Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Wanderlust Wednesday: Crystal Spring Tree Farm

Where: Lehighton, VA
When: December 2014

I'm a creature of nostalgia. I am a person who celebrates holidays to the fullest and so much of that good tidings originate from my mother, who always made a great effort to have holidays be magical and special no matter where we were in life. We built a lot of traditions that I still hope to follow and pass down to my children (whenever I have them) and Christmas is probably one of those highlighted traditions.

For the earlier part of my childhood, my family was a live tree family. We would get a live Christmas tree every year and it would stand in all its glory until we sent it back to the woods a week or two after Christmas. For a span of time, we had a fake tree, and I hated it. This is back when fake trees looked like fake trees and they didn't have such great candles that smell like balsam fir. The tree, eventually, became shorter than me as I got taller and my dislike of it grew as well.

While I lived in apartments and the like, it was a fake tree again. My own tiny fake tree I bought that could only sit on a table, but it was better than nothing. But when I moved in with the beau and we had a first floor house, I was determined to get my live-tree fill in while I could.

But where could we get a tree? My parents, who live in Pennsylvania, are surrounded by tree farms and during my years living there I knew the Christmas tree process. Come October, a lot of the trees were sawed down, packed and shipped to various places that would have tree lots. The majority of Christmas trees you can pick up from a tree dealer in a parking lot had those trees cut for two months before the holiday season. I want a tree to last for a solid month. I want that thing glistening and full of life from the start of December to the beginning of January.

We didn't really have many ideas of where to get a tree straight from the ground but my parents' hometown... that was a great area to start looking. The question was, could my tiny Prius handle a tree strapped to the roof for the three hour drive back to Virginia? We were going to find out.

The start of December we went to visit my parents and had plans of getting a tree from a farm right down the street from their house. Unfortunately, it was closed for the season. But there was another tree farm, further away but reportedly still good, that we could try.

So off to Lehighton we went!

The Crystal Spring Tree Farm is something of a prized posession for the area. For multiple years, Crystal Spring has provided the White House with a Christmas tree. If the White House is deeming this tree farm good enough for their home, it's certainly good enough for ours.

With a bit of poking around we discovered the details of the farm: you can select pre-cut trees, you can select epic huge trees for those of you with ridiculously high ceilings, or you can go into the hills and find your own special tree and cut it yourself.

Hand saw grasped tightly, we headed for the hills. There are handy carts you can take with you and unless you're going for a small tree or have someone very strong with you, I'd suggest grabbing the cart. We went in search of the perfect three: something tall, full, with a great scent and needles that don't draw blood. They had a lot of various trees to look for, some much smaller than others, but we eventually tracked down The One.

It had been very rainy just that week, so unfortunately we had a good bit of mud to deal with, but what do you expect when you're on a farm? The wind was quick and bitter as well, something that isn't uncommon when you're on a hillside, so I say this to you, any future visitor of the farm: dress appropriately. While I really wanted a super cute Christmas tree farm photo op, it was definitely better to be warm and ready. Heavy gloves for prickly needles, boots that can get wet or muddy, and I certainly ended up being very thankful for the hat I brought with me.

Part of what is so wonderful about getting your own Christmas tree is to see all the other families meandering around in search of their own. People get so excited, adults included, and everyone is generally in a festive mood. We found a few trees that we enjoyed, all achieving the height we were going for, and went back and forth between them as we looked over the pros and cons of each. Finally, after a lot of deliberation, we settled on our perfect Christmas tree. I was ecstatic while the Beau was left with his first time experience of having to cut the tree down.

Lucky for him, my father is a pro and helped him get the tree cut down. We trimmed it on the spot, loaded it onto the wagon, and brought it down to the tree lot building. Here, the tree is loaded up to be shaken to death so all loose needles go flying, you can also opt to have a hole drilled into the bottom of the tree. For anyone unfamiliar with having their own live tree, having a hole drilled in the bottom is a wise choice, as it allows the tree to drink water more easily. It's also best to try and do this right before you set it up so that it doesn't get covered in sap.

Once it's shakened up, the tree is tied down and put onto your car. With payment, you get a little mug which we added to our Christmas mug collection. With the tree tied to the car (they have twine for this, but my father brought along sturdy straps which I'd suggest you do as well if you have a far commute) and we headed out. The following day we drove the tree home--all three hours--to Virginia. It made it there without issue and filled our house with the smell of Christmas. Our cats even loved it, Lily took up roosting under the tree and Joe dedicated his stuffed animal Yodas to the tree on a regular basis.

The tree lasted all through December and when we brought it to the curb to be taken away (on the second week of January when they had designated pick up) it was still fresh and ready to go if we had the chance to keep it longer.

While driving out of state for a tree was a bit of an extreme, it made for a great story and a wonderful way for us to remember "our first tree." Happy tree hunting, folks.

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