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Lisa Persche

December 13, 2010

Ah, Christmas in the country. For city dwellers, the notion holds a special charm. Wistful songs have even been written about it. Our family gets a little taste of it when we travel to a 180-acre farm to harvest our own Christmas tree.

To prepare for this much-anticipated, annual adventure, we don numerous layers of clothing, from thermal underwear to mittens and parkas.

I gather the camera, along with pretzels, juice boxes, bubble gum and a handful of Christmas CDs for the car ride, while my husband hunts for the saw out in our shed.

The 40-minute drive passes as quickly as is possible with a car full of excited kids. We enjoy singing along to carols and taking in the rural sights: houses with wraparound porches and gingerbread trim; large, festively decorated lawns; long, unpaved driveways; roadside mailboxes; wood piles; barns and a variety of farm animals; unassuming town halls and quaint old churches.

Every other vehicle travelling towards us sports a tree on its roof or sticking out of the trunk.

FAMILIAR SIGNPOSTS

The house with the two-storey snowman on the front lawn signals we’re almost there. Stepping out of the car at last, we stretch and breathe deeply, inhaling the crisp, clean air and intoxicating evergreen aroma.

We have to hike a fair distance to reach one of the designated, cut-your-own sections. Along the way we pass through “activity alley,” featuring sleighs for the kids to play in and wooden scenes with cutouts for them to pose in, making for good photo opportunities.

One route also takes customers across the “kissin’ bridge,” bearing a sign that warns if mom and dad don’t kiss before crossing, the structure may collapse.

There are so many trees available — all full and beautifully shaped — you’d think choosing one would be a breeze.

On the contrary, each family member locates a different, “perfect” specimen and makes a pitch for it — except for my husband, that is, who’s happy to let the kids and me do the hunting and scrutinizing, his only request that the choice be finalized before his fingers and toes go numb.

NO CHARLIE BROWN TREE

The challenge is to avoid getting a tree that’s too tall (so it doesn’t require pruning) or too wide (so it doesn’t block the living room entrance) — no easy feat given how deceptively small they all appear in the great outdoors.

A family photo is always taken in front of the adopted evergreen. (The kids enjoy comparing these pictures from year to year, to see how much they’ve grown and changed.) Then we help cut the tree and carry it to the service area where customers queue up for assistance.

First, our spruce takes a spin on the shaking machine, to remove debris; the kids get a kick out of watching it vibrate maniacally. It then travels through the net baler before we haul it off to our car in a surprisingly compact bundle.

TRIMMINGS FOR SALE

Our next stop on the premises is the Pioneer Village Christmas Store: a 170-square-metre barn full of charming holiday decorating items. The merchandise is reasonably priced and different from the fare in city stores. The kids particularly enjoy perusing the large selection of nutcrackers, bells, angels and nativity scenes.

On the way out, we pay for our evergreen and receive a complimentary wooden ornament (we’re accumulating a nice collection). Driving down the long, winding exit lane, we admire the fields of “baby trees” that will be Christmas-ready in about a decade. Partway home we stop for hot chocolate and donuts.

Our annual tree trek involves much more than simply getting a Christmas conifer, for there are easier ways to obtain one.

During this typically busy and stressful time leading up to Christmas, our family’s rural adventure is a refreshing respite — a special time to relax, have fun together and appreciate the priceless beauty of God’s creation.