Ever since I was first married, my husband and I have always harvested our Christmas tree from the woods out back. It’s become a tradition in our family. I scope out Balsam firs through the fall during my walks with the dogs and then a week or so before Christmas, my husband and two sons troop out with me to cut one down and bring it home. In recent years, we’ve included the neighbors in our forest forays. The best trees usually are tall and we trim off both the very top and bottom for the best shape.
Each year when we get the tree in the house, I exclaim, “this is our best tree ever.” And everyone else rolls their eyes because inevitably our trees are bit lopsided, and maybe a bit sparser than the ones you find at commercial tree farms — ok a lot sparser. But I like them that way because when we put the tree in front of our living room window, we can still see through the limbs to the view outside of the forest, the mountains beyond, and the seasonal Christmas star that lights up at night on top of Mount Battie.
The great thing about living in rural Maine is that other people get their trees the same way. The other night at our annual Christmas party a group of us got to talking about the concept of the wild tree. One friend recounted that he used to drill holes in the trunk to add extra branches and bushiness. Another said her husband has been pleading with her to let him wire two trees together. We all agreed, though, that we hate it when people coo about our “Charlie Brown” trees. Somehow that demeans this fragrant, wild piece of the forest. I’m convinced that it’s really just a matter of marketing. Don’t call it a Charlie Brown tree. Call it a “wild, organic free-range” Christmas tree and I’m sure everyone would want one and maybe even pay extra for fewer branches.