For the past two Christmases, getting our Christmas tree was gratifyingly easy. You know, seeing as how we actually lived on an real Christmas tree farm. Most other aspects of life on the Canadian border were most assuredly not easy--like regular deadly blizzards and endless winter--but the Christmas tree? No problem. We just walked a hundred yards up the road, cut one down, and brought it home.
Here, however, in our new House of Enchantment, there are definitely no Christmas trees within a hundred yards of our house. I had joked with the boys that maybe we should just decorate a tumbleweed--yes, there are real, actual tumbleweeds all over the place here, just tumbling around like an Old West movie scene--and they thought that was a swell idea, but I had to explain that tumbleweeds don't have strong enough branches to hold ornaments and lights.
Yes, I did give it that much thought.
But in the end, I decided we had to go on an expedition into the canyon to get a more traditional Christmas tree.
Cue Friday Family Fun!
Now, when I say "traditional," I am using that in a loose sense. The traditional Christmas tree you'll find in a tree lot is most likely a variety of fir or spruce. But if you think we were going to drive to a tree lot--I haven't checked, but I bet the closest one is at least 75 miles away--and spend $60 or more for a tree, then you haven't been reading here long enough.
The three evergreen varieties native to this area that might be candidates for a Christmas tree are cedars*, Ponderosa pines, and pinyon pines. Cedars are more like shrubs than trees. Ponderosa pines here tend to be too big and also kind of rare. The pinyon pine is the best bet for a Christmas-tree-like size and shape. They do not, however, grow near our house. To find these trees, we had to go down into a canyon.
Fortuitously, A. had that permit to cut wood in a canyon--well, sort of on the rim of this canyon--somewhat near our house, so we loaded up the kids, attached the trailer to the van, and set off in pursuit of one live tree and many dead ones.
It took us about half an hour to get to the national forest road where we could cut wood, and that road was . . . let's say "unimproved."
These were not the worst of the ruts. The worst of the ruts were about twice as deep and had tire-popping sharp rocks embedded in them.
A. drove very carefully and managed not to bottom out or pop a tire. It was a little bumpy, though. Bumpy in the sense that if any of the kids had had loose teeth, that road would have taken care of their extraction.
There were also two gates that had to be opened and closed, because there are cattle in this area.
The gates were my job.
Eventually we reached an area that had trees big enough to cut. Had we gone farther, there were even bigger ones, but we didn't know that yet. So we unloaded the whole happy crew and set to work.
A. cut. The boys loaded.
Some could carry more than others.
But every little bit counts.
Baby Lamb and I sat on the ground nearby and supervised.
Mostly I supervised her, to make sure she didn't crawl into any cow patties.
While the boys were waiting for A. to cut enough pieces for them to carry, they played in a little washed-out gully nearby, jumping in and over it and brandishing sticks.
Lambie there never quite made it over to the game, but she tried.
After A. had gotten as much wood as he could from this area, we loaded up again to explore the road further. A. thought it made a loop, but the road deteriorated so much that he decided to turn around and go back the way we came in rather than risk getting the whole family stuck.
Now, we still did not have a Christmas tree. We saw several pinyons that would have been perfect, but A.'s permit was only for dead wood, and far be it from us to break the law by cutting down a live tree.
So we went to Wally's ranch.
Wally is a man who owns a ranch right next to this canyon. A. has been doing some masonry work for him on a very old house on his property. A. wanted to show us the house, so we stopped at Wally's house. He doesn't live in the one that's being restored; he has a new house on the ranch.
Wally already had his Christmas tree up and when I admired it, he said right away, "Do you folks need a Christmas tree? Go cut one of those pinyons out there."
He also gave each of the boys a soda from his dedicated soda refrigerator. I suspect the boys will want to visit Wally again.
Anyway, after staying for a few minutes to chat with Wally, we all got back in the van to go to the stone house.
The top wood section is brand-new. The bottom stone part is extremely old.
All those stone walls need re-pointing, and A. is just the man for the job.
As cool as the house is--and it is--the boys were most excited about what was down the hill from it.
Wilderness. And a frozen stream.
While they chunked rocks into the frozen water to break the ice, I wandered around looking for a Christmas tree. Also avoiding cactus** and hoping there were no mountain lions in the vicinity.
That last one is not paranoia, by the way. There are actually a lot of mountain lions in that kind of terrain.
It's a long way from a Target Christmas tree lot.
Anyway. I eventually found a pretty good pinyon. It was trying to hide, but I saw it.
You can't hide from me, little Christmas tree.
A. cut it down in short order, and then we all hiked the half mile up--and it was a steep up, and I was carrying the 23-pound baby--to the van to go home.
Now I just have to decorate the tree. And figure out a way to barricade it in so the crawling, standing baby doesn't yank it down. That might be almost as challenging as procuring the tree in the first place.
** I knew we weren't in the northwoods anymore when I announced, "Okay kids, we're going to get our Christmas tree. Don't fall into a cactus."