entertainingFood & Drinkstudio choowe like it wild

we like it wild: field trip- tree farm

by Grace Bonney

This week we put on our warm sweaters and headed out to the Skyline Ranch Tree Farm to take part in a classic holiday tradition: choosing and cutting down our own Christmas tree. Although it may not seem to be the “green” thing to do, cutting your own Christmas tree actually turns out to be quite an ecological choice. We’re not talking about pulling over to the side of the road and taking your pick of nature’s bounty, but rather heading out to a Christmas tree farm where trees are a responsibly grown seasonal crop. Once the big day has passed and your tree has been undressed, it can be mulched or given to your city for recycling.

Cutting down a farm tree is part of the season’s harvest, and at Skyline it’s more like pruning than chopping. Skyline uses trees cultured from established stumps and the stump we chose our tree from had the marks of at least three other sizable trees taken in years past. By leaving some lower branches untouched the tree will continue to grow. They plant 700 to 1000 seedlings a year here, and we could already see next year’s crop growing strong.

CLICK HERE for the rest of studio choo’s tree farm post after the jump!

Driving in we were handed a small saw and given brief directions on how to cut, and then we were on our own. Except for forgetting our mittens on what turned out to be one of the coldest days of the year so far, we were set. A farm like Skyline is right up our alley, where you wander the rows and hillsides surrounded by Douglas and Noble firs, sequoias and pines, of all sizes and shapes. We were surprised to see tons of families and friends parked along the side of the road picnicking with hot cocoa, wine, and savory snacks. Honestly, we could have stayed at this place all day and next year we’re going to bring our own picnic basket, invite our friends, bring the dogs, and make a day of it.

Selecting and cutting your own tree gives you the opportunity to get it right from the source and insures that you’re getting the freshest product available. Although firs and pines abounded, the bright green perky branches of a sequoia stood out to us, and it has an amazingly subtle citrus scent to boot. Once home, we made sure to give our tree copious amounts of water and keep it hydrated through Christmas (keep checking the water level every other day during the first week). And although trimming the tree afterward was fun, visiting the farm and choosing our tree has definitely moved to the top of the list of our favorite holiday traditions!


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  • Actually, cutting down your own Christmas tree is about as Eco as you can get!

    Once a tree gets to a certain age, it actually stops fixing carbon into it as a sink, begins to respire, emitting CO2. This is about the typical age and size of a Christmas tree. Once a tree’s wood to pith ratio is greater than one, cut away! The planting of new ones allows more carbon to fixed. The subsequent mulching and decomp of your old tree fixes all the carbon again into your soil, and slows down the emission of CO2 by being detritus, yummy stuff to detrivores.

  • This is the best! My childhood neighbors cut down their own Xmas Tree and each year I love seeing what kind of tree they would end up with (they tend to be more organic in form v. that perfect triangle).

    This is a tradition we’ll be starting once the kid/s are old enough to participate.

  • I just want to say thanks for a rational post that doesn’t spoil a beautiful holiday tradition with a hysterical, uninformed “green” reaction. Enjoy that responsibly grown tree and mulch it! :-)

  • Very nice post and I love the dog photo. Your dog looks very much like mine. Can you tell me anything about his or her background. Mine came from a shelter so her background is murky. Thanks!

    P.S. I love your website.

  • I love this story! Guest blogger Nanette Pigaga wrote a beautiful essay about her family’s tradition of harvesting trees. It was nice to hear the story of someone carrying on this tradition since before I was born. I published it on TGE the day after Thanksgiving. It’s a sweet story, and the farm in Hall Tree Farm in New Jersey is a really fine option for anyone living in that neck of the woods. Evergreen trees are an important and sustainable, renewable form of agriculture. These farms provide jobs and community income. Thanks for promoting the small farmer !

  • So awesome! This is strikingly similar to my expedition last weekend with the girls. We cut trees together every year (and go wine tasting) and it is one of my favorite traditions. I usually look for a tall skinny tree with one flat side so it can be pushed close to the wall.

  • I’m with Ecochic above; buying a real tree is just about the ‘greenest’ thing you can do. A fake tree will never biodegrade in a landfill. My family for the past 22 years has always bought a balled and burlaped tree, with the roots still attached, and planted it after the holidays. It’s good knowing that we have a pretty tree that will never die. They’re all over our yarn and neighboorhood; the biggest one is now too tall to put lights on! This is my first year buying a cut tree and since I’m in FL I plan on sinking the tree in the bayou to give that ecosystem something to feed on!

  • When I lived in SF, my husband and I got a tree from perhaps the same farm on Skyline. However due to their method of letting trees re-sprout, many were really crooked and are tricky to get in a stand. I’m looking forward to going to a tree farm this weekend where they have converted land once used to grow tobacco and now have xmas trees.

  • I miss having a real tree, their gorgeous scent just fills up the room and brings about an air of festivity instantly! Thanks for this wonderful and informative post!

  • That’s really interesting! I never thought that trees could re-sprout from their own stump. i love the idea of cutting down your own tree from a farm :)

  • We always go to the tree farms in the Santa Cruz Mt.’s. So much fun. Sometimes it’s 70 degrees and sometimes it’s freezing rain, but we love it! We actually “tailgate”. Lots of snacks and beverages and good friends and family! I can’t even imagine going to a lot.

  • I just moved to a semi-rural place on four acres of mostly wooded land, and I’m hoping to plant my own Christmas trees soon for down the line :)

    & Cute puppy! I think my dog would be trying to gnaw on the tree instead of lying peacefully beside it haha.

  • I’m chimed in on the idea of buying a tree with a root ball. It’s great if you have the place to plant it later. My family did this when I was a child. Who ever moved the mouse in the Advent calendar was also responsible for watering the tree. My sister and I would get so excited at the end when we got to plant the tree with Dad. Makes the season last longer.

  • I’ve always wanted to cut down my own christmas tree. Apparently when I was very young (4 or 5) my mom & my aunt took me and my two cousins to a farm to cut down our own tree. well, wouldn’t you know it but a big snow storm fell & they had the hardest time dragging back 2 trees & 3 young kids to the car :) one of these years I want to get back out there again since I don’t remember this!

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