By Ruth A. Ringelstetter
When Joann and I were in high school we admittedly gave our mom a hard time about the Christmas trees that she chose. They were not quite Charlie Brown trees, but they were not the full beautiful trees that we imagined they should be. We were sure we could do better. Who could blame her, though? She was taking care of seven children and working on the farm, so there wasn’t time for a leisurely hunt for a Christmas tree. She usually picked out a tree in a few minutes in the lot next to the local grocery store. But we gave her a hard time anyway.
As soon as Joann got her license and we could drive ourselves, we found an ad in the local paper for a “Cut Your Own Christmas Tree” place and badgered mom into letting us go. I think she let us go because she wanted us to know how hard it was to pick out a good tree. We climbed in the truck and took off.
What we found was not so much a tree farm as woods that a farmer was trying to clear. We parked the truck and walked across a field to the woods. There were trees that were very mature and too big for anyone to cut down for their house, and there were the little scrawny Charlie Brown trees. We must have walked around the woods for hours that day and it wasn’t until it was almost dark that we gave up and picked the least scrawny tree. What we ended up choosing was a tree that looked surprisingly like the trees mom always came home with…..only worse. It was a sad, pathetic looking tree with very sparse branches – in other words, SCRAWNY!
All the way home we practiced our speech. When we got home, we pulled that pathetic tree from the back of the truck and took it to the back door. We rang the doorbell and waited for Mom to come to the door. As she opened the door we said:
“Mom, meet Scrawn”
“Scrawn, meet Mom”
And then we burst into laughter. We told her how it was not a true tree farm and how hard we had worked to come home with something better than what we had teased her about. And then came the not so surprising look of satisfaction on her face.
And that year while decorating the tree, I think we felt exactly like the Charlie Brown gang as they decorated their pathetic little tree. It doesn’t matter how sorry the tree, it’s the love that goes into decorating it.
These days the choices at choose-and-cut tree farms are amazing. The prices are very reasonable, and there is a wide variety of trees available. They are planted in rows and groomed over the summer. You have your choice of many pine, spruce, and fir tree varieties.
As you walk through the rows of trees, you can hear families laughing as they try to pick out the perfect tree for their home. Sometimes there’s a mitten or glove hanging on a tree to mark a possibility so it can be found again.
And after you cut your perfect tree, there might be hot apple cider or a Christmas shop to explore. It’s a great way to get in the spirit of the season.
Our favorite choose-and-cut Christmas tree farm is Summers near Middleton, Wisconsin, owned by Judy and Bill Summers. They have a large staff of friendly helpers and their Christmas shop is the best-kept secret in Dane County.
If you haven’t tried cutting your own Christmas tree, go out and give it a try. It's a chance to create a Christmas memory or two and maybe a new family tradition. And who knows, if you visit Summers Christmas Tree Farm, you might just catch Judy Summers singing a Christmas carol as she goes about her work.
Happy Christmas Tree Hunting!