Tree expedition: Matt's Memo

There are few cut-your-own Christmas tree lots in Central New York that I haven't visited. Every year we head out in early December in pursuit of the ideal blue spruce tree. That typically means stops at multiple farms. The end result is always a large, full bodied, freshly fragrant tree. I know it's the right size if it's nearly too heavy to lift and too wide to fit through the door even when bundled.

As we set out this season we were coming off a two year streak of finding a high quality spruce at Spring Pond Farms in Mexico. I suggested to Jamie we might want to head right there to see if there was one more solid tree on the lot. She was pretty certain we had tapped the last of the blue spruce. She's usually right. So, the journey began.

Over two days and many hours we drove through five counties and inspected the goods on nine different farms. Some others on the list were immediately crossed off knowing they no longer grow blue spruce. So many places specialize in firs and balsam. They are softer to the touch and have a shorter growing season. You learn a lot when going to nine tree farms.

Some growers plant the trees too close together. Others don't take enough care of the trees in the off season. The ones who do it right allow for enough space for a tree to grow for 10 to 12 years without getting crowded. They prune and shape the branches every summer. It's not as simple as buying a bunch of rural acreage and planting a bunch of trees.

We looked and walked. We hiked and searched. Fairly mild weather and proper outdoor gear kept us in the game on Saturday, but still didn't bring the right tree. A reload of our patience on Sunday pushed us out the door again. We clicked off Madison County, Onondaga County, Oswego County, Cayuga County. We tossed in a touch of Oneida County for good measure. There's a lot of pretty countryside around here.

After finding trees that were too tall, too short and too thin. And so many others that just weren't blue spruce we pulled into a familiar unpaved road. We walked up the hill 100 feet. There they were a stand of five or six mature blue spruce. They were right in the same spot where we cut our own the last two years at Spring Pond Farms.

By now the mild weather had turned into a rainy mess. We wondered if that had influenced our judgement. Probably not. When we got the tree home it was obvious we had picked the perfect tree. My Christmas present came early. Jamie said the magice words, :"you were right." We both got it right. The tree captures the season in its corner of our living room.

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