Hunting for the perfect Christmas tree

Jerry Apps
The Apps' family friend Rob Zaleski and grandson, Zale carry their Christmas tree they cut down on Jerry Apps' farm in Waushara.

It was a cool, clear, quiet Saturday morning at Roshara, our Waushara County Farm.  A hint of snow covered the grassy areas on the north side of the windbreak, but walking was easy. The subtle smell of pine was in the air.

It was the day of our annual Christmas tree hunt, and a hunt it always is as we have trees of many sizes and shapes, none of them sheared but all growing naturally. The hunt is complicated by the fact that we have 60 acres of trees, about 40 of them pine and spruce and 60 of them hardwoods, with spruce found here and there among the maple and white oak trees.

Since we bought the farm in 1966, we have planted trees each year. In the early years we planted a thousand or more trees each year, one year even 7,500. Mostly we planted red pine, but also a few Norway spruce. 

Naturally growing at the farm are white pine, seeded from a white pine windbreak the Coombes family planted in the 1930s. Jack pine is native to the area, and we have a sprinkling of them here and there on the property. And Scotch pine also grow naturally. Some consider them an invasive, weed tree, but they make a fine Christmas tree, Scotch Pine are relatively short needled and the needles stay put on the tree.

So, what kind of a tree for Christmas? The goal: A tree for Ruth and me, a tree for Steve and Natasha, a tree for Paul and Sue, and a tree for our friends Rob and Cindy Zaleski.

Earlier, I had selected a white pine about six feet tall, fully branched and quite beautiful.  So that was the first one cut. After that, the crew was on its own as I had not tried to second guess what each family would like.

By noon, everyone had a tree of their choice. Smiles all around as we sat down in the cabin for our noon lunch.

THE OLD TIMER SAYS: There is something special about selecting a Christmas tree among so many choices.

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