Harvesting Your Own Christmas Tree

Harvesting Your Own Christmas Tree

If you celebrate Christmas and enjoy having a decorated tree in your home, this post might be for you. I was unwilling to set-up an imitation tree, and was fed up with the overpriced trees on commercial lots, so a group of friends and I decided to find and cut down our own. That was a decade ago and has now become an annual tradition and a treasured experience, creating memories that will last a lifetime. Plus with all the supply chain issues we’re seeing right now, this might be your only option to obtain a real Christmas Tree this season.

If you’d like to partake in your own Christmas Tree hunt this holiday season, just follow these simple steps. Trust me, it’s much easier than the Griswold’s make it out to be…

  1. First, you’ll need to determine where you’re going to harvest your tree. There are a number of places province-wide where trees can be harvested, all of which are on Crown land. The closest tree cutting areas to Calgary are in the Turner Valley and the Elbow River Areas. Maps of all tree cutting areas can be found right here.

  1. You’ll need to obtain a Personal Use Forest Products Permit (PUFPP) from the Alberta Government website. The permit allows the holder to harvest up to 3 Christmas Trees under 2.5m (about 8 feet) in height. These permits used to cost $5.00, but are now free. In order to obtain a permit you must be at least 18 years of age, be a legal resident of Alberta, and be in good standing with the Crown relating to timber, grazing, and land use...so you shouldn’t have to worry about those public drunkenness or nudity infractions! Permits are valid for 30 days from the date of issue. For additional information about tree cutting permits for personal use, please visit this website.

  1. Depending on where you are going and the type of roads in your chosen area, you might need a 4-wheel-drive vehicle. If you are unsure you can check with a local Agriculture and Forestry office for information about the area you wish to travel.

  1. Don’t forget to bring something to cut down your tree. Nothing worse than finding that perfect tree only to realize you’ve got nothing to chop it down with. An axe, hatchet or bow saw work well, but my personal favourite is a chainsaw!

  1. If you’re not driving a truck, you’ll need something to secure the tree to the roofrack of your vehicle. Tie down or ratchet straps are great for this. A blanket or tarp will help prevent the branches from scratching the paint on the roof of your vehicle.

  1. Be prepared for winter conditions. Ensure you are dressed properly for unexpected weather and bring emergency supplies, which can include blankets, food and water, candles, a first aid kit, and more. Cell service can be non-existent in some of the tree cutting areas, so leaving a trip plan with someone you trust is always recommended.

  1. Once you get your tree home, there are a couple of things you can do to ensure it stays fresh as long as possible. Keeping your tree away from heat sources, which is not always possible during our cold Alberta winters, will prevent it from drying out sooner. Make sure you regularly give the tree water. Too little water can cause resin to form, which prevents the tree from absorbing water, causing it to dry out. A good rule of thumb is, for every inch of the trunk’s diameter, fill the tree stand with one quart of water. If you’re buying a tree from a lot, ask the vendor to provide a fresh straight cut along the base of the trunk. Conifer trees naturally produce a layer of resin over these cuts and that process can happen in as little as 3 to 4 hours. A fresh cut at the base will ensure the tree is properly able to absorb water.

  1. Remember, the trees you’re harvesting on your own tend to be more on the Charlie Brown side of things, as opposed to the full, perfect-looking trees you’ll find on a lot. My wife sent me this meme, although I am still unsure whether she just likes looking at Jason Momoa or actually believes in its accuracy!

Start a new tradition this year with your family or resurrect an old one, either way spend some time outdoors this holiday season in search of that elusive, perfect Christmas Tree!