• Cutting your own Christmas tree adds to holiday fun
    By Darren Marcy | December 07,2012
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    I grew up with a fake, plastic/metal/wood Christmas tree. I really don’t know what it was made of, but those are my best guesses. It resided in a box on the top shelf of the garage for 11 months of the year only to be drug down with the others marked Christmas and hauled in to where the assembly was done with much cussing.

    Dad would start poking metal ends of things resembling branches into the wooden “trunk” of the tree. Once they were all arranged in the right order and bent into shape it, wel l... it looked like a fake tree. Even decorated.

    So it was with great excitement that my sister and I finally convinced mom and dad to get a real tree. The needles, the sap, the smell. We were in heaven.

    At least we thought we were until one day dad came home and announced we were going into the tulies to cut our own tree.

    With a Forest Service permit in hand, we grabbed a saw and lunch and, in the days before seatbelt laws, squished all four of us into the pickup.

    We drove muddy, snowy roads for what seemed like weeks, even if it was only an hour or two.

    Occasionally, we would find the perfect tree off in the distance until we covered the ground and found it was 20 feet tall. But every year from then on, we would repeat what became the tradition for the rest of my childhood and cut our own tree. In the later years we combined it with a firewood trip, loading the bed of the pickup level with wood and then strapping the tree on top.

    I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday in early December.

    And, to tell you the truth, I still can’t.

    Those who want to cut their own Christmas tree can do so on the Green Mountain National Forest for the $5 cost of a Christmas Tree Removal permit.

    The cut-your-own tree program has grown in recent years.

    Last year, 431 permits were sold, including one to my family. We went up to an area in Killington where we were directed by people at the GMNF office and found a nice little tree.

    Warning! The trees we found won’t make everybody happy. They were skinny, sparse and, well, looked a bit like a Charlie Brown tree. But it was our tree and our kids loved it.

    I think what they loved was getting out in the woods and tromping through the snow to argue over which tree was better.

    And that’s one of the prime benefits of cutting down your own family Christmas tree.

    But there are others as well.

    Price is certainly one consideration. The permits cost one-seventh or less of what a tree will cost from a commercial lot in most places.

    Permit are available at Forest Service offices in Rutland, Middlebury, Manchester Center and Rochester.

    There are other rules to follow.

    Trees must be cut down on Forest Service land. While the Green Mountain National Forest offices will provide a map, it’s up to you to make sure you are on federal land.

    Trees also cannot be cut down in active timber sales, wilderness areas, campgrounds, picnic areas, or within 25 feet of any Forest Service, town, or state maintained road.

    Trees cannot be taller than 20 feet and the stump cannot be more than 6 inches tall.

    Only one tree per household per year and trees cannot be sold.

    Permits are nonrefundable and the tag must be attached to the tree before it is removed from the site where it was cut.

    For more information, contact the nearest GMNF office or log on to www.fs.usda.gov/greenmountain

    Contact Darren at darren@darrenmarcy.com or at his website at www.DarrenMarcy.com.
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