Each year, Christmastime brings friends and family together from near and far. All across the state, we gather for traditions of baking cookies, visiting Santa, and watching Christmas movies. My family began my favorite Christmas tradition before I can even remember- the tradition of our Christmas tree. Visiting a local Christmas tree farm to browse, select, and cut down our tree is an annual event that never gets missed.
The Tree Farm
Over the years, we have visited several Wisconsin Christmas tree farms. With over 800 in the state, there certainly are plenty to choose from! Supporting local tree farms supports local jobs, even beyond November and December. Throughout the year, the trees need to be planted, sheared, kept pest free, and more. This year, we visited Stricker’s Tree Farm, just outside of Stoughton. They have been growing Christmas trees for over twenty years, and currently maintain 72 acres.
The tree hunt is the best part. We walk through the field of trees, often splitting up to see who can find the perfect tree first. In Wisconsin, several varieties of Christmas trees are grown. The principle varieties are Balsam Fir, Fraser Fir, Canaan Fir, White Pine and Spruce. Trees are typically planted in rows with six foot spacing between trees, leaving room to walk through and browse the trees. Sometimes our hunt can take a while, but we always manage to find just the right tree. My personal preference? I love full, chubby trees!
Cutting, Hauling, and Hot Cider
After we have found the perfect tree, it’s time to cut it down. No chainsaws here, just a standard hand saw. Dad will get the cut started, but then we all take our turn cutting part of the tree. The secret? Slow, even sawing. Next up, we haul the tree up to the shaker. It works best if you bring a tarp to haul the tree on, protecting the branches from the uneven ground. Our tree will then be shaken or pounded on a wood block to remove all of the dry needles. While we wait, we warm up with a glass of hot cider. This year was not too cold, but some years, the cider helps to thaw our frozen hands.
When we get the tree home, Dad sets it up in the stand and we bring it in the house. As a general rule, your tree stand should provide one quart of water per one inch of stem diameter. If you choose a pre-cut tree at the Christmas tree farm, it is best to remove a ¼-inch disk of wood from the base of the trunk before placing your tree in the stand. This will help the tree live longer and stay greener. Once the tree is up, we decorate. Many of my favorite ornaments are handmade, and bring back memories of my childhood.
It is a magical tradition. There is something special about spending time together, out on the farm (though we have one of those at home), surrounded by the smell of evergreens. Selecting a real, farm-grown Wisconsin Christmas tree is a sustainable choice that support local farmers and truly builds memories for a lifetime.