Posted on 25 December 2011 by

Walk down Christmas Tree Lane


By Mindy McIntosh-Shetter

My childhood was like a country song by Barbara Mandrell.

Her saying “I was country when country wasn’t cool” completely describes my life.

My first five years of life were spent in a large city in Kentucky.

But social turmoil was going on and my dad did not want me involved in it when I started school so we moved to the country in Indiana.

At first it seemed I was the odd girl out. I started first grade at 5 years old and was just overly different then my classmates. I am part Native American and my appearance did not match the German ancestors that were in my classes. As time went on, I became more and more a tomboy, naturalist, environmentalist and when agriculture classes opened up for girls an agriculturist.

My dad always depended on me to take care of the farm. As a matter of fact, I was mowing grass with a push mower when I was 6 years old. Through hard work I learned many of the skills I use today but through all the work there was one time of year that I did not mind digging a hole and that was the December holiday.

While my mom hated live trees, I just loved them. Sometimes we would go in the woods and cut one down while other times we would go to a Christmas tree farm and dig one up. This took a lot of work and as you would figure the tree was always too tall. But frankly that was part of the fun.

I would prepare for our annual trip to the Christmas tree farm by predigging the hole in October. Let me tell you from experience, it is easier to dig a hole in the fall then in December when the ground is frozen.

Once the hole was dug, I would place the soil from the hole in a plastic bag, mix it with compost and putting it in the barn. You may ask yourself why? The answer is simple; it is easier to handle soil that is not frozen. After the soil was put up, I would mark the location of the hole with brightly colored flags.

Come the second week of December, my dad and I would plan our trip to the Christmas tree farm. We took picks, shovels, lunch and a thermos of hot chocolate. Once we got there it was my job to find the perfect tree. One that was not too tall, too full or too wide. Sometimes this took hours while other times I found the perfect one right away. Keep in mind though that this was not so much the tree but the journey and family memories involved.

After the perfect tree was discovered, the next task was the hardest and the most labor intensive. The first thing that my dad did was to outline where the trench would be dug. This was done with an old length of watering hose. The trench needs to be 6 inches away from the tree’s drip line and one foot deep.

Once this is dug, the next step is to dig the trench deeper from the outside toward the trunk. As you do this you will cut through many roots. Some of these roots may be thick so have an axe or chainsaw handy.

Continue to do this until a ball begins to form. A small tree will have a root ball of 12 to 18 inches in diameter. Once the ball is free, wrap it in burlap and tie off.

Move to the car or truck and do not forget to put a flag on the top. After you get it home, place it outside until about one week before Christmas.

These trees typically do not do well indoors. To help them become used to the indoor environment, make the move gradually. My dad and I used to move the tree to the barn and then to the house.

We would then place it in a whiskey barrel and water the roots. Live Christmas trees need to be cared for just like live plants. We would allow the tree to rest in the indoor environment for one day before decorating.

The day after Christmas, we would plant our Christmas tree in the area of the farm that I loving call Christmas tree lane. The process of replanting the tree entails the same process used to plant any other tree.

To this day, I can walk down that lane and remember the Christmas associated with that tree. This lane has become more important to me in recent times since my mother has passed away. Today, my dad and I do not dig our Christmas tree but instead use those plastic creatures that I dislike.

This tradition was somewhat carried over when I had children. While my whopping 1/5 of an acre does not have the space for a Christmas tree lane I do have a Christmas tree train. This train consists of a slice of the trunk from every cut Christmas tree we have ever had. Each slice is burned with the date and wheels put on it. It is then attached to our family’s Christmas train.

Some of the slices are decorated with fingerprints from our children or other decorations while others are just left the way Mother Nature made them. There have been some years where we did not have the money for a fresh tree due to economics and as painful as that is to me it will remain part of our family history.

So until we blog again, may the holidays bring you joy and happiness where ever you are and always remember that irreplaceable memories can be created by doing things together like digging a simple tree.

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