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Family tradition alive with cut-your-own tree farms

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Uploaded on Nov 30, 2007

After several years of buying parking-lot Christmas trees that had lost too many needles by Christmas morning, Jacqulyn and Sean Fitzgerald of Marshfield decided to cut down their tree fresh.
Finding the right tree on the five acres at the cut-your-own Tree-Berry Farm in Scituate turned out to be a long yet enjoyable process for the couple and their 3-year-old son, Owen. ``(The benefit is) the process of it. It's like a tradition for us now,'' Sean Fitzgerald said. ``(Owen) looks forward to it. He loves the heavy equipment. ... He wants to see the chain saw.''
Cut-your-own tree farms are popular with families looking to make a tradition or a memory out of finding their Christmas tree. ``The experience of being outdoors ... being with family. It's just so totally different then going to a concrete parking lot and picking out your tree,'' said Lydia Mathias, owner of the Bog Hollow Tree Farm in Kingston.
For the Fitzgerald family, there were many factors to consider when picking their tree.
``Last year, we had the spruce; it was too sharp ... and we always struggle with the height of it,'' Sean said. ``The fir would probably be better for us since we have the little guy, but they don't hold the ornaments as well.''
For 30 minutes the family wandered Tree-Berry farm surveying their options in the crisp, chilly weather.
``It's too tall ... not full enough on top ... lop-sided ... pointy needles ... somebody already tagged this one,'' Jacqulyn said when vetoing tree options.
The right fir tree finally showed itself just before 12:30 p.m. ``This one has a nest in there. Oh this is the tree, it has a nest in it. I love that, it's a sign,'' Jacqulyn said, as she motioned for her husband and son to come over to a 6-foot tree near the back of the farm.
``Yeah, we've got to get it,'' Sean agreed, despite a few flaws. ``I hate looking for that perfect tree. What does that say? We all have imperfections,'' he said.
The Fitzgeralds tagged and paid for the tree Saturday. They will cut it down and pick it up this weekend. ``Last year we didn't know to do that (to tag), so when we came it was kind of late,'' Jacqulyn said.
Many families at the tree farm Saturday were just claiming their trees and would pick them up closer to the holiday.
The first weekend in December is the busiest weekend for most local tree farms, but some South Shore farms opened the Friday after Thanksgiving and will remain open on weekends until they fill their tree quota for the season. ``We'll be bombed (Dec, 1 and 2). Friday, Saturday and Sunday,'' said Pat Palimeri, an employee at the Tree-Berry farm. There will be a ``lot of tree cutting and also people will still be tagging. My advice is get in here first thing, get your tree, get it home.''
Most tree farmers recommend that families call ahead and check for availability if they are looking for a tree later in the season.
``I've got a basic idea in my head how many trees I'd like to sell,'' said Beverly Westerveld, owner of Tree-Berry Farm. ``When I hit that number, I will say no more new tagging, because I have to have something for next year to sell.''
``''Madeline Rys of Hull, who came to the farm with her husband, father-in-law and three children, said: ``We tag our tree first because they go so quickly.''
Rys said her family has been cutting their own Christmas trees for five years. ``I like how they look. I like that they last for the whole season, they smell, they don't wilt and it's a tradition,'' she said.
Not all families take a long time to find their perfect tree. It only took 15 minutes for Ed and Kara Kinsella and their two children of Hanson to find the right tree.
``We didn't think there was going to be a good crop this year, but we found a couple that we liked. I think this was the quickest year ever,'' Kara said. While the cold weather can be one negative when cutting down a fresh tree, dressing appropriately can fix that problem. ``I put my long johns on today, got like three shirts on,'' Palmieri said. ``Dress in layers, that's the secret in New England ... That way you can always take it off.''

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