Stalking the Wild Christmas Tree

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Every year we venture up into the mountains of the Mendocino National Forest to find the perfect wild Christmas tree. People around here jokingly call it Tree Hunting Season. Tree Hunting Season comes right after Deer Hunting Season ends. Like any hunting it’s not an easy jaunt down to the local tree lot. As a matter of fact, there is a little bit of peril if you’re prepared and a lot of peril if you’re not.

My husband volunteers for our county’s Search and Rescue team and every once in a while some kid gets separated from the family and spends a cold night until someone can find him or her. A couple years ago my husband was instrumental in finding a little lost boy who went too far with his sled and got lost. The boy discarded his shoes and socks but amazingly his feet didn’t freeze in the below freezing weather. The socks helped my husband determine direction of travel and the little boy was found.

The day we went up on the mountain there was snow and the road had thawed and froze a couple times in the space of two days. It was super icy. Now you have to know I’m a Midwestern gal and no stranger to slippery roads. Why, back in the day we never even had snow tires. We just made our way in regular street tires and in extreme weather we finally, grudgingly broke down and put on the chains. In spite of my experience the day we went out I was nervous because instead of ditches next to corn fields we had overlooks thousands of feet down into rugged canyons. The only thoughts that persuaded me that we weren’t being super foolish was that my husband was an extremely good driver and that if we slid over the edge we wouldn’t roll all the way to the bottom because we’d be lodged next to a big tree.

So we put the truck in 4 wheel and went slow. Put it in low and go slow. We slipped a couple of times on down slopes at curves on the gravel road but we finally made it to the elevation where the prized Red Fir grows. Red fir is also known as Silver Tip. They only grow over 4,600 ft in Northern California and Oregon. Red fir is a cousin to the Noble fir which is popular in tree lots across America. Like the Noble fir the Red fir is a sturdy tree with stiff branches that carry the weight of heavy ornaments and lights very easily. The branches are spaced apart so all your neat ornaments are easy to see and don’t get covered up with branches. It’s not your classic Tannenbaum but we like it.

Me with our prize! Thank you lovely tree!

Getting our own tree also guarantees that the tree will last for a month or even longer without losing needles all over the place. We also know it’s 100% organic and isn’t impregnated with preservatives or sprayed green.

While tramping through the forest I also found some amazing pine cones. I’m pretty sure these are from the Sugar Pine which have the biggest cones in North America. I’m still trying to conquer conifer identification. I slow cook these beauties in the oven to melt the pitch and kill any insects and the results are lovely. You could never find something like this in stores without it costing a small fortune!

Sugar Pine cones

When we got home we found our tree was too tall for our ceiling but that was not a problem. We just cut it from the bottom and from the leftover branches I made three imperfect but homey wreaths. I save the heavy wire forms from wreathes I have bought in the past. I just crammed and stuffed silver tip branches cut to size, added pyracantha berries found on the roadside and voila! three Christmas wreaths, one Christmas tree and one adventure all for the whopping sum of $10.00 and some gas! (By the way, if you use pyracantha and you notice that any of the berries fall off scoop them up right away. They are poisonous to house pets and children. As a matter of fact, unless you’re like us and are half hermits you might want to forego pyracantha altogether.)


Stuff, stuff, stuff!

The finished wreath

Now we’re at home with our lovely tree. I look at my husband and remark “There’s a tree in our living room!” ‘Tis the season and we hope it’s jolly for you!