Last month, our boss announced the start of the 2008 Lane County Experience Holiday Challenge. Well, we have incredible Lane County experiences all of the time – mind you, we work for the Convention & Visitors Association – but this time, we were challenged to try something new.

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I took the title literally and invited my family on a holiday adventure to Northern Lights Christmas Tree Farm, where we went on a quest to find the perfect Christmas tree.

As the self-titled Adventure Captain, I recruited my in-laws, Bob and Betty, from Hawaii for the occasion. (They happened to come a little early and joined us for Thanksgiving, too.) With their keen eye for evergreens, and with the help of my husband, Dean, and our two teenagers, Samantha and Ryan, I was on my way.

We started the day with a hearty breakfast at Brails Restaurant, where our table overflowed with pancakes, omelets, and plates of French toast.

With full bellies, we headed 13 miles out of Eugene to Northern Lights Christmas Tree Farm in Pleasant Hill. The weather was perfect, which in December means sunny with a slight chill in the air. At the farm, we were greeted by friendly volunteers who pointed us toward parking and then to the tractor-drawn wagons that would take us on our quest for the perfect tree.

As we gathered our gear, owner Bob Schutte explained that the trees are grown in separate fields based on their variety.

So which tree should we choose? They have more than five options, including Douglas-fir, the Oregon state tree, and a new variety, Canaan fir. Because I was the leader of this adventure, I picked my all-time favorite – the Noble fir.

We borrowed a saw, hopped on a wagon and headed to the Noble fir field. Our instructions were simple: Pick a tree anywhere within the field, cut it as close to the ground as possible, and bring it out to the road. Our driver would be back through every 20 minutes to carry groups like ours, and their trees, back to the parking area.

And so our quest began.
For Ryan, it was an excruciatingly long process. He just didn’t understand the significance of the perfect tree! He was content with the first tree we “kind of” liked just three rows in from the road, but I knew we couldn’t possibly pick the first tree we saw. Samantha loved every tree, but she really only wanted the largest ones. I decided to explore the entire field, checking all possibilities before we made our choice.

What makes a perfect Christmas tree? For our family, it can’t be too full because you need plenty of display room for ornaments. It also can’t be too tall because our stand only holds a nine-foot tree. We made this mistake before when we put a 13-foot tree in it, only to have it fall over in the middle of the night! After great deliberation and several passes of the wagon, we decided. It was beautifully shaped and just the right height.

And then the work began. We dropped down on our knees and looked at the base of the tree, pausing when we realized we had chosen a tree with a 22″ circumference! But I wasn’t worried. I knew I had chosen a strong team for this adventure. It was a long process, and we each took a turn, sawing our way around the base. As we heaved and hoed, we heard the wagon roll by again.

Overall, my family enjoyed wandering through the field together, helping each other decide on the perfect tree, and sharing the work to cut it down – mission accomplished.

The sunny, chilly day had turned quite warm during our quest, but finally the tree was down, and we carried it out to the road. We caught the next wagon back and had fun watching the shaker machine and baler prep our tree for the drive home. We stopped in the barn to look through the goodies for sale and bought celebratory hot chocolate from co-owner Lynn Schutte. Then we tied our treasure to the top of the car and headed home to decorate the perfect Christmas tree.

If you go:
Northern Lights Christmas Tree Farm is open daily from the Friday after Thanksgiving through Christmas Eve, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saws are provided, but if you have your own, you are welcome to bring it. Remember, the bigger the tree, the bigger the trunk! For larger trees, you might want to bring your own saw, or even a chainsaw. Gloves are also handy if you want to keep your hands free of pitch. String or bungee cords are a must if you plan to tie your tree to the top of your car.

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  1. jae says…

    I’ve heard that Oregon is the nation’s number ONE Christmas tree producer. Could that be possible???? AND have you seen this YouTube about a tree farmer and his dog? (http://oregonwinecountry.org/features/2008/treefarmer.php) Sounds a bit like it was filmed in a wind tunnel, but isn’t that pooch cute?

    Written on December 17th, 2008 / Flag this Comment
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