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Stalking the Wild Christmas Tree

Go for an adventure!

European style Christmas Trees in field

U-cut Scots pine at Sherwood's Forests

Christmas Trees in field -- Spruce

Small cluster of Colorado spruce waiting for their chance to grace your home this Christmas.

Christmas Tree ornament in daylight

Open Trees give room to show off large ornaments.

Christmas tree ornament closeup by night

And that extra room allows decorating in depth.

Decorated Scots Pine Christmas Tree

We have a very eclectic collection of ornaments. Each one has a story, a memory.

Decorated Spruce Christmas Tree at Night with window reflections

Another feature of an open tree: You can see lights through the tree. Your light count seems doubled. (Parking the tree in front of a window helps.)

Decorated Spruce Tree

Garland tinsel can fill in gaps.

Decorated Spruce Tree in Window

"Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but the tree is so delightlful..."

Christmas Tree on Roof of Car

Instructions may seem complicated, but we'll help you take your tree home securely. And don't worry about sap. WD-40 and baking soda get it off.

Getting a wild tree was a tradition when I was young. It didn’t save any money – the gas and wear and tear on the car cost more than a tree from a supermarket.

And the trees weren’t really thick. But it was a time outdoors, in the winter with my dad. And that made it special.

In this, the Year of the Plague, going for a wild tree is a chance to get out of the house for an afternoon. Something much needed.

Pines vs spruce and fir

In our part of the world the vast majority of Christmas trees are spruce and fir. These have the overall general cone shape. In parts of the U.S. pines are more favoured. Pines tend to be clusters of bottle brushes. This makes them easier to hang ornaments on, but harder to make the wires inconspicuous.

American vs European style Trees

The common Christmas tree in North America has been sheared several times. This results in a thick, bushy tree. Ornaments and lights are on the surface of a nearly perfect cone.

Europeans tend to prefer an open, more natural tree, one with well spaced branches. You are not going to find a really bushy tree in the wild.

Open trees have several advantages:

Tricks for decorating with an open tree

As usual, put lights on first. Start by going up and down the trunk. Go all the way to the top. On subsequent passes go up the trunk, then out on a branch out about 2/3 of the branch, and back to the trunk. Try to avoid going from one branch to the next branch, as the wires can be unsightly. Keeping them no further out than 2/3 of the branch will help make them inconspicuous.

Or you can wrap the tree in spirals of lights a few inches back from the tips. Let each strand swoop a bit. Tweak until the swoops are similar. You can use ornament hook to hang the lights just below the branches. Now, spiral tinsel garland around the wires.

An open tree can use more ornaments. Hang small ornaments near the tips of the branches. In the interior you can hang medium and large ornaments. For space between levels of branches tie a loop of black thread onto the ornament, and use a normal ornament hook on the loop. This will make the ornament appear to float in space. You can also use ribbon for hanging ornaments.

Another trick with open trees: Put some of the presents in the tree. No, you can’t put the 20 pound lego set in the tree. But presents like watches, jewelry, the cheque from Grandma, some of the little stocking stuffer presents that would otherwise go in socks. Presents can either be laid across a couple of branches near the trunk, or you can use the same hang-from-a-ribbon like the larger ornaments.

You have the dream. Now, how to make it happen.

Where can you cut a tree?

A: Crown Land.

This is the true wild tree. You need a permit. Info here: Alberta Government Tree Permit The permit costs you 5 and allows you to cut three trees. The link above also has links to maps of where you can cut.

The nearest area to Edmonton with allowed cutting is near Lodgepole (a few miles from Drayton Valley). This area has both white spruce and lodgepole pine. You can cut along access roads, power lines, and survey lines, and non-major highways. Note that much of this isn’t plowed, and a lot of the roads that are plowed, are in semi-active use by logging trucks and oil well service rigs. The roads don’t have much traffic at the best of times. Getting stuck 10 km from pavement may be interesting. Cell service is spotty. Some oil companies have put in cell phone relay towers, but I’ve found that overall, you have only about once chance in four of having even a single bar. Unfortunately you can't tell a road that was plowed for a rig move two weeks ago, and one that is in current use. Be alert!

I recommend that you park on the highway or at least on wide graded road, and walk in the rest of the way.

B: Cut-your-own Tree Farms

Too much adventure? Try a U-Cut tree farm. Fir-ever-Green, near Falun offers a cut your own option. We do too, although our selection and quality isn’t as good as F.E.G. If there are others, please let me know.

How much?

Colorado Spruce or Scots pine:

Bringing it home

If you have a pickup this is easy. Put the tree in the box trunk first, and put a ratchet strap around the trunk. It’s also easy if you have a car with roof rails. Tie to the tree, tie to the rails.

With a smooth top car it’s not quite so easy. You need two chunks of rope about 10-12 feet long, and 1/4" thick.

If you get tree sap on your car, try a shot of WD-40 and baking soda. I know it removes tar off of lino, and leaves the lino fine.

Got something to say? Email me: sfinfo@sherwoods-forests.com

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Want to talk right now? Call me: (8 am to 8 pm only, please) 1-780-848-2548

Do not arrive unannounced. Phone for an appointment. Why? See Contact & Hours That same page gives our hours of operation.

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Sherwood's Forests is located about 75 km southwest of Edmonton, Alberta. Please refer to the map on our Contact page for directions.