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Tree Farm

Started: 2020-11-29 12:09:32

Submitted: 2020-11-29 20:01:55

Visibility: World-readable

In which the intrepid narrator shops for a live Christmas tree

The day after Thanksgiving we set out to get a live Christmas tree.

After we got married, Kiesa bought a fake Christmas tree, and we've used that as our tree for many years. That was a practical choice in Colorado, where the dry climate was not especially compatible with keeping trees alive through the Christmas season (and because the trees had to be trucked long distances to reach us at all). We kept up the habit after we moved, but this year we decided to visit one of the many Christmas tree farms scattered along Summit Road in the Santa Cruz Mountains for our tree.

On Friday afternoon we headed to Summit Tree Farm, one of the farms that's right on Summit Road, the main route between us and the outside world. (The farm lets people in the community walk on its trails in the off-season, providing one of the few places I can go walk relatively close to the house. There's a lot of open land in the Santa Cruz Mountains, but it's all privately owned by someone else.)

Julian follows Kiesa through Summit Tree Farm
Julian follows Kiesa through Summit Tree Farm

Summit Tree Farm sprawls over the hillside south of Summit Road as the hillside descends towards Laurel Creek (and, eventually, Monterey Bay and the Pacific Ocean). The tree farm was packed on the afternoon after Thanksgiving, but there was plenty of space to spread out over the hillside. There were people who brought camp chairs to hang out in the sun, and people were making use of the picnic tables scattered around the site. I drove half-way around the perimeter road until I found a place to park, then we got out and wandered around in search of a tree that spoke to us.

Julian, Calvin, and Kiesa look for Christmas trees
Julian, Calvin, and Kiesa look for Christmas trees

I wasn't quite sure what we were supposed to be looking for in a tree. All of the trees were still growing, and I had picked up a hand saw at the entrance to cut down whichever tree we selected. I had some trouble visualizing how the tree would look in my living room, especially after separated from its trunk. (Apparently the tree would sprout from its roots; I saw some stumps where it looked like four or five trees had been cut from the same stump, apparently over multiple decades.)

Julian looks at Christmas trees
Julian looks at Christmas trees

Presently we found a candidate fir tree, sitting above a branch road leading through the tree farm, near a small microwave relay station on the hillside. (I remembered the relay station from a walking visit to the tree farm, so it seemed auspicious that I selected a tree near it.) It looked close enough to the Platonic ideal of a Christmas tree, and seemed large enough to fit well in our high-ceiling living room while still small enough to be easy to carry (and strap onto the car to take home).

Kiesa surveys a candidate Christmas tree
Kiesa surveys a candidate Christmas tree

I began cutting down the tree, which was somewhat more awkward than I expected it to be: the saw blade ended up slightly twisted when I cut into the trunk, and it was hard to get a good cutting stroke in the middle of the branches of the tree, above the branches sprouting from the still-living stump and below the branches attached to tree. (I briefly wondered whether a battery-powered reciprocating saw with a pruning blade, or a small chainsaw, would be appropriate for cutting down the tree. I expect I'll eventually get both tools when we buy a house in the Santa Cruz Mountains.)

Jaeger cuts down the Christmas tree
Jaeger cuts down the Christmas tree

Kiesa took a turn at cutting down the tree, to share the cultural experience, and quickly gave me the saw back to finish it.

Kiesa cuts down the Christmas tree while Calvin and Julian wait
Kiesa cuts down the Christmas tree while Calvin and Julian wait

I finished cutting down the tree, then carried it to the car and tied it to the roof rack. This was one of the many times I was happy to have a factory roof rack on my car; I couldn't help but wonder how the people in sedans and sports cars were planning on getting their trees home.

Julian helps Jaeger carry the Christmas tree
Julian helps Jaeger carry the Christmas tree

We stopped for a family photo before leaving the tree farm, surrounded by fir trees, wearing masks because 2020.

Kiesa, Julian, Calvin, and Jaeger at Summit Tree Farm
Kiesa, Julian, Calvin, and Jaeger at Summit Tree Farm

Unlike many people, coming up to the tree farm from all over the Bay Area, we only had a short distance to drive to get the tree home to our house.

Christmas tree on Motoko
Christmas tree on Motoko

To help set up the tree, Kiesa bought a tree stand that featured ratcheting claws driven by a single lever to grip the bottom of the tree, which advertised itself as "saving marriages" by making it easy to set up the tree. I do not have the counter-factual about how a different stand would have worked, but I can confirm that the stand worked well and it was quick and easy to set up the tree in the stand in the living room.

Kiesa set up the lights on the tree, and then (on Saturday afternoon) marshaled the kids to help set up the ornaments on the tree. (Here she discovered that a real Christmas tree doesn't let one bend the branches to fit the ornaments as much as a fake Christmas tree.) Calvin and I worked on putting the Lego polyhedra Christmas tree topper back together (it had been truncated to fit the shorter ceiling in Wallingford, and had suffered further damage from being packed away and moving), then put the repaired star on top of the tree.

Live Christmas tree
Live Christmas tree

With the Christmas tree up, it now feels a bit more like Christmas.

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