The Christmas Tree Harvest...... a tradition
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Thanksgiving Christmas Tree Tradition is one of our families "don't miss" events.

For well over a decade now we have always traveled out to the resource area to select, cut and bring home a nice fresh Christmas Tree. This takes a little getting used to since these are natural trees that are not pruned into
the traditional Charlie Brown Christmas shaped tree. So after all the fancy cooking is done on Thursday for Thanksgiving, after everyone has recovered from "Turkey Coma" Friday morning we start out toward the mountains north of our house to find and harvest a tree. Should be a nice time as for the first time in a few years we are experiencing a snow storm during the Friday following Thanksgiving. So the trek starts out passing by many geological formations on our way to the divide road. Climbing up towards the Cow Camp, but we will stop far short of Cow Camp as the resource area is not as far
up as cow camp.

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We leave the paved road and pass the signs warning of no winter maintenance, we are the first tracks on the divide road since the storm hit. Breaking trail is fun even if it is the trail of a gravel road! As we climb in altitude it becomes apparent this is going to be a snowy tree hunt. No
worries, chain box is in the truck, shovels, winch, everything needed to get out of trouble if we get into to trouble with the weather. This is a pretty good storm. But it is the first of the winter season, so we should not have any trouble navigating.

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Finally as we reach the top of the switchbacks we get a chance to look out over the canyon. The storm is still fairly gathered and we are actually in the snow fall the entire climb.

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We come to our turn off and as luck would have it we are still breaking trail toward our tree hunting area. Snow is still falling at a pretty good clip, this is a good tree hunting year.

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We drive down the two track a few miles and find a spot to pull off the road and bail out to go tree hunting. We bail out of the truck and start trying to find a great tree! These trees are natural so the wear the scars of nature, meaning you have to look and check a few to find the correct tree.

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Selecting the perfect tree requires a few stops and a little bit of looking. I mean looking off the road, not right at roadside. The roadside trees have been picked over long ago. We like to walk into the little ravines about 150 yards off the road. Makes the tree finding easier as many people just won't get off the road that far to find a tree. First stop finds all of us out looking at different trees and calling when we think we found one that will work. But the trees, they are a fickle bunch. Some have double trunks, cut them and the trunk splits, and you have half a tree. Some have big hollow spots where some young bull or buck rubbed them and removed a lot of the branches that are required to fill it out. So we continue to look over the trees searching for one that will work.

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No luck at our first stop, not to worry plenty of wild acres left to look through. And we are not in a hurry, we have done this every year for well over a decade. Quick find and get is not the idea. The hunt is the fun of it. Searching and discussing. Looking from the road to decide
if a ravine is worth going into on foot. All while we have the Christmas music blaring out of the radio. With extra acoustics due to sticks and hay that have worked their way on top of the speakers over the years we have owned the one ton pickup truck. The kids found there way back to the truck.
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We must move on a little further down the two track to find another spot. There were some good ones, but not the perfect one in this location. So a couple hundred yards down the path we will see if the perfect one appears.

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More trail busting and more scoping and stopping and moving along toward another area to search on foot.

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There are plenty of ravines to hike to in search of a perfect tree. And we have a good time during the search. It is nice to be up and out on the Friday after Thanksgiving looking for the tree. A real pleasure to think
you are in the middle of no where and only 35 miles away a whole bunch of cranky people are wrestling for the latest "tickle me Elmo" at some store with a door buster special! If they knew this existed, they would never bust another door! They would tree hunt. The Cougar and I like taking the kids out for this. Even though they are in College we have made this such a tradition over the years they absolutely have to go with to get the tree. Talk of leaving them behind is met with flared tempers! It is great to get them going!

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The children still hang on their mother, even in there early adult years. Once the tree is located someone must go back to the truck and retrieve the harvesting tools. In the early days I laid down under the thing with a bow saw and sweated while I sawed the thing off. All that changed with the battery operated SawsAll they have these days. The Ryobi takes a bow saw blade and makes short work on the harvest. Here comes the college chick with the harvesting tools now.

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Tree found, harvesting complete, mom and dad can head back to the truck for some spice cider while the College kids haul the thing to the truck for transport.

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Watching and listening to two children working on getting a tree out is a very good laugh. If only these pictures could talk. There is talk of bringing the horses next year to drag it out. Talk of who is not carrying their share of the tree. Laughter as they fall in the snow. All in all a pretty good time is being had, and certainly better than "THE MALL CRAWL" that is going on in town.

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College chick can not load the tree so dad is called into duty again. But she and her brother got the hard part done in short order so I don't mind loading it up and tagging it. They forget I carried the tree myself for years in the beginning when they were being pulled in a toboggan to and from the tree by their mother.

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Now you have to obtain a tag to cut a tree, but for $8.00 can you really go wrong? I think not. And the tag says it all!

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Once the tree is loaded and we are on our way we scan the area for wildlife. Not one year have one come searching for a tree that we have not come across wild animals of some sort. Elk, deer, one year we came across the wild sheep on our way back. Another year the deer were in the road and we had to stop. It is always something. If you look center bottom of this picture you will see two mule deer. Three were there but only two are in the shot.

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Not the greatest photo of deer in the world, but just one more experience that makes the trip to the mountain to gather a tree a real good time. In the end we know the kids love to go do this. They have a good time going to get the tree.

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And so with the tree collect and the tag fixed to it we start our return to the valley with the Christmas tree in tow. Past the familiar land marks toward the town once again.

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Losing altitude moving toward the ranch at the bottom of the Divide road as we wind the switchbacks down the side of the mountain.

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At home we put it on the porch in a five gallon bucket of water. We will put it up in a week or so when the kids return from college for the Christmas holiday break. They love to decorate the tree....... but that is a different blog!

'til we speak again, start a few Holiday traditions, you will be surprised at how the children count on those things happening! To them it is part of their world of balance.

Chef Bob Ballantyne
The Cowboy and The Rose Catering
Grand Junction, Colorado, USA
Chef de Cuisine
The Cowboy and The Rose Catering

USMC Sgt 1979-1985
  Re: The Christmas Tree Harvest...... a tradition by bbally (Thanksgiving Christm...)
How beautiful, and so distant for me, enjoy the beauty for both of us--I shall be there in a year or two. I love the cold and the magnificance that goes with it.
"He who sups with the devil should have a. long spoon".
  Re: Re: The Christmas Tree Harvest...... a tradition by Old Bay (How beautiful, and s...)
We once did the cut-your-own tree experience when we were living in CT. Since we don't know much about trees, we picked a pretty one, but by the time it was time to take it down it had dropped every single needle!! We also picked a particularly nasty day with freezing rain and sleet and the kids (2 in high school) complained every step of the way.

Speaking of wildlife, we saw a fox 2 weeks ago on a street about 4 miles away from downtown Cleveland. It was sitting very calmly on a suburban front yard guarding the squirrel it had killed. I was tempted to invite him to my house to take care of the chipmunks which eat half my garden plantings and bulbs each year and tunnel under and undermine the integrity of my driveway.
  Re: Re: The Christmas Tree Harvest...... a tradition by lxxf (We once did the cut-...)
Oh MAN!!!! Sure makes me homesick!!!! God's country there, Bob----lucky you (unless you have to shovel snow every day!!!)
"Never eat more than you can lift" Miss Piggy
  Re: Re: The Christmas Tree Harvest...... a tradition by Roxanne 21 (Oh MAN!!!! Sure ma...)
Wow! What a wonderful tradition. Some of those rock formations remind me of living in Sedona Az. Beautifull - no snow though!
Mom to three wonderful 7th graders!
The time is flying by.
  Re: Re: The Christmas Tree Harvest...... a tradition by esgunn (Wow! What a wonderf...)
My parents, who had lived in Florida for 15 years, moved to New York State to be closer to family and farther from hurricanes. Even though they liked the place to which they had moved, after a little more than a year they decided that it was a little TOO remote (should anything happen to either of them), and the NY healthcare was nowhere near as good as what was available in FL (good thing the NY system isn't used nationally!). So, they moved back to Florida.

The property they had in NY WAS beautiful, though. It was a log cabin on nine acres that used to be a Christmas-tree farm. Thus, to go with Bob's great harvest photos, here are a few photos my parents took of the trees, as viewed from the cabin.

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If blueberry muffins have blueberries in them, what do vegan muffins have?
  Re: Re: The Christmas Tree Harvest...... a tradition by labradors (My parents, who had ...)
Beautiful, just beautiful. I have never seen a white Christmas. The sun is out and it is warm here now. Our Christmas still has all the trad. trimmings of England though, turkey, ham, a goose if you can find one. We sub new potatoes for roast, but always have the roasted pumpkin, and lots of salads. Also the traditional Christmas pudding, with egg custard over. Pavlova, fruit salad, (very home made and very 'lish) cheesecake. My daughter has made the pudding, last month, and it is mulling in the fridge. Alas, we have to buy our Xmas tree.
  Re: Re: The Christmas Tree Harvest...... a tradition by vannin (Beautiful, just beau...)
How do you spice the roasted pumpkin? If you don't mind sharing that, I have been doing a lot with winter vegetables and would love to have another "international" method to call on!
Chef de Cuisine
The Cowboy and The Rose Catering

USMC Sgt 1979-1985
  Re: Re: The Christmas Tree Harvest...... a tradition by bbally (How do you spice the...)
Many years ago when my son was 5, we came home from Penn. for Christmas. My Dad and I went to the woods and cut 2 small pine trees from a Railroad ROW. Our custom was to cut limbs from one , drill holes in the other and insert them to make one perfect tree--we then "flocked" the tree with a white fluffy coating-In Texas we seldom get snow--it looked like a snow covered tree in the house. Anyway, my son asked for my hammer early in the evening, to play with. After a while I needed it and when I asked for it, he said "the problem with Dad is, he doesn't know how to share"--your pictures brought back a memory. Merry Christmas to all.
"He who sups with the devil should have a. long spoon".
  Re: Re: The Christmas Tree Harvest...... a tradition by Old Bay (Many years ago when ...)
bbally, if you are talking to me about pumpkin, here is my answer. Not used being asked things. We do not spice the pumpkin. All I do is cut it into serving pieces, brush it with melted butter after scraping off the seeds. That side looks slightly 'hairy'. There is no need to peel the pieces unless you want to. I find it a bit of a mission, and when it comes time for eating it comes away from its thin skin very easily. I usually put s&p on before roasting and maybe a little nob more of butter in the 'up' side. They are roasted skin side down. The taste of a good roasted pumpkin is heaven in itself for us.

I have never added any sweetening, marshmellows or that type of thing to squash of any sort, or to sweet potato. (Kumara). Although I often stuff them. Anything from a glorious orange pumpkin to a dear little yellow flying saucer squash. But I like the little squashes just steamed with lemon juice too.

I can see the use for sweeteners in the pumpkin dessert/muffin/scone dishes of course, but have never made any. For us it has always been savory food.

The obvious choices depending on use I expect are curry, cinnimon, nutmeg. Nutmeg is lovely with a combined pumpkin/parsnip/potato mash. Sometimes I make it with sliced slightly wilted cabbage, or silverbeet (Ithink you call that kale) in a oven proof dish, well seasoned, and top with the combined mash. Reheat when ready with dots of butter until the nice little peaks swept up with a palette knife are well brown and the rest is light brown.

I have found root veg mixtures go well, turnips, carrots, etc. I know pumpkins (squash are not roots, but anyway.

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