I go back to the Twin Cities almost every year for Christmas. And each time, I go to the Minneapolis Farmer’s Market Annex to pick out a Christmas tree. It’s fun, it’s kooky, it’s MN real. Plus, this year General Manager Tom Hechsel had a brick fireplace built on site. At any time in the picking process, you can sit or stand while warming yourself by the fire, a fine cup of hot chocolate in hand. (Axe is optional.)
What’s really great is that all the trees are hanging from twine, so you get to obsess over them in all their verdant glory. Many of the trees come from neighboring Wisconsin, and some come from as far away as North Carolina.
It was the week before Christmas, and I decided to shadow the first customer of the day to fully comprehend all the steps it takes to buy a tree. His name was Bob.
Step 1 Picking Tree Type and Height
Well, Bob was pretty darn picky and knew what he wanted: A Fraser Fir, with a uniform shape for a porch with a 10 1/2 ft. ceiling. But first let’s pause briefly to consider why Bob likes that Cadillac of xmas trees — the Fraser Fir:
Fraser Fir Likes
- Straightest trunk
- Greenest needles
- Freshest scent
- Longest lasting
- Uniform conical shape
Step 2 Looking at the Leader
The top of the tree (or bare branch) where you place a star or angel or ornament is called a Leader. Picking a Leader that’s straight or has a size big enough to fit your star, etc., is crucial. We’re talkin’ serious.
The Leader is money to the tree seller, counting as part of the tree height you pay for. So, when xmas trees are being cut, handled, and delivered, great care has to be taken not to damage the top. The pic below shows some spruce tops for sale, which are victims of mishandling (don’t cry, Santa will find them a home).
Step 3 Considering the branch
Take an xmas tree branch in you hands (like Bob does below). Now bend it. A good healthy tree should be squishy and vibrant, but soft to the touch and pliable.
Step 4 Sizing up the Shape
Unless they’re the trendy and more sparse and natural “Charlie Brown” trees, most Xmas trees are sheared each year to develop a uniform and conical shape. Some people like chubby shapes, some like lean shapes, but most like a kind of uniformity. Bob found one that he considered quite perfect and asked to have it cut from its twine noose.
Step 8 Wrapping Around the Xmas Tree
Putting the xmas tree through the tree netting machine is an all-important step. A net makes the tree easy to get in the house and through a door. And it really helps to keep it on until you get the tree in your stand so the branches don’t slap you around in the struggle.
Step 9 Tying and Twining the Xmas Tree to Vehicle
Oh, that dreaded last step to bringing the beloved tree home. Tying the tree down with twine. It has driven lesser xmas tree buyers to insanity. Do you:
- Trunk it and tie the trunk down with twine?
- Tie it to the top of the vehicle with twine?
- Tie the twine like a shoelace? (no)