Christmas Tree Farms and Lots
Do you smell that pine? It isn’t just the gin I’m drinking that put the jovial jolt of juniper in the air — Christmas is coming. My childhood was lived outdoors: spring was in the garden, summer was in the sand and ocean, fall was in the trees and leaves, and winter was for the Christmas tree farms. The entire family would bundle up and pour hot chocolate into a thermos approximately the same size and temperature as a nuclear silo. We would pile into the minivan and off we’d go, fifty-five minutes into the middle of nowhere, to a vast sea of Norse tradition. It was a coming of age for me to finally wield the saw one year and fell the family tree. Luckily, living in a city doesn’t doom you to plastic purgatory. There are plenty of options for those like me, born and bred in the woods, nearly wolf-people, who need nature close to them at the holidays.
Like my family, you may decide your best option (as it is, in fact, the best option) is to drive out to the suburbs to an actual tree farm. If you have a car, or a friend with one, you should take full advantage of these options relatively close at hand. If you don’t have access to a car, you can always rent an iGo or a ZipCar for the day. It makes a great trip for the family, friends, or significant other. There are several within a two hour drive from the heart of the city, and they offer a wide range of services, varieties, and prices. If you’re going to make the trek, make sure to double check the hours. Be aware that some locations, like their trees, don’t do plastic, so have some cash on hand!
- Oney’s Tree Farm in Woodstock offers hot, homemade cinnamon rolls and horse drawn wagon rides on the weekends.
- Kuiper’s Family Farm in Maple Park offers apple cider doughnuts, pies, hot cider and cream fudge to make treeing more merry.
- IDE Christmas Tree Farm in Downers Grove sells trees for $60, regardless of size or type, so it’s perfect if you’re looking to go big.
- Grandpa’s in Woodstock is only $50.
- Ziegler in Elgin has a whole field of discount trees, as they are trying to clear space for a fresh crop.
For those who don’t have the means to empty their entire wallet, there are plenty of lots right here in the city that offer a variety of pre-cut trees. Chicago Christmas Tree Lots have nine different locations; trees are arranged by size, variety, and price. Generally speaking, the bigger the tree the more expensive it will be. This year I got an adorable little me-sized tree for only about $35, but they have trees for all room sizes.
Beware: since these trees are pre-cut, there is no way of telling how long they have been without their roots, or even some fresh water. Make sure to run a (gloved) hand against the grain of the needles. If they are falling out by the handfuls, or the tree is looking slightly browner than those around it, move on.
Picking your Christmas Tree
Picking your tree is up to you, fellow Chicago naturalist. I wont go into details of the names, because many lots wont have them specifically labeled, and for most people it’s by look and feel anyway. (Though if you’re a Christmas tree enthusiast like I am, you can check out the differences between Firs, Spruces, and Pines here.
The biggest difference you’ll notice is between the long and short needle trees. In addition to a different visual, these trees also offer different levels of support for lights and ornaments. A rule of thumb is, the longer the needles, the flimsier the branches will be. Look for a nice, straight trunk and an even shape, but pick something that makes you happy. That is what the tree is all about. Last year was my first Christmas away from home, and having a tree next to my bedroom made the nights warmer. I want everyone to be able to experience the same Viking glee I get one month out of every year. Before you know it the new year will be here, and we will be forced to again celebrate the Roman god Janus, so grab a hold of a real tree and refuse to let go.