Up the Creek: No holiday more immersed in family traditions than Christmas
Up the Creek
Ken M. Blomberg
No holiday is more immersed in family traditions than Christmas. Like greeting cards, festive carols, church, get-togethers, meals, decorations, mistletoe, presents and trees – just to name a few. Our family traditions begin with the harvest of a tree along the creek and ends with a ruffed grouse hunt or two. In-between, we hang stockings by the woodstove, gather with family and friends, brew Swedish glogg and consume food – lots of food.
For several decades, at the end of deer season, a live evergreen has been selected, cut and decorated to grace our living room. The woods we own harbor a wide variety of conifers, including several varieties – spruce, hemlock, fir, pine and larch. This year, a special white pine found its way into our home and hearts.
Each tree we harvest has a story to tell. This year’s was a survivor of prairie grass management. The 10 acre field east of our home was in need of woody vegetation control. Willow, locust, aspen and pines were taking hold, and for the most part this past summer we mowed and transplanted them all. Burning of the field is scheduled for next year. We discovered the four foot white pine among a couple of survivors while looking for this year’s holiday tree.
Years ago we planted a spruce as a seedling along with several others along a trail leading to “Golden Pond” and Uncle Mike’s elevated deer stand. When the spruce reached adolescence, a mature buck selected it as a sparring partner – polishing his antlers while rubbing the velvet off his majestic rack of twelve points. Like other bucks of his nature, he chose the small pine as a territorial marker for all others to see. The broken limbs and eight inch “rub” on the lower end of the trunk spoke volumes and its location along the trail stood out like a billboard. Mike killed the buck that season. In the meantime, the spruce survived. Slightly deformed at the base and missing some branches on one side, it grew straight and strong. Above the scars, it became a handsome tree – and caught my eye the next time a tree was needed to watch over wrapped presents.
Our Christmas tree harvest ritual, started so many years ago, meant giving up the hope of displaying a well-groomed conifer which grow on tree farms. Many cultivated there are of the non-native variety – ours have been native firs, pine and spruce – shaped as nature intended.
So if you happen by this holiday season for a visit, or spot our lighted tree through the window, keep in mind, its demise was not in vain. The boss and I have planted hundreds in its place over the years – so the tradition can continue for many years to come.
Here’s hoping your family holiday traditions all come true.
Blomberg is the author of two books, UP THE CREEK, and WISCONSIN BIRD HUNTING TALES. Both are available at either amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com or arcadiapublishing.com. Autographed copies are available from the author at [email protected].