tag that someone else had tied on the tree. Little did we know that people had stopped in at the farm weeks earlier to stake their claim (during nice warm weather most likely) on the beautifully trimmed trees. With others swarming among the trees we learned quickly that tree selecting was a competitive sport. Thus my husband suggested we venture further from the crowd where the good, choice trees were likely to be found.

As we trudged further and further back the good trees seemed fewer and farther between. Looking back it makes sense that the tree farmers would set up camp near the attractive trees, not the pitiful little mutants that we were finding out in the back forty. Each perspective tree failed for some reason: crooked trunk, missing branches, too fat or too skinny, too short or too tall and the list went on.

As we trudged further and further back the good trees seemed fewer and farther between.

With daylight beginning to wane and milking time drawing nearer, my husband grew less inclined to listen to the critics who had now begun to complain of cold feet and having to go to the bathroom (with scads of trees for the choosing, my youngest son argued that it wasn't necessary to make the long trek back to the porta potties in the parking lot). I would soon find out that a little extra fertlizer on a tree would have been a better alternative than a child crying over his wet underoos!

"We should have just stayed home and cut down the pine tree in the front yard," our other son said. Wise enough to keep my opinions to myself at this stage of the game, I secretly believed putting together an artificial Christmas tree with 1,000 branches sounded more attractive than dealing with our little mob who was growing more restless and mutinous by the minute. After finally reaching a consensus, we dragged our tree back to the car and headed for home with our trophy bound to the roof.

At least we did this as a family. A relative (who shall remain unmentioned) tried this with his family passel of kids, only the bickering was worse. When he pulled into the tree lot he cut down the first tree he saw and headed back home. I can only imagine the long ride home.

Even though our fresh tree was a bit crooked and scraggly that year, it was hard to notice with the homemade ornaments made by little, eager hands. After all, isn't the perfect tree the one that's decorated with love?

Colleen Kottke

Colleen Kottke is the editor of the Wisconsin State Farmer