Tips on Selecting a Real Tree at a Choose Your Own Farm

Remember, the Christmas trees purchased from local Christmas tree farms are as fresh as a Christmas tree can ever be.

Before You Leave Home

Measure the ceiling height in the room where the tree will be displayed. The trees in the field look small when the sky is the ceiling. Don't overbuy.

Measure the width of the area of the room where the tree will be displayed. Most trees on tree farms are trimmed to an 80 percent taper. So a tree that's 10' tall will be 8' wide. A tree that will fit in the room vertically may be entirely too big horizontally.

Are there any individuals in the household who are allergic to pine? If so, consider another species such as firs instead of pines or spruces.

What decorating theme will be used? Ask the farm operator which species is best suited to your needs. For example, some species are better at holding heavy ornaments and decorations.

What to Expect at the Farm

Most tree farms keep their fields very well groomed, but there are some things that are beyond the farmer's control. Be careful of ant mounds, woodchuck or rabbit holes, tree stumps, an occasional blackberry or poison ivy vine, uneven ground and sharp saws.

Go to the farm prepared for a day in the country. Wear comfortable shoes and old clothes. Bring rain gear if the weather is threatening. The "cutter downers" and the "loader uppers" should also have gloves. DON'T FORGET THE CAMERA. And remember, it's best to NOT bring the dog.

The farm operator usually provides saws, but it is a good idea to call ahead to check and be sure.

Some farms measure and price their trees individually, other sell them by the foot.

Head into the field and select the tree that fits your predetermined needs. Check the trunk to be sure that it is sufficiently straight. Keep in mind that Christmas trees with perfectly straight trunks are actually fairly unusual. In the fall of the year ALL pines drop, or shed, a certain portion of their oldest needles. This is a normal part of the life cycle of the tree. This phenomenon occurs because the tree is preparing itself for winter. To check for yourself, gently grasp a branch between your thumb and forefinger and pull it toward you. Very few needles should come off in your hand if the tree is fresh. Shake or bounce the tree on its stump. You should not see an excessive amount of green needles fall to the ground.

Most farms provide shaking, or blowing, services so that you will depart with a perfectly clean pine.

Cutting the tree is easiest as a two-person project. The "cutter downer" usually lies on the ground. While the helper holds the bottom limbs up. At this the point, in warmer climates, be especially careful of ants. While the cut is being made, the helper should tug on the tree lightly to ensure that the saw kerf remains open so that the saw does not bind. The tugging force should be applied to the side of the tree opposite the cut.

Bring the tree to the processing area where it will be cleaned and netted. Netting makes transporting and handling the tree substantially easier.

When you are checking out, remember to pickup a tree removal bag. It can be used as a tree skirt and then pulled up around the tree to help keep the floors clean when the tree is being taken down.

Now you're ready to load the tree and head home to decorate your Real Christmas Tree.