On his 50 acres in Alta, 11 miles east of Colfax, Joe Weinert is preparing for a busy weekend at Little Bear Tree Farm.
“The 23rd is only a month before Christmas,” Weinert said. He knows plenty of folks who like to come the week before Thanksgiving to cut their own Silver Tip or White Fir trees from this forest set at 4,000 feet elevation.
“It’s beautiful. We’ve got a creek running through the property. Everyone who comes up here says this place is magical,” Weinert said. There’s no need to bring supplies, Weinert stocks the farm with plenty of saws. He has a collection of 1949 and 1950 Jeep Willy pickup trucks to drive visitors into the forest.
Those who buy their trees early simply trim as needed and set the trunks in a bucket of water to hold in the garage until after T-day.
Weinert is one of several regional Christmas tree farmers based in and around Nevada County offering an outdoor outing for families who want to cut a fresh tree for the holidays.
“We have so many people that are regulars every year. That’s their family tradition,” said Claudia Shurtz who owns Wolf Mountain Christmas Trees with her husband, Stan.
For 25 years, Wolf Mountain Christmas Trees has been a hobby of plant-loving forester Stan Shurtz.
At the farm, located at 18251 Retrac Way, customers can choose to cut their own Douglas fir and Scotch pine or take home a pre-cut silver tip beginning the Friday after Thanksgiving. Bring cash or checks from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., weekends only.
“They can cut it or my husband can help,” Claudia Shurtz said.
A couple miles from Highway 49, off Wolf Road, Donn Coenen has been growing Christmas trees at Cone and Hill Christmas Tree Farm for 30 years. The locomotive engineer from Union Pacific Railroad first bought 24 acres of “very sloping” irrigated pasture in the southern reaches of Nevada County in 1977. The holidays are a busy time for Coenen, but the man who started working on a sheep ranch at the age of 12 loves being a tree farmer.
“I’ve always been in agriculture. It’s something that’s a pleasure to do,” he said.
Another “choose and cut” farm open the day after Thanksgiving is Willow Valley Christmas Tree Farm in Nevada City.
Willow Valley offers fresh-cut red fir and an experience that generations come for year after year.
“We have candy canes, the music is going, hot cider and the whole thing,” said Karen Jones-Schimke. She and her husband, Greg, moved to the property from Truckee 13 years ago. Both husband and wife are retired foresters. The established 20-years-running tree farm came with the house.
Like Little Bear, Willow Valley has the saws and ropes needed to cut and load up a tree on the family car.
“We have it all, just come the day after Thanksgiving. You’ll see people in our driveway with happy faces,” Jones-Schimke said.
For those who want a more wild tree cutting experience, Tahoe National Forest is offering tree cutting permits in the Yuba River and Sierraville District as part of a pilot program this year. Forest areas around Nevada City are still closed to avoid interfering with local commerce.
Permits cost $10 and include a map of the cutting area. Limit two per household. It’s a bit of a drive but provides an all-day experience that families will be sure to remember.
Permits are also available in the Lake Tahoe Basin and Plumas National Forest.
Contact the Yuba River District in Sierra City at: 530-283-2050, Sierraville District: 530-994-3401 and Lake Tahoe Basin can be reached at: 530-543-2600.
Contact freelance writer Laura Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-913-3067.