The grass is frost-scuffed, and the afternoon light gives the bare trees a glow. We park in the field by the barn and walk up the hill carrying a bow saw. The air smells of balsam. The baby trees on the fringes come up to our knees, but we are in among the larger ones, circling them to look from all angles. If you have ever chosen a Christmas tree with family and friends, you know this conversation — is it tall enough? You can just reach the top. It’s a little uneven, but we can shape it.
Somehow iit seems to vary in inverse proportion to the age of the youngest speakers (and the temperature). Last year my parents, two old friends and I chose a concolor fir in about 10 minutes. Concolor has a citrus tang and thick, softish needles. This one needed trimming to fit into a small room in my parents’ house, which was built in the 1700s for people my size.
We have often chosen and cut our own trees over the years. Coming to a local farm and walking through the fields has become part of the holiday. When my brother and sister and I were younger, we would wrangle cheerfully over what kind of tree — white pine have long, soft needles, and balsam are fragrant. Frazer fir grow tall and even. I’ve always loved it. Holding the tree steady as my dad saws through the base, reaching through the branches with fir needles in my hair and helping to carry our tree back up the hill with sap-sticky gloves.
Now we’re older and scattered, and who chooses the tree and when has adapted to time and become that much rarer. It still happens every year, and it still has magic in it. Once, back in Connecticut, I went with friends and their young daughter to choose their tree, and we saw bluebirds flying across the lower fields.
Here are the local tree farms we have gathered this season. If you know of more, we welcome your thoughts. And as the season goes on, we encourage you to call ahead to check on trees and weather before you head out. In the photo above, Dorothy and Mark Alford’s family chooses a tree at Crane Hill Tree Farm. Photo by Susan Geller (taken Dec. 2009)
Crane Hill Tree Farm
Cut-your-own or pre-cut Balsam Fir and “Fralsam Fraser / Balsam crosses. Trees up to 10 feet tall.
Sold out for 2016
233 Johnson Hill Road, off Route 8, Washington
Frederick Christmas Tree Farm
Balsam Fir, Fraser Fir, White Pine and White Spruce
360 Washington Road, Route 8, Hinsdale
(413) 655-8551, firstname.lastname@example.org
Ioka Valley Farm
White Spruce, Fraser Fir, Concolor Fir, Canaan Fir
3475 Route 43, Hancock
Open weekends Thanksgiving through Christmas from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. with hayrides, popcorn and cocoa, wreaths and decorations. Santa often visits on the first weekend in December. Calf-A open for winter breakfasts 8 a.m. to noon.
Itty Bitty Farm
Balsam Fir, Fraser Fir
1100 Route 9, Windsor
Open Thursday and Friday 1 to 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., starting Nov. 26
(413) 684-3268, email@example.com
Justamere Tree Farm
J.P. and Marian Welch
Choose-and-cut or Pre-cut trees, Fraser and Balsam fir, open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday to Sunday Nov. 25 to 27 and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays in December. Wreaths and swags made on the farm. Post-and-beam barn gift shop with organic maple syrup and maple products and hand-crafted brooms.
248 Patterson Road, Worthington
Seekonk Tree Farm
Cut-your own Balsam fir, concolor fir, Fraser fir, white or Meyer spruce, white pine, and pre-cut Fraser fir
32 Seekonk Cross Road, Great Barrington
Open through Dec. 24, Monday to Friday, 12:30 to 5 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.