How to Choose and Cut a Christmas Tree

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Choosing and cutting a tree is a wonderful way to spend a December day. Bring a thermos of hot spiced cider and some gingerbread cookies; you'll want to make it an annual tradition.

Things You'll Need

  • Measuring Tapes
  • Old Blankets
  • Yardsticks
  • Tarps
  • ropes , cord, or bungees
  • Decide where the tree will go and measure the height - don't trust yourself, or anyone else, to eyeball a tree and get it right!

  • Decide - and negotiate if necessary - what kind of tree you want (an informal, bushy Monterey pine? an elegant fir?) and how much you want to spend.

  • Put a blanket or tarp, a tape measure or yardstick, and some rope in the car and head for a country Christmas tree farm.

  • Look for a tree that is the right height (keep in mind that a separate stand will add about 6 inches) and width. The tree should be reasonably even all around, with a straight trunk and as few dead needles as possible. The needles should feel springy, not dry and brittle. If you're going to put it in a stand, make sure it's got a length of trunk long enough, or lower branches you can take off without ruining the tree's contours.

  • Check the height one more time; in a wide open space with a lot of trees, all the trees look smaller than they will look tucked into the corner of your living room. (In other words, no matter how loudly your sister insists it will fit, don't buy that 30-footer unless you've got a cathedral ceiling!)

  • Follow the tree farm's directions for marking and cutting. The most important thing with the cut is to make it as straight and as even as possible.

  • Pay for the tree.

  • Put the blanket or tarp on top of your car to protect it. Then slide the tree up, trunk-end first, starting at the back of the car (this way it'll get the least possible wind damage).

  • Tie it down, and off you go!

Tips & Warnings

  • Keep in mind that most choose-and-cut lots and farms don't groom their trees the way city lots do. So if this is your first time, don't panic and think they're all dead; all trees have some dead needles.
  • Most tree farms have measuring implements and saws you can borrow; some have wheelbarrows or other tools for transport. Many will wrap your tree and tie it on your car for you.
  • Don't forget to ask if you can have some extra branches to make wreaths or decorate your mantel - most Christmas tree farms save branches for requests like this.
  • If you see a tree you like but want to look a bit more, don't leave it unguarded - someone may grab it.
  • These trees live outside - wear gloves if you're squeamish about spiders and sticky tree sap.

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