Finding the perfect imperfect Christmas tree with the Reynolds family
Mike Reynolds (blog/Twitter) is an Ottawa born-and-raised husband, father to one and soon to be second. He’s obsessed with making sure his daughter says ‘daddy and mommy’ and not ‘mommy and daddy’ and with finding junk he thinks will one day be considered an antique. He also blogs about his admitted cluelessness when it comes to raising a child.
In the words of one of the most revered Christmas experts of our age, Clark Griswold, cutting down the Christmas tree is one of “the most enduring traditions of the season are best enjoyed in the warm embrace of kith and kin.”
Our family wholeheartedly agrees with this statement, so our tree hunting day is an important one. We’ve been to a few tree lots over the past few years. Some specialize in having perfect looking Christmas trees, while others focus more on the tree-getting experience.
Until last year, we’d never found one that married the two experiences perfectly. In our family, the perfectly shaped tree is not the traditional, upside down triangle but rather a more bulbous, branchy thing that looks like a character from SpongeBob SquarePants.
But last year, as I browsed through an issue of Chatelaine for whatever reason, I found a small story about the Thomas Tree Farm in North Gower. They promoted themselves as “more than just trees; it’s a whole experience.” With a one-year-old daughter, we decided we’d try it out.
Last year it was freezing cold, but we loved it. We loved it so much that, for the first time, we decided we could go back to the same Christmas tree farm two years in a row.
Thomas Tree Farm is open seven days a week and opens at 9 a.m. on weekends. We did our best to arrive as close to the start time as we could, assuming that two weeks before Christmas would be a popular time to pick out a tree.
We were correct, and found one of the last few spots in the parking lot, saving us a few minutes’ walk. While we were a little surprised and more than a little overwhelmed with the number of parents walking around with their snowsuit wearing children, any negative sentiment was quickly washed away as we walked deeper into the woods.
It took but a few steps to remember why we wanted to come back to this place. You’re greeted by the smell of campfire and freshly cut trees, and, even though the place had only been open for 45 minutes, we already saw happy children unknowingly getting in the way of parents trying to strap massive green trees to the roofs of their small cars.
You can also see more groups of families standing by the fire with their complimentary (so long as you get a tree) hot chocolate and cookie. A tempting treat, but first, the tree must be hunted.
The Thomas Tree Farm boasts fields and fields of scotch pine, spruce and balsam fir and you also have the option of buying a pre-cut Fraser fir. Since we didn’t travel all that way for a pre-cut tree, we lined up for the next wagon ride out into the fields.
Even if you see a wagon pulling away as you approach the line (as we did) the wait is but minutes long, as they must have wagons being built in some back shed there seem to be so many of them. When ours pulls up, we climb aboard, hold tight and try taking the traditional ‘can I get us all in the picture without asking a stranger if they’ll take the picture for us’ picture.
Once that’s out of the way, we marvel at the trees out in the fields. The trip starts by passing the trees you’ll be cutting down in 10 years and the wagon slowly wheels us up to the big fields of six to nine foot trees.
We finally stopped amidst a clump of trees all tagged with correlating blue, red, or green tags. We wanted a spruce and headed to the blue tag section, a borrowed saw in hand. Trying to remember my dad’s safety tips for handling a saw, we nimbly made our way through the trees (made easier by the lack of snow), searching for the perfectly imperfect Christmas tree.
Since Leah is now old enough to have a say, we strategically directed her towards the trees we liked the most. When we finally found one that looked just big enough to not fit in our living room, we asked her if this was the one.
“Santa,” she answered, and that answer was enough for us.
Lacking athletic skill, I crawled along the ground to get a good look at the base and started sawing away, assuming I had lumberjack ancestors somewhere in my lineage. The large thud I was expecting when I finally made it through the base never came, but when the tree almost floated to the ground, we realized the choice was the right one.
“Do you think it will fit in the house,” my wife Andrea asked.
“Not a chance,” I replied.
“Will we have to trim it to make it fit?”
“Not a chance.”
“It’s perfect, isn’t it?”
“Santa,” Leah confirmed.
We dragged our tree back to the wagon line, waited for our tree taxi to arrive, hurled ours up amongst the much less impressive trees other families had chosen, and made our way back to the campfire, cookies and hot chocolate.
Andrea and Leah slurped their drinks and nommed their cookies as I sped the tree through the processing line. At Thomas Tree Farm they give you a courtesy tree shake that ensures Chip and Dale don’t make their way home with you, and then bag it to make throwing it on top of your car a less difficult experience.
And so, as Leah and Andrea participated in the wintery fun, I dragged the tree over to the car, and psyched myself up for my least favourite part: the roof securing. I threw the tree up onto the car and then just waited. For what, I wasn’t sure. Finally, catching on to my ineptitude, Andrea offered to help me bind it to the roof.
She quickly girl guide knotted it and assured me we’d be good to get it home. As we pulled out of the lot, we noticed the number of cars had nearly tripled since we arrived and that the parking had made its way onto the road.
There was no doubt that we’d be back again next year.
We love how much this reminds us of Chevy Chase’s Christmas Vacation. Sounds like you had loads of fun, Mike. This is making us even more excited for the holidays to begin!
Do any of you have a favourite Christmas tree farm? Do you utilize your lumberjack skills to acquire the perfect imperfect tree? Let us know!