Ah yes, the annual hunting and gathering for the traditional yuletide conifer to adorn the living room. If I sound just the least bit…snide, in my defense I’d like to remind everyone that I sold Christmas trees for about 7 or 8 years in the very recent past; ok it was almost 10 years ago but I remain scarred by the experience!
You twirl, spin, unwrap, sort, and stand several hundred freezing cold, wet, and HEAVY firs and then we’ll talk about my attitude towards this most highly regarded symbol of the season. It rains here in the Northwest; it rains a lot. Granted, that’s why they call us the “Evergreen State” but it tends to complicate working outdoors in the winter. “Don we now our gay apparel…” for me this meant full waterproof overalls, a parka, duck-yellow boots and oh-so-fashionable hat and wet gloves.
But boy did I smell good! And for me that’s the best part about the Christmas tree. I would be perfectly happy to just have several naked trees, simply trimmed in plain white lights; a magical forest right next to my reading chair.
However, no one else in my household agrees with my simply-shod tree concept. Now I should say right here that I’m not a true minimalist when it comes to holiday decor. In fact I love my shiny-brite lime green aluminum table top tree at the center of my annual “ode to A Christmas Story“. Each year we as a family add another trinket or gizmo that figures in the movie. Other families can have their Grinch or Griswold – we love Ralphie, Randy and “the old man.” I have quite a collection of treasures…plastic chopping teeth, a big bottle of Ovaltine, bunny slippers, a tiny figure of Ralphie complete with the Red Rider BB gun, and more. This year I think I’ll add a big fruit basket like the one Ralphie gifts (i.e. bribes)his teacher with to commemorate the college graduation of my daughter next weekend. A+++++++. Now she’s a teacher!!!
I digress – I just wanted to prove that I’m not a Christmas Crank, I just don’t love the tree. So in a spirit of attitude readjustment this year I proposed that we go out to one of the neighboring tree farms and “Cut Our Own.” I looked around on the net and found countless possibilities complete with Santa, sleigh rides, reindeer, etc – definitely NOT what I was after.
We settled on Fall City Farms, an organic farm with a varied list of crops which they offer U-pick style throughout the year. Among my many beefs with Christmas trees is not the fact that they are “wasteful.” Granted, everyone should recycle their trees post-holiday, either through municipal garden waste pick up or by cutting the branches to mulch the garden. During my years vending holiday vegetation I met some lovely Christmas trees farmers; their hard work and year ’round efforts produced a “crop” of trees rather than corn, or pumpkins. I have no problem purchasing their crop – I just don’t want to spin it around and tie it to the top of your SUV in the pouring rain!
The day was cloudy and grey but not rainy; just a pervasive heavy mist that softens the line where the sky meets the horizon and gilds all the trees with millions of sparkly drops of water. That’s waaaaaay different than rain! Armed with our saw we set off to inspect 6 acres of beautiful, fragrant, living trees all “rowed up” like soldiers and priced by their red, blue, yellow or white tags.
Anyone who has ever done this (this was our first foray) knows the strange shifting perspective that overtakes you when you find yourself contemplating a magnificent 10′ specimen that stands about as much chance of fitting in our little living room as me fitting into… Well, let’s just say its easy to get carried away under a big open sky.
I suppose it goes without saying that the lovely, 6-7 foot Grand Fir we finally chose was probably the first or second one we looked at before we appraised another couple hundred. But it is just right.
Grand fir (Abies grandis) is known for it’s broad, glossy needles and a heady scent that just screams “Happy Holidays!” Plus, it’s the key ingredient for my Grand Fir infused oil which is heavenly drizzled on pasta, potatoes or creamy soups. We took turns sawing the tree down in a ceremonial family effort but my husband dragged it back to the car and no, I did not have to tie it to the roof of our Subaru wagon.
Grand Fir Infused Oil
Heat 1 cup mild flavored olive or other seed or nut oil in a shallow pan over medium-low heat. Add in a good handful of finely minced, clean, dry, Grand Fir needles. The oil will sizzle and the kitchen will fill with the sweet perfume of fir, kinda citrusy, kinda herby, very GREEN. When the sizzling slows, strain the needles from the oil taking care to not spatter hot oil on yourself. Sometimes I add another batch and repeat the procedure for an extra strong foresty kick.
Do not let the needles brown or the oil become too hot or you’ll scorch the flavor. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the oil to cool to room temperature before decanting into a pretty glass bottle that will show off it’s emerald hue. It is best to use this as a delicious condiment rather than as a cooking oil as heat will dissipate the flavor. ENJOY!