On Thanksgiving weekend we enjoyed a fun first of living up north. That Friday we started talking about getting a Christmas tree and wondered what our options might be for doing that up here. Tree lots are an hour away, and we didn’t even know where to find a tree farm. So to find out what our options were we turned to the experts around here: the other resident staff! I have found it is valuable, if I don’t know something, to just ask someone who has lived here for a while. They are a wealth of information! Come to find out, one can go to the forestry office and get a permit to cut down a tree in the national forest. We questioned if it would be open the Friday after Thanksgiving, but after looking at their website we found out we could purchase the permit online for an extra $2.50 fee above and beyond the normal $5 fee for the permit. Sounded like the cheapest live tree we’ve ever purchased! 

So we borrowed some bright colored vests and headed off into Huron National Forest out of the gate at the edge of Barakel’s property. We did find it quite alarming that when we got out of our car to walk around and look for a tree, the first sound we heard was a gun shot! We were thankful for the borrowed vests and a couple of bright colored coats of our own! For the first little while of walking around one of our girls turned on some Christmas music on her phone so that we would make extra noise and alert any hunters that we were not animals. So there we were, strolling through the national forest, in our hodgepodge of bright colors, accompanied by an iphone playing “Sleigh Ride” at top volume! 

It took us quite a lot of driving around, getting in and out of our car, and debating as we usually do even at a tree farm about which tree would be best. Although this time it wasn’t so much a matter of debating which tree was best, in the sense that it normally is at a tree farm. This was more a matter of debating which tree could work, in the sense that it had enough branches to hold some ornaments, wasn’t so wide it would take up our whole living room, or didn’t need to be pruned back so much that it wouldn’t have any more needles. 

But find a tree we did. It’s a cozy little tree and quite unlike any that we have had before! It is strung with lights (after no small effort!); it is “gently” decorated, so far with only a small number of homemade ornaments that weigh very little; and it awaits further decoration with either more light-as-air ornaments or perhaps some popcorn and cranberry garland if we can find the time to make one. Sure it looks a bit different than those of previous years. But so do a lot of other things this year. And as we have been learning, there can be blessings hidden away in “different.” Overall, we enjoyed how quirky and adventurous it felt to go into the forest to cut down a Christmas tree. And we are appreciating the authenticity of having a tree that looks like it was cut down in a forest! 

Oh…and I almost forgot the best part. We learned that when you get a rather sparse tree home, and realize there is a fairly noticeable section of trunk with no branches, it can in fact be fixed with some spare branch cuttings, a drill, and a hot glue gun. Word to the wise, from the Bennetts. 

(Also, we got a good laugh out of the “Need to Know’ section of the information from the forestry service, pictured below. “Carry tire chains, shovels, and a tow chain. Bring plenty of food and water with you as well as an overnight survival kit…” Goodness. It seems we went a bit unprepared!)