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Wild Tree Hunter

It’s that time of year. If you’re a lover of the seasonal Christmas tree, then chances are, you fall into one of three categories: 

  1. Fake Trees

This tinsel-loving-tree-keeper relishes the annual pulling out of the plastic pieces. This tree is tidy, requires no water, doesn’t drip sap, and can be dismantled easily and without fuss. You only have to purchase this modern merry item once, and it requires no tromping through mud or actual saw labor. If you’re feeling particularly quirky you can purchase trees in different custom colors, including fake snow already on the fabricated fir.

  1. Tree Lot

Fake trees? Not a chance! You want that fresh tree scent! You want to feel the needles in your fingers and chase your toddler away from precariously hanging bulbs that sway enticingly from low branches. You believe in getting an actual, grown-in-the-ground tree but you also don’t relish the idea of trekking through a potential freezing downpour with numb toes and frigid fingers exposed. The tree lot is the have-the-cake-and-eat-it-too mentality. You get a real tree, and it’s already beautiful when you find it. Someone with much more time on their hands and a lot more mud on their boots found this tree for you, trimmed it, and displayed it under an expansive price tag for convenient cash-to-car fluidity.

  1. U-Pick

You like things the hard way. You don’t settle for simple pre-picked trees. Oh no. You’re a conifer connoisseur. Plastic? Abomination. The only Christmas tree that will ever grace your Livingroom is one that you spent hours sizing up after miles of muddy, freezing, miserable walking. Once you pick your tree, typically in the far back corner of the hundred-acre farm, you will spend another hour sawing the trunk, sawing the bottom branches, angling it this way and that way to ensure that if there is a slightly awkward side, it can easily be hidden in a corner. You will then have to lug your kill back out to the road where, if you’re lucky, a tractor will show up to aid in bringing it back to the cashier and your car. If you are unlucky, or refuse help because aid makes you weak, you will haul your tree all the way back yourself. You are not to be trifled with. 

There is another option, however. A fourth way to obtain your tree. I suggest it more for the u-pick audience as it requires a lot more time and a bit more tenacity, but it’s something my family has been doing and it is great fun if you’ve got the fortitude. Depending on where you live, you can get a pass from the forest service to cut down a wild tree in designated areas. The pass (at least in Oregon) is only $5.

As a staunch environmentalist, there’s something a bit sacrilegious about cutting down a beautiful tree in the wild. Or, so I thought. But the places the forest service allows you to cut from are second growth cleared sites. These are places where the trees coming back are not the original inhabitants, and typically they’re growing near one another and so cutting one down thins the area, allowing the others to thrive. You need a car that can handle the snow, and good tromping boots, because it’ll be hard to find ‘the one’. You’re as dedicated as a U-Picker but you’re even more fierce, facing the elements, knee-deep in wilderness snow, pointing out tiny firs with the length of your hack saw and proclaiming your family war cry. $5 for a seat in the Valhalla of tree-trapping. 

No matter what camp you fall into, go forth moms, and proclaim Christmas tree victory!

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Autumn B

Autumn Bettinger is an outdoor-minded momma with a toddler and a lot to learn. She started writing about her experiences as a way to connect to other mothers and inspire them and their kids to get outdoors. Her blog has since evolved into writings about the day-to-day mom life with sprinkles of environmental education. Turns out, she was going to be an incredibly ambitious backpacking mother... before she had a baby. Now it's everything she can do to keep her son from stuffing leaves in his mouth on walks through the dog park.
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