The Forest Illuminated, Photograph © 2009 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden
I have never been much of a Black Friday enthusiast. Frankly, I would rather snuggle up by a cozy fire with a good book, or a notebook and pen, listening to Erik Satie and sipping hot, mulled cider. But if you are going out today, I hope that you will have fun. Please take care when traveling the busy roadways – safe travels this weekend everyone.
December is just around the corner, and of course the coming month is filled with holiday celebrations in many cultures, all around the world. There are dozens of wonderful traditions surrounding the winter solstice, and one of my favorites is the old pagan ritual of adorning a tree with lights and decorations. So rather than busting down doors at the mall, this weekend I will begin decorating for the festival of light.
A few months back I received a note from reader Nanette Pigaga, asking to use an image from The Gardener’s Eden on the The Garden Club of New Jersey website, which she administers. Nanette’s letter also included a lovely story she wrote about her family’s tradition of harvesting Christmas trees at a local New Jersey farm. The article, featured below, was originally published in 2008 by the Ridgewood News. Visiting a local, sustainable farm and buying a tree is a great way to support your community at this time of year. I thought this might be a good time to introduce special guest-posts here on The Gardener’s Eden. Thank you for sharing your story Nanette….
I asked my mother the other day when and why we began to cut down our Christmas trees. I could never remember going to a lot to pick one out, I told her. However, I do remember the many times my two sisters and I accompanied my mom into the magical fields of a tree farm in Lakeville, Indiana, a 30 minute or so drive south of our home in northern Indiana. We left the boys (my father and older brother) at home. What my mom revealed to me in this recent conversation was a story with the following elements: 1) my dad was always responsible for bringing our trees home because, 2) my mom was busy taking care of four children. I guess I was to read into that comment that taking four children Christmas tree shopping, lot or farm, might be too much for any parent to handle! In any event, my dad 3) came home with a tree one year in which the needles fell completely off within two weeks, and 4) it was decided that my mom would be in charge of tree selection from then on. I guess I was to read into that comment that someone complained too much for any father to handle!
Just as in those days of my childhood, I have continued the holiday tree selection in the rain, snow, wind and slush of early winter, loving every minute. When I moved to Philadelphia, I sought out a tree farm. Ken and I were dating then, and we drove to seven farms throughout New Jersey in one day (I remember the day well- the temperature was 70 degrees) until we found the “perfect tree” at Hall Tree Farm in Glen Gardner. That was 1978. We have been going to Hall Tree Farm in that mountainside hamlet ever since. Mrs. Knorr ran the farm then, and handed out lollipops to all the children from her outdoor “office”, a little red hut, one of the original ticket booths from the 1964 New York World’s Fair. When calling to get directions, I remember her telling me to, “Just ask anyone in town the way up here.” Her grandson Scott was a kid then, helping customers tie their selections onto the roofs of their cars. He took the farm over several years ago, before his grandmother passed away. Scott has now placed signs leading the way up the mountain to the farm, and has culled the fields of those trees that became overgrown or grew too close together during the years his grandmother’s health was failing. What now remains is a farm with a large variety of beautifully shaped evergreens to make any grandmother proud. Scott is there with his cadre of family and friends the day after Thanksgiving 8am-3:30pm and weekends until Christmas to help everyone find their perfect tree. They will lend you one of their saws (saws brought in are not allowed, to avoid the risk of disease) if you want to cut your tree yourself, or they will perform the act for you. Transportation for your tree is via tractor-drawn cart. You and/or the kids can go along for the ride. The staff will tie your tree securely to the top of your car. If you go, be certain to check out the Concolor Fir variety, an aromatic, long needle tree. We have been purchasing nothing else since 1982, when we discovered its needles still fully pliable after four weeks. Keep your eyes open for wild turkeys and other signs of Mother Nature (last year Scott pointed out evidence bear had been visiting). If you own dogs, let them romp to their hearts content. No trip would be complete without stopping at the rustic Woodglen General Store for breakfast sandwiches or lunch immediately after your trek into the country. Directions to both locations are below.
Nanette Pigaga is the Web Administrator for the Garden Club of New Jersey
and the Women Gardeners of Ridgewood, New Jersey
93 Red Mill Road
Glen Gardner, New Jersey 08826
Open 8am-3:30pm Friday, November 27th and every Sat & Sun ’til Christmas
549 E Hill Rd
Califon, New Jersey 07830
Story copyright Nanette Pigaga, used here with the author’s permission
If you have a special story, recipe, project or tradition to share, please contact me, (see link at left). I always look forward to hearing from all of you and reading your replies and suggestions.
Happy Holidays! – Michaela
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