With Thanksgiving over, it’s bound to be a mad dash through the rest of the holiday season. For many families, going outside to find ad cut this year’s Christmas tree is beloved tradition. In some places, there are Christmas tree farms that allow you to go out and select your own professionally-grown and manicured tree. But there aren’t any cut-your-own tree farms nearby, and you can have more fun finding a wild-grown local tree. Plus, it’s great excuse to get outside after eating so much at Thanksgiving!

Where To Go

There are trees everywhere around here, making it really easy to find a suitable Christmas tree. At the same time, some places are better than others for finding Christmas trees. It’s not necessary to go into the middle of the forest—trees that are able to grow in the open, such as in old fields or along roads and trails often have fuller foliage because more the trees are exposed to more sun.

If you don’t have your own land, it’s important not to trespass. Locally, The Ottawa National Forest offers permits to cut Christmas trees on the national forest lands. Permits are permits are $5 and available at Ranger District offices like Kenton and Ontonagon. It’s recommended that you call ahead to make sure that staff will available to provide the permit. In other places, you can call your nearest National Forest or state natural resources agency and ask to see if you can get permits for cutting trees on public lands.

The Trees

Around here, the two best options for Christmas trees are white spruce and balsam fir because they have that bushy, cone-shaped appearance that typically comes to mind for Christmas trees. That’s not to say that you can’t have a cedar, hemlock, or pine Christmas tree—those species are just likely to look a lot more sparse like that one from the Charlie Brown special (BTW: If you want to recreate Charlie’s tree, go with a white or red pine.)

 So if you’re out in the woods and see a cone-shaped tree, what is it?

White spruce leaves, or needles, are typically about a half-inch long, stiff, and slightly sharp on the ends. The needles are roundish and can be rolled between your fingers. When the needles are crushed, they give off an unpleasant odor.

White spruce needles
 Balsam fir needles are about the same length, but are flatter and are round on the ends. If grown in shade, the needles will tend to flatten out into two rows, one on each side of the stem. Most importantly, when the needles are crushed, they smell wonderful and fragrant and just like Christmas.
Balsam fir needles

The Supplies

Once you’ve found the tree (and it can take a while to find the perfect one), it’s pretty easy to cut it down.

 Necessary supplies—
  • A saw: You will want a small handsaw to cut down the tree, and it doesn’t need to be anything particularly fancy or special.

Recommended supplies—

  • A tape measure: Trees can look smaller than they really are because there’s just so much more room outside. Use the tape measure to make sure the tree is actually going to fit it it’s place.
  • Rope or tie-downs: In addition to securing the tree to the vehicle for the ride home, rope or straps can also be helpful for dragging the tree out of the woods.
  • Pruning shears: Shears can be helpful for cutting lower branches of the tree stem. Or, grab a few extra branches for making a wreath.

That’s it! Once your get your tree home, care for it by setting it up in a location away from major heat sources (vents, woodstoves, etc.) and making sure that the base is always submersed in water.

So many trees to pick from!


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