Free Range Christmas Trees
“Let’s get a tree!” I said.
Shea looked at me warily. “Same place as last year?”
“No! For five bucks we can cut it down ourselves out in the woods. Just think of it, honey! A FREE RANGE Christmas tree!”
Saturday we were out the door by 9:15 am. Saw? Check. Permit? Check. Rope? Check.
Coat for Annie? Not so much. Although we didn’t figure that out until we pulled into the deserted, icy barely plowed campground at Fish Lake.
Twenty miles in was when I decided I would read the Bureau of Land Management rules for cutting down a tree in the wild. It’s pretty simple—you just have to keep the numbers 200 and 12 in your head: 200 feet from the nearest road. 200 feet from a lake. 200 feet from a campground. 200 feet from the river. No more than 12 feet from the nearest tree. No more than 12 feet high. And no more than a 12 inch stump left over.
But then there was this:
With forecasts for this winter predicting colder temperatures and above average precipitation, it’s as important as ever to prepare for the unexpected when looking for your holiday tree. Bring a handsaw or axe as well as winter clothing and safety equipment. Tire chains and a shovel are recommended, as is extra food, drinking water, blankets, a flashlight, first aid kit and survival gear. Tree cutting and travel may take longer than anticipated, so notify a friend or family member where you’re going, get an early start, and leave the woods well before dark.
We had two of those things. TWO. And this was before I knew that we forgot Annie’s coat.
Huh. But I wasn’t about to turn down the Morman Tabernacle Choir to spread fear and anxiety, so on we drove into the great white wilderness, ill-equipped but optimistic.
We found this:
Gorgeous. It wasn’t too cold, right at freezing, so Annie wore Kate’s coat, Kate wore mine, I wore Shea’s and Shea sucked it up. We spent 45 minutes “searching” for a tree, which looked a lot like snowballs fights and snow angels and picture taking.
Then we got serious.
We discovered that a lot of free range trees are actually one sided, which works for us in this house because the tree goes against a wall. I liked the white pine trees—very Sundance catalog and since our house has a craftsman vibe, I knew we could make it work. Shea stood next to the tree we picked and stuck his hand up—the tree was probably right at 12 feet tall. We followed the directions with the stump, cut the tree down in two shakes and carried it back to the car.
We headed ten more miles down the road to Lake of the Woods resort, where we had a fabulous lunch at the grill and made reservations to camp in June.
Then we drove the 44 miles home with the tree. That’s it—44 miles. It’s still a small miracle to me that wild Christmas trees can be found that close to home.
This is what it looked like in the driveway.
“Dang,” I said to Shea. “It looks bigger now.”
So I took the big shears and trimmed the tree back at least a foot around the bottom.
“How much room do we have at the bottom?” I asked.
“How much room at the top”
“Oh, the height is not the problem.”
“Well, let’s bring it in and then I can trim more if I need to.”
So before you see this picture there are a few things you need to understand in terms of perspective.
- The black entertainment center is 8 feet tall.
- The couch is a 5 full feet away from the wall and four feet away from the TV.
Ok, you ready?
And clearly there’s not plenty of room at the top.
I laughed until tears ran down my face. Then I texted one of my Oregon natives and told her the tree grew four feet on the drive home. “Do you know how many times that happened to us growing up?!!” she texted back. “They do look smaller in the wild!”
We went out the next day and got a 9 footer from a lot. For comparison’s sake, here’s a side-by-side of the two trees.
On Saturday night I went to a mom’s night out. As I was recounting our successful-ish tree hunting story, one of the moms asked which road we took.
“We were going to take the 234, but we ended up taking the 140”.
The mom next to me snickered and rolled her eyes.
“What?” I poked her arm.
“THE 234??? THE 140??? You Californians and your “the”. It’s just 234 and 140.”
I rolled me eyes at her and one of the other moms, a fellow transplant said “Your California is showing”.
In more ways than one, my new friends. In more ways than one.