North Shore Christmas tree traditions


Sign on Highway 61 to Herb's tree farm.

Sign on Highway 61 to Herb’s tree farm.

We’re not all that into Christmas here. But I kinda thought we had a tradition going. For six or seven years now, the whole Slade/Rauschenfels family has gone up the North Shore a ways to get our Christmas tree. We go to Herb Sellin’s tree farm, 2.5 miles up from the Highway 61 Expressway on Homestead Road.

This last weekend, on a lovely Saturday afternoon, Sally and I headed out…without the boys. The older son was at a ski meet, and the younger son was feeling sick. So, in an early glimpse of future empty-nesting, it was just the two of us tracking along on one of our few holiday traditions. It was fun but a little…empty.

Andrew cuts the family's Christmas tree at Herb Sellin's farm.

Andrew cuts the family’s Christmas tree at Herb Sellin’s farm.

Herb’s trees scatter across a large field, but we knew right where to head. It’s tradition. Every year I suggest getting a white pine, and every year we head to the patch back and to the right…where the balsam firs are. For the last few years, I’ve handed the cutting over to our older son, who’s done an admirable job with the Sven Saw. Now that job fell back to me.

The tree sits in its stand on our back deck for a few hours…

tree-on-desk

Then gets brought inside and decorated. Tradition says we listen to Willowgreen‘s Winter album.

tree-decorated

My own North Shore Christmas tree tradition goes back much further than this. From the family cabin in Little Marais, it’s a quarter-mile hike through the birch woods to the old pioneer field at Granny’s Beach. Over the decades, spruce trees have grown in to slowly cover the old field. Because they had grown in the open, the trees were fuller and greener than any conifer we’d find in among the birches. Still, the best of these trees was as spindly and awkward as the last tree left on any commercial tree lot.

Family tradition also dictated that any tree that gets taken has to free up another tree to grow. That’s an early lesson in sustainable forestry, I guess, but it also ensured that every tree was at least a little lopsided.

I remember back before we found Herb’s lot when I brought both boys out to the field to find a tree. The younger one was in the backpack, the older holding my hand and walking alongside. Coming back through the birch woods with our scraggly spruce tree, the older one got tired and I ended up carrying him in one arm, dragging the tree with my other arm, and still carried the younger one on my back.

Herb’s trees are full and rounded and nearly perfect. I’m good with that; I like how our trees fill up the room.

What I’m not good with, quite yet, is losing my boys. Sports and sickness be darned, I’ve got a tradition to fulfill.


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  1. […] Herb Sellin’s farm on Homestead Road, off Highway 61. Herb’s cut-your-own tree farm is 2.5 miles up the Homestead Road from the Highway 61 Expressway. This is our family’s favorite place; we’ve come here for years. Homestead Road is about halfway between Duluth and Two Harbors. Trees are $25-$30, any size, and Herb will help you load them up on top of your car. Bring your own saw, though. (We use our small Sven Saw, which hangs in our garden shed.) Herb has spruce, fir and pine trees of all sizes. You can read about the Slade family tradition of cutting trees at Herb’s farm here. […]

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