Today was our annual trek to the Christmas Tree Farm....I love this day! We started cutting down our own tree when our daughter was just a baby. She is now 34. After a few years of frequenting the same tree farm, we came upon one located in McHenry, about 10 miles from where we live. Pioneer Tree Farm is a wonder place owned by Bill and Alice Howenstine. They have the hay wagons that take you out to the field, and the tree shakers to get the fallen needles out of your tree, and the baler that bundles up your tree in netting for the trip home, and the warming shed with coffee and hot chocolate....but what I really love about this place is how wonderful the Howenstine's and their "helpers" are. They are always smiling and never fail to say hello. They want to be sure that everyone that comes to their farm has a positive experience. Pioneer Farm also grows their trees organically, and that is really important to me. They also donate part of their proceeds to a conservation group, and I think that is great. I love supporting them and their efforts.
In spite of losing thousands of trees in the summer droughts of 2004 and 2005, having to remain closed last year because of those losses...there they were...smiling and welcoming the many visitors that made their way to the farm today.
I remember the days when the five of us would jump off the hay wagon out in the middle of the trees...Irv, Michael and Matt would usually head one direction, and Tresa and I would head out another direction....in search of the "perfect" tree. If you cut your own tree, you know that rarely do you find the "perfect" tree, but man did we have fun trying! When you found one you liked you either sacrificed a mitten, or if it was too cold to do that, you grabbed a handful of weeds and placed it on the top of the tree to "mark" it. Then you would continue your search.
At some point we would all meet up and discuss our finds...always claiming that we had the "best". Then we would play show and tell, trying to sell the rest of the group on our tree. The girls usually won of course, but that's a story for a different day!
Now that the kids don't live at home, it's just me and Irv. We carefully eased ourselves off of the hay wagon today (we don't jump off these days especially since Irv is in need of a hip replacement and is nursing some really bad discs right now), and headed out to find the "perfect" tree.
As we were told when we got there, the fields are still pretty bare. We would need to do a lot of walking and searching for our tree this year. That was fine with me, it was a beautiful day and I was bundled up just right.
As we walked around and around and up and down the almost empty rows, we realized that it was going to be quite a challenge finding a tree at all this year. The trees were either way too tall, way too small, way too fat or just way too weird looking! After walking and walking and walking, we started heading back toward the truck empty handed unsure what we were going to do. I decided to check out one other field. I am walking much fasting than Irv right now, so I told him to take his time and I would go on ahead and see if there was anything good.
As I entered this other field...this feeling came over me. I felt as though I was in some other world. There were huge evergreen trees towering over me, and no one was around. There was a beautiful stillness and this feeling of peace. I just kept walking around through the trees ducking under branches, stopping occasionally to inspect a smaller tree. It was so wonderful I didn't want it to end.
On my little journey I did find a couple of "perfect" trees and went to find Irv. After searching around a bit, I finally located him. He had found a "perfect" tree too....but I looked at it and something else came over me and I informed him that mine were better!
He followed me into the wooded area where I started my sermon on why my trees were the best. I think out of sheer exhaustion he agreed on my selection. He took the hand saw and in a minute, our little tree was on the ground ready for it's trip back to our house.
The tree is very little...much smaller than we usually have....but there was just something about that area of the farm that touched my heart and my soul and I knew that our tree was there. Tomorrow we will put up our little guy and adorn him with beautiful lights and ornaments. He will bring us a tremendous amount of joy throughout the next few weeks as we celebrate this wonderful season. Our family will gather around that tree and make some precious memories that we will talk about for years to come.