Like most families, we have many Christmas traditions that we enjoy each holiday season. Some were passed down from our parents or grandparents; others, my wife Marla and I established once our children were born. One of my favorite traditions is going to a local tree farm and cutting down our tree. For me, it signifies the official start of the Christmas season, and immediately puts me in the holiday spirit. (Plus, I get to saw down a tree! How great is that?)
For the past 14 years, we’ve been getting our Christmas tree at Clover Knoll, a 20-acre tree farm just a couple of miles from our home. My son Chris, who started high school this year, was just an infant when we first visited Clover Knoll. Back then the farm was run by Bob and Evelyn Williams. Both had retired years earlier and started the tree farm in 1983 as a way to stay busy, and boy did they ever stay busy.
Every December, Clover Knoll became a beehive of activity. They had four tractors, each towing a hay wagon, running people from the barn out to the fields. Bob piloted the largest tractor and handed out bow saws to the customers.
Evelyn was usually down by the barn, making wreathes, baling trees, and handing out homemade cookies and hot cider. We loved bringing the kids there, especially when they were young. We’d often find the perfect tree within the first few minutes, but still manage to spend an hour or so, walking amongst the fragrant trees or talking with neighbors we’d bump into.
Things at Clover Knoll started changing back in 2001. Bob took ill and died later that summer. Evelyn was heartbroken, but soldiered on, running the farm with help from her kids and grandkids, but it was never the same. Little by little, Evelyn scaled back the farm. Then a couple of years ago, she decided not to plant any new trees. And finally, this year, she shut down the farm. It was very sad, even though I know not all traditions last forever.
Then Evelyn called and invited us up to Clover Knoll this past weekend to harvest another tree. (That’s me in the photo with this year’s trophy balsam fir.) It felt strange being the only people there, and I know change is inevitable, but hopefully my children will hold dear to these memories even as they begin to build their own Christmas traditions.