Make Memories, Get Outside – The La Soeurette Guide to Cutting Down Your Own Christmas Tree
Cue Andy Williams, the most wonderful time of the year…. One of my fondest memories as a child was being allowed to help cut down the Christmas tree.
For those of us who celebrate Christmas, decorating our homes after Thanksgiving can bring us a lot of joy. The centerpiece of my home decor at Christmas is our family Christmas tree. Adorned with ornaments collected over the years and twinkling with lights, I love spending my evenings sitting on my couch under a cozy blanket gazing at my tree.
What my cozy December evenings by the tree do not reveal is how my tree got there. No it didn’t come from a box, pre-draped with lights; more often than not, it has come fresh from the farm – the Christmas tree farm!
One of my fondest memories as a child was being allowed to help cut down the Christmas tree; I loved being able to participate this way – often my dad would let me cut the last little bit so as I sawed and the tree was going over, I got the satisfaction of yelling, “Timber!”
Growing up in NYC, you might think we would get our tree from one of the many street vendors – but not my family. Every year, we’d pile in a van with our neighbors and head to Jones Christmas Tree Farm in Shelton, CT for an adventure of a lifetime. We’d sing carols on our way, anticipating the fun hunt for the perfect tree followed by cookies and hot chocolate from the shed were we would also pick up our wreath and one or two new ornaments.
Cutting your own Christmas tree is not for the faint at heart – but if you are up for putting in a little time and energy, you won’t be disappointed. Remember to take the time to capture the moment with your family; including the entire experience beginning to end.
What to Look for When Cutting Your Own Tree:
- Have an idea of the type of tree that you want before you go – farms will let you know in what field or over what hill you can find the type you are looking for. You want a Fraser Fir? Balsalm? Douglas Fir? Blue spruce (only if you want to be pricked by needles while decorating!)
- You can spend hours trying to find the perfect tree, but remember, there’s always next year. I remember the year that we found the first tree we liked but my father had to be sure and had to look at 50 or more trees. It was then when my mom said she liked the first tree and my dad said yet again let’s just look at a few more over here! At the end (and over an hour later) we were back at the first tree with a lot of grumbling going on.
- It’s also helpful to know how tall and wide a tree you want so that you don’t find yourself trimming the top after you’ve said to your spouse, “I don’t think this one is too tall at all.” What looks fine outside might be taller than you think. Bring a measuring tape along to be safe.
- It doesn’t take me that long anymore to pick out a tree. I know the shape and branch spacing I like for decorating and I’m OK if it isn’t perfect.
Cutting the Tree:
- Once you’ve chosen your tree – it’s time to cut it down. This means getting down on the ground, and making the cut underneath all the branches. Be prepared to saw lying down; with a sharp saw, it shouldn’t be a problem.
- Most Christmas tree farms provide sharp saws and a sled to make cutting and transporting your tree back to your car as easy as possible. No need to bring your own.
- Once you get your sled back to the check out area there will be folks there to help tie your tree to your car.
- Bring the base of your stand with me in case any additional branches need to be cut off – I don’t have a saw at home and I want to make sure the tree will fit in the stand.
- Once you have cut your tree, indulge in some hot chocolate and treats at the farm before you depart.
Lastly, make sure to get your tree in the stand and drinking water as soon as possible. Any more than 2 hours and you’ll need to cut the bottom off the tree again. Otherwise it won’t drink and it will dry out quickly. A fresh tree that is watered regularly should last you all the way through to the 12th day of Christmas – January 6th!
Sadly this year cutting our own tree will just be a memory – but we were happy to support our local nursery in Brooklyn – Kings County Nursery – and picked out a gorgeous 9ft tree. If you can’t cut your own, support a local business!
My Favorite Tree Farms in the Northeast:
- Jones Christmas Tree Farm – 606 Walnut Tree Hill Road, Shelton, CT 06484. For more information visit their website
- Winterberry Farm – 104 Parker Hill Road Ext, Killingworth, Ct 06419. For more information visit their website.
Bonus Tip: How to hang lights.
Believe it or not, there is a right and wrong way to hang lights. Here are tips from my Dad to ensure you have the perfectly lit tree.
- To begin with, make sure you have more lights than you think you need. My feeling has always been that when you finish putting the lights on your tree you should be able to look at it and think you don’t even need any decorations to make it look better.
- Before you place a strand of lights on the tree, plug them in to make sure they are working.
- If your tree is so tall that you have to stand on a ladder to string the lights, I suggest putting the top strands on while the tree is flat on the floor.
- Always start at the top. Place the lights on by circling the tree. Make sure you put lights around the interior of the tree and then the outside.
- While putting on the lights, occasionally step back to look at the tree to see if there are any gaps in the lighting that should be corrected.
- When it is done take a picture before placing the decorations so you have a record for next year.
- One final suggestion-when removing each strand of lights, don’t just toss them in a box. I usually take the cardboard roll that my wrapping paper was on, cut it into smaller pieces and take the time to wrap the lights around it. In doing so, you will find it to be a real time saver next Christmas. (Melissa has does this since ever since she was shown this technique).