Let the Decking of the Halls Begin!

[Previous Suburban Farmgirl, October 2009 – October 2010]
So do you have your Christmas tree yet? Where did it, or will it, come from? Chopped down in your backyard? Picked out after an outing in the woods or to a tree farm in the country? Bought at a local farmer’s market or  — as is the bane (I mean convenience) of us Suburban Farmgirls — plucked from the nearest corner lot that sprouted last week the day after Thanksgiving?
(Hard to imagine there are any farmgirls out there who go for an artificial tree — are there??)
Welcome to December, that season I wait all year for… yet which inevitably sneaks up on me way too suddenly, just the same. There I was, perfectly content in the whole cornucopias-and-crunchy-leaves groove of the last holiday when, overnight, my pumpkin-and-brown color scheme is all wrong wrong wrong!
When do you typically make the pilgrims-to-Santas switch?

Big Christmas Smile in my Santa Claus suit!

I’m actually traveling right now so I’m off the hall-decking hook for another 10 days or so. Most years I try to hold off on buying a Christmas tree until about the 15th, although I do start to dig out some decorations about now.
(All the ornaments on my tree are handmade, which you can see behind the happy elf in that photo above — but since I haven’t dug out the boxes, I can’t photograph them to show you, so that’s the subject of another post!)
Even though I know winter is a relatively quiet time on a farm, my wannabe-farmgirl cravings seem strongest this time of year, because my favorite kinds of decorations are natural ones — the kind I can’t rustle up too easily right outside my door (unless I hop in the minivan and hit the local Whole Foods or aforementioned corner tree lot).
In addition to a tree, there’s:
Wreaths: I did put a fresh evergreen-and-pinecone wreath on the front door before I left. Every year I swear I’m going to learn how to make my own and every year I succumb to a pretty one I see in a market (or in this case, this year, on a stand outside my local Harris-Teeter grocery store, $12.95).
I used to have a grapevine wreath that I changed out with the seasons – autumnal flowers, spring flowers, or at Christmas, tiny Christmas ornaments that could tolerate being outside. I lost it in a move a few years back, though.
Other greenery: I love those dramatic swags of greens sweeping up a staircase or covering a mantle. But a) I don’t have an open staircase, b) I don’t get how to make ’em stay up! and c) I don’t get how they stay green (do you have to mist them?) and d) they seem awfully expensive, when you’re not dragging them in from your back 40.
Flowers: My old house had a holly tree, perfect for cutting big branches to place in a vase. No such luck with the plants where I live now. So I usually have to buy flowers — is it Christmas without pointsettias? I have a friend who decorates with white ones, which I’d always thought of as too elegant but which actually come off homey-rustic, although I’m a sucker for the classic red ones. Might try both this year.
Potpourri and other scents: I always set out a large bowl of pinecones (picked off the ground) sprinkled with cinnamon. And I’ve decided that my project with the girls this year will be to stud some oranges with cloves (pomanders) – a Christmassy-scented I learned from my fourth-grade teacher.
Quick pomander directions: Buy the thinnest-skinned oranges you can find. With a large darning needle, pierce evenly-spaced holes all over the orange, or make a patterned design like stripes. You can even write words, like “Peace” or “Noel.” Then place a whole clove in each hole, so the top sticks out visibly. Arrange them in a pretty bowl on your kitchen table and inhale!
Has anyone tried this with lemons and apples? I want to, just to see what happens. Doubt the apples will last long, or smell as sweet, but won’t they be pretty with their seasonal red?!

  1. Dianne says:

    Yes, sorry to admit. I’m a farmgirl with an artificial tree. Here in Florida where the temps are in the 80’s we learned our lesson long ago about live trees. There were more needles on the floor than the tree. We get live trees shippd from NC and TN early. Right after Thanksgiving. They are beautiful when purchased but then. I dream of the day I can go out in the snow and get a real beautiful smelling tree like my sister. My farm days are on hold for now. I admit to being envious of Mary Jane and other true farm girls. Merry Christmas to all

  2. mtngirljon says:

    Hi! Just wanted to say how nice it is to have an "official" suburban farmgirl. I think there are lots of us out here. I have had an artifical tree for many years. My son is horribly allergic to evergreens and once we discovered why he was always sick during the holidays, I changed to artificial with no hesitation!

    Merry Christmas to you all

  3. Hello, my name is Diane and I have an artificial Christmas tree. With 2 severly asthmatic children I have no choice. So, we put up 4 trees. The one in the bay window is decorated with all bird ornaments with a nest on top. the one in the family room is a tall skinny Alpine tree set in a basket and decorated with mostly hand made or country ornaments and a garland made from little fabric yo-yo’s. Each of the children have a small tree in their bedroom. Rachel(5) has a pink tree with sparkly-glittery ornaments, Luke (9) has a small green tree decorated with airplanes and helicopters. We don’t have the great smell of a real tree, but we do get to keep them up for several weeks.

  4. Hi Paula,

    I’ve got my cloves & oranges ready to make pomanders — I’ve been doing it for years and learned from my grandmother. I have a nest of birch bark baskets made by Native Americans and I use the largest one for seasonal potpourri. At Christmas I arrange pomanders made of citrus fruits with pinecones, evergreen sprays and twigs, rose hip branches etc.

    This coming week, I’ll go with my BIL and his daughter to harvest a few Christmas trees on their ranch. We’re located in northeastern Wyoming and around here, we don’t have spruce or fir trees, but we do have pine, cedar and juniper – the latter makes a very nice Christmas tree. They’re not the classic look, but Hey, in Hawaii its palm trees and in Wyoming its native trees too…even a large sagebrush will do! My grandfather once did that and flocked it. I was a wee lassie and thought it was a magical thing of beauty.

    I always put lights on a barbwire wreath on our barn too because the ‘King of Kings’ was born in a stable.
    Be ye merry!
    Shery Jespersen

  5. Betsy says:

    I used to put up my tree on the 15th, because my sons b’day is the 12th of December.
    love poinsettias, but only red. I remember when I was young, my mom would go into the forest and cut down a cedar on Christmas eve morning. We had so much fun decorating it and it scented the whole house, she would also put running cedar over pictures, in windows and anywhere else there was an empty spot. Your article took me back to some fond memories. We have an artificial tree now.
    I may for old times sake go out in the backyard and cut my cedar down.


  6. kay says:

    Ok, I will admit it, I did succumb to an artificial tree I bought after Christmas last year. It is up and not the same. Every year I love to look at all the decorations I have had forever but the live trees only last a couple of weeks in my house…I can enjoy my decorated tree all month…but it’s not the same. In past years I have bought in a lot, cut at a tree farm, cut off the property (the best fun) and realize my purchase last year was about the most un-green thing I could have done. Suppose my farmgirl status is tarnished as well. Think I can redeem myself with home baked and sewn gifts?

  7. Vicki says:

    I admit also, that we have an artificial tree. I am an empty nester,now.When our children were younger, we always went to a tree farm and tramped all over it looking for the perfect or almost perfect tree. Somehow it always leaned to one side or for it was fuller on one side, but once it was decorated it looked wonderful. Thanks for making me remember that!!

  8. Bonnie Ellis says:

    We usually get our tree on the 15th because they are fresh and will last through Christmas. I decorate with a swag between the lliving room and the kitchen. We dry orange slices and tie them to the tree with yarn. They smell so good. Christmas is not Christmas without wonderful smells. I make gingerbread ornaments too for the tree. I have alergies but thank heaven they don’t include balsam.

  9. Betsy says:

    I, too, live in Florida and have an artificial tree. I always put mine up the Friday after Thanksgiving and keep it till the day after Christmas when I clean the house, put everything back in its place and spend time reading. We use to buy the real ones but again they make such a mess by Christmas. You can hear the needles and ornaments falling off the tree the closer to Christmas you get.
    I, too, love this time of year and would love to be somewhere where you could take a sleigh ride thru the snow. Someday!!!

  10. Alice says:

    Ever since my son was diagnosed with asthma and the doctor said no fresh Christmas trees we’ve had artifical. I was heartbroken! So to make up for it we have four artificial trees, each a different shape and size, and each is decorated in a different style. I have to admit they look nice, and now we don’t have to worry about the tree drying out or picking up needles from the floor or what to do with the tree after Christmas.

  11. SuburbanFarmgirl says:

    Well I’m surprised but you all make some good cases for artificial … it sounds like we all agree about the principle of the smells & general look of things, tho! How do you make gingerbread ornaments??

  12. Forrest says:

    OK I am sold on the pomanders, I have a bowl full of tangeriens and have been wanting to do it for years. My tree is half and half, half home made ornaments and half bought. My hubby just loves to buy things and I want the whole home made thing. One of these days I am going to win it all over or stick all the plastic things deep on the inside of the tree where no one can see them.

  13. Stephony says:

    We use an artificial tree, always have, my mother had allergies and now my boys have them. Yes we may miss the smell, but isn’t that what they make candles for? I like to think of all the trees I may be saving. The ones that aren’t killed for just a few weeks pleasures. Does anyone sell a live tree in a ball that can then be planted in the spring?

  14. SuburbanFarmgirl says:

    I did this — buy a live tree — the year my son was born. Got it at the local garden center, as I recall. You could also ask a tree farm. They’re smaller than the typical 12-footer you cut down and the root ball makes it heavy, and you need a large pot and a lot of water — but it’s a great idea. That tree grew and grew over the years, was sad to leave it when we moved.

  15. Kimberly D says:

    I use artificial tree, because when I was 3, we had a real tree catch on fire, luckly my Dad and Mom was still awake and my dad dragged it out in time. And also my sister in law is allergic to pine trees.

  16. Maria says:

    I too have artificial trees. However, most of them are vintage. The main one that I have been putting up since we moved into our new house is one of those 1950’s aluminium ones with the rotating color wheel. I also have a 1960’s white plastic one. We haven’t put that one up yet because I am looking for LED lights with white cords. Maybe next year.

  17. Laurel says:

    This year I am planning on getting a real tree. My children are grown but will be home for Christmas. We haven’t had a tree for a couple of years as my husband and children work in a shipping store. This is their busy time of the year.
    We lost all our original ornaments several years ago so using my father-in-laws little tree was at least a pleasant memory of family.
    Now I have several ornaments again because a girlfriend and I have exchanged for a few years. So this year I want to see them up on a tree.
    My only other problem is I am a messy so have major work before the tree comes in.
    Thanks for the encouragement.

  18. Susan Roberts says:

    Another farmgirl with artificial tree tastes here…I fell in love with artificial trees when I was in kindergarten and visited a friend’s house. They had up a silver aluminum tree with blue decorations AND the wheel of color. I’ve been hooked on "unique" Christmas trees ever since.

    This year a co-worker gave me a feather tree. It’s so pretty…

    This year we’re putting up our LCD lighted tree. I love the blinking off and on of the multi-colored lights.

  19. Amy says:

    To the person who was wondering about saving a tree – Christmas trees are generally grown specifically for the holiday on farms and new ones are planted immediately following.

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