Tips For Cutting Your Own Tree

Pioneer Tree Farm, Cut-your-own Christmas trees
in McHenry Illinois north of Chicago
http://www.pioneertreefarm.com

PLANNING AHEAD
Wear warm clothes, and boots if it's cold or wet. Good gloves are helpful (spruce trees in particular are a little prickly).  A piece of plastic is sometimes useful, if the ground is moist -- cutting the tree involves getting down low.  An old blanket and rope may come in handy if you plan to tie the tree on your car. We'll have some baling twine on hand if you need it. If you have a favorite saw, that's fine, but we also have nice ones to lend.  (Power saws are not permitted.) Print the map for driving directions or use Google Maps.

TYPE OF TREE
Any evergreen tree can make a beautiful Christmas tree. Junipers, spruces, cedars and firs have the shortest needles. Scotch pines have stiff, medium length needles. White pine needles are longer and softer. Red pines have the longest needles. Some trees may be uneven on one side because they grew close to another tree. With the flatter side next to a wall they can be great space savers! 

FINDING THE TREE
Before you start, are you dressed for the weather?  If it's wet, do you have something to kneel or lie on when you saw it down? A piece of cardboard is useful.  Wear boots if you have them.  Sometimes tractor lanes get muddy from heavy use.

If you can't find the right tree, check through the different fields. Every field has its own character just as every tree has its individual characteristics.  Most are traditionally shaped because they've been pruned regularly, but you'll also see the odd tree that refuses to conform.  These can make wonderful, artistic Christmas trees too!  Trees often look smaller in the field than they do in the house, especially once they are in their tree stands.

CUTTING THE TREE
If you have brought your own saw, use it if you'd like but you may borrow ours, which have large offset teeth especially designed for cutting trees.  If you need help sawing, call a worker over to assist you -- tractor drivers have saws and can also give or summon help.  All workers will be wearing red scarves.

Cut low to the ground and straight across.  You can always trim off the lower branches -- leave yourself enough trunk to fit in the tree stand.  If you can, have someone pull the tree slightly away from the side where you're cutting.  This will prevent the saw from binding and make the work much easier.

CARRYING THE TREE
Don't drag it through mud of course, but if the ground is frozen or clean it won't harm your tree to drag it butt end first.  Take it to the nearest lane and wait for the next wagon which will take you to the shaker and baler.  If you need help, ask workers.

TYING IT ON / PUTTING IT IN
Shaking will remove loose needles, and baling will wrap the tree to help fit it inside your trunk, van, or truck. If you choose to put the tree on top of your car, you may want to lay down an old blanket to avoid scratches. Aim the butt end forward so branches don't catch the wind, and tie it securely so it can't move freely in any direction  If you have a luggage rack, tying it twice to each side should do.  Some people rope through the car doors (or windows, if you don't need to open your doors).  It's often a good idea to run a rope or two to the front and one to the back of the automobile.  A piece of cardboard is nice to kneel on if you plan to tie the rope under your vehicle! Ask our friendly workers for help if you need it.

WARMING UP
Have some coffee or cocoa (both Fair Trade) in the Warming House.  Feed the chickens and take a family photo on the old-fashioned sleigh. You might want to purchase some snacks for the ride home, buy some crafts, or engage in making your own pioneer craft.

ONCE HOME
If you don't put your tree up immediately, keep it in a bucket of water in a cool place, then saw a thin slice off the base before putting it in the tree stand.  For easiest handling, leave the netting on your tree until it's in the stand.  Then cut the strings and the tree will take its natural shape.  Keep it watered; it will soak up quite a lot of water the first few days! Winter tree for birds

SURPRISES
You may be surprised how much better a tree looks when you've cut it yourself, and how much longer it stays fresh.  You may like to know that no chemicals have ever been applied to our trees.  If you hear a faint cracking noise when the house is quiet, it might be pine cones opening in the warmth of your room.  Because they are so fresh, you may find some sap on the trunk or on a broken or freshly cut branch.

AFTER THE SEASON IS OVER
Ask your local authorities what arrangements are available for recycling Christmas trees, or stake it outside your window and stake it outside your window and decorate it with popcorn/cranberry strings for the birds, like the one to the right.

Thanks very much and have a great outing!


THE LARGER PICTURE
Though using a cut tree might seem like an odd way to protect the environment, it actually does protect the environment.  Our trees remove carbon dioxide from the air, provide habitat for wildlife, protect soil from erosion, add scenic beauty to the countryside, provide an outdoor experience to thousands of people every year, and bring nature into their homes as well.  Our trees are a crop which keeps the land agricultural -- when trees are cut, more are planted.  In addition, we use no chemicals, and also donate 10 percent of tree sales to the local environmental group, the Environmental Defenders of McHenry County.