I’ll Call It the Funny Farm but Not Because It’s Humorous

Since our first year of marriage, Dan and I have never gotten a real tree. We have a great tree stand and I have a great love of fresh trees with all their smells and messes and fire hazards. And although Dan loves me and would humor my choice of tree whatever it was, I’ve opted for fake because we normally spend a good chunk of the holidays out of town visiting family.

This year we decided to try having out first Christmas at home, just the 4 of us, an island in a sea of holiday festivity, missing our families but trying to make our own magic. And I decided that this was the year. It had finally come. We’d pull out the 10 pound Costco tree stand, head down the street to the tree farm and saw us down a live one.

On Monday night after Dan got home from work, we drove out of town to a little farm I’d had my eye on and almost drove right past it because apparently tree farms in the country do not stay open all night. Little tree farms in the country do not have lights and inflatable animatronic reindeer riding motorcycles. All they actually have are trees, saws and an old guy, an old guy who apparently shuts the whole operation down when it gets dark for legal reasons.
When I went back with the kids the next day, he explained that saws shown in the above picture with the sign that looks as if it were painted with blood are not safe when used by small children or by adults in the dark of night. So he generally closes down at 4:30 and goes home, I’m assuming to his wife Martha. He was an impossibly cute old man and if he doesn’t have a wife named Martha waiting at home with fresh biscuits and a hearty meal, it’s not because he doesn’t deserve one.

As we walked through the rows and rows of greenery, it became evident that they did not have one perfect tree, they had several of them, spaced equidistant from each other across the several acre farm. I would have been happy with nearly any tree. Magoo would have been happy with a cookie and a piggy-back ride back to the car for more cookies. But Laylee would not be so easily pleased. She eventually settled on one of two trees which were located on either end of the farm. So we trudged back and forth looking at them, comparing their merits and eventually asking the cute old man to help us saw it down. Apparently my intense athletic training has not afforded me any new muscles because I might as well have been attempting to saw that thing down with a plastic spoon for all the difference my efforts were making.
The man pointed out that the trees were a little muddy because his entire farm had been under water when the valley flooded last month. He advised me to hose it down before taking it into my house.

As we drove home, little rivers of mud trickled down the windows of the van. Standing in the driveway I rolled the massive tree down from the roof rack and drug it awkwardly over to the side of the house where I began hosing it down. Every needle on the bottom half of the tree was coated with mud. There was grass and other flood debris tangled in the branches. I pulled off a slug and thought longingly of my tacky $20 fake tree sitting peacefully muck and vermin-free, weighing considerably less than 300 lbs in its box in the garage.

When I thought I’d finished scrubbing it down, I carried it to the front porch and realized it was at least a foot too tall so I got out our saw and began rubbing it firmly against the trunk of the tree and making no impact. I regretted the decision we had passively made every day of our lives not to purchase a chain saw.

Then I got an idea. I ran upstairs and got the giant hatchet we keep under our dresser in case an earthquake ever causes our door to jam closed in the night and we need to hack our way out and I started pounding the literal heck out of that tree. Heck was flying everywhere and I really enjoyed myself. It only took about an hour. I hope my kids don’t mind waiting that long for me to save them in the event of a quake.

I picked the tree up, setting its mangled gimpy stump on the ground, quite proud of myself and held it upright to get a good look at my handiwork. The tree was the right height but was still dripping with mud.

So I drug it out front and hosed it off again, this time scrubbing each branch and needle with my fingernails. I later heard that my neighbors were watching this whole process from their windows in fascination, trying to guess what I was doing. Was it some strange religious tree cleansing ritual? Was I a total germaphobe? They came to the conclusion that I’d come up with some fabulous way of prolonging the life of the tree and that they’d been doing it wrong for years.

Natasha about busted a gut laughing when I told her I was just trying to de-mud/de-slug the thing before taking it inside.
But now it’s up and it’s beautiful. When Laylee saw it all aglow, all decorated, she said, “Oh MOM! It’s so lovely. It’s the most beautiful tree in the world. It’s almost as good as a FAKE tree!”

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28 Responses to I’ll Call It the Funny Farm but Not Because It’s Humorous

  1. Margaret says:

    It’s beautiful! 🙂

    “Almost as good” – sheesh, who do these kids think they are, anyway?! 🙂

  2. Margaret says:

    And, um, permission granted to delete this comment, but you left your cute son’s name in.

    Just your loyal insomniac copy editor at work…

  3. Heffalump says:

    I was going to ask if you changed Magoo’s name but I see you already caught that and changed it just in the few moments from when I read the post until I went to comment on it.

    We have a fake tree. I miss having a real one, but there aren’t many tree farms here so we would have to resort to buying one at a parking lot somewhere.
    Instead we opted to get a small and very fake tree, but it does the job and it saved us the price of a tree this year.
    Now I just need something that smells piney…

  4. Awesome Mom says:

    Lol well at least you entertained your neighbors. Real trees are nice but they are a ton of work.

  5. Mrs Lemon says:

    And I have now been converted to fake trees for the rest of my days. My oh so simple one, which has branches that fold up into the box.

  6. jennifer says:

    “Mud and slugs”….sounds like an Oscar the grouch tree transformed through love and diligence 🙂

    We always have a real, cut your own tree but I have never faced mud and slugs in the process. And braving the “sawing it down” process without darling hubby…I am impressed.

  7. It is beautiful, but since I didn’t get to see the better fake tree, I can’t make the complete call without comparison. 🙂

    How funny!

  8. Meredith says:

    Hilarious last line!

    You have me smiling despite a very bad start to my day. Thank you for sharing your gift of gentle humor : )

  9. Carrie says:

    Best mental picture I’ve had in a long time. I bet your hubby was sad to have missed the sight of you hacking at the tree 🙂

  10. allysha says:

    I love, love, LOVE real trees and have sworn to never have a fake tree instead. That said, I buy mine pre-cut from a nice little place in town, because I don’t even own an ax or a chain saw! Also, I totally lack the muscle. And I’m not that out-doorsy.

    Merry Christmas!

  11. mamadeb says:

    I needed a good laugh this morning. This made my day. I am a fake tree girl because some of my ornaments weigh 100 lbs. Hubby is a fake tree guy because the alternative is way too much trouble.

    Your kids are the luckiest most blessed kids ever to have you as a mom.

  12. Emily says:

    If you leave out the mud and slugs part, it reminds me of the last time my parents bought a real tree…

    Their ceilings are 11ft tall, the tree was about 13 ft. It was so heavy it bent the stand. They had to tie the tree to the door hinges to keep it standing upright. Unfortunately, the only rope they had that was strong enough was that yellow polyproplene rope. We decorated it with a flying Santa/sleigh/reindeer ornament that we had been looking for a home for (it was one of those multiple branch ornaments where all the pieces hook together, but only if you can keep them perfectly still).

  13. CoconutKate says:

    Great job getting the heck out of it! Every tree should be heck-less (and mud and slug-less too). It was also so nice of your neighbors to help you out. :0) We have always had a fake tree…even when we lived on a tree farm in Oregon. I do miss the fresh smells though!

  14. Pam in Utah says:

    I laugh. 🙂 You are the best.

  15. angie f says:

    As much as I love pine smells, living in the desert means that by the time any tree reaches our neck of the sagebrush, it is already further along its way to serious fire hazard classification than I am comfortable, so the compromise is that we have a fake tree (pre-lit is another beautiful reason to have artificial!) and then every year, I buy 2 fresh wreaths from Costco (somehow their smaller size seems less likely to cause a fire, that and I don’t light them) to infuse the house with piney goodness. Growing up, my parents had (and still have) an artificial tree because my grandpa was allergic to pine so a fake tree doesn’t seem the sacrilege that others may feel.

  16. Debra says:

    Thank you. I so needed that this morning! 🙂 Wonderful writing.

    And can I just say that I’m also thankful that you don’t own a chainsaw?


  17. My parents broke down and bought a fake this year. Unfortunately, dirty looks did not kill them for breaking tradition – or even cause them guilt.

    And dang it if the plastic thing doesn’t look fabulous.

  18. Nantie Meg says:

    It does look beautiful! I love that I recognize alot of your decorations because I have many of the same ones. (I know that is not correct grammer, but I don’t care.)

  19. Katie says:

    Oh my goodness; that was your funniest post yet. I giggled good and long; thanks for the Wednesday pick-me-up. I have to side with Laylee; real trees are the best but it’s hard to pick one out!

  20. cbs says:

    That is too funny. I wanted to cut down our own tree this year; I’m glad we didn’t!
    BTW, down here in Hurricane land, we keep axes in our attics in case we have to chop a hole in our rooves during a flood. I never knew about the use of them during earthquakes!

  21. grammyelin says:

    It’s gorgeous!!! And you have the perfect corner window through which to display it’s loveliness. I’ll bet the mud/slug free neighbors’ trees can’t hold an incandescent candle to yours.

  22. mother of the wild boys says:

    Oh DYM, this post is an instant classic! You are totally on top of your game with this gut-busting post. Thank you so much for dragging me out of my slug-infested sorrow-filled hole today, you are my hero. 🙂

  23. Ha! I loved every word of this post (plus the pictures).

  24. JD says:

    Yeah that may have been our “outside” tree for us. I could barley handle the needle trail ours left upon entering. I guess I couldn’t bare to see it mix together with the mud and Slugs in our house:)

  25. Yay! Tree.

    Woman, you crack me up.


  26. Nicole says:

    The year we were engaged we got in a car accident on our way to go cut down a tree. I considered it a bad omen and hence we’ve had a fake tree every year since.

  27. Valerie says:

    I know I’m totally late on the draw here… but this post totally made me giggle.
    First I had to re-read where you said you kept the hatchet under your dresser… in case you need to hack your way out of your bedroom… in case of an earthquake.
    Hilariously brilliant.

    And your daughter’s “almost as good” comment about made me bust a gut of my own. haha… if she only knew all the crap you had just gone through for this tree.

    And your neighbors, bahahaha… I’d probably have been right there with them. Completely puzzled.

    By the way, I love your blog.

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