VANCOUVER — It’s a family tradition. Every year, my husband and I go with the family to cut down our trees at Thornton’s Treeland in Vancouver.
Four vehicles full of Schwartzes, Strickers and Millers, six adults and five kids. We were successful at timing it just right this year, dodging the rain as we got there when they open at 9 a.m. The young lady at the shack as you drive in offers you little wrapped candy canes and a smile as she explains to only cut trees with the white tags.
There is plenty of parking up by the barn where you can grab a cart to haul your tree, but we take our caravan down the road that takes you around the grounds to the different species of trees: Douglas Fir, Noble Fir, Nordmann Fir, Fraser Fir and Grand Fir. We all pile out, rubber boots and scarves and stocking caps. They do have plenty of saws available, but this year we remembered to bring our sawzall to make quick work of the job.
We split up into three groups, our little nephew Maxon grabs my husband’s hand as he hops down the muddy road. Mom and Dad (Pamela and Joe Schwartz, Sr.) are looking for a different species of tree this year, a Nordmann Fir. I like the looks of the Douglas Fir, so we go in that direction. My sis-in-law Melissa and her fiance Rob go in a different direction. The goal is to find the perfect tree, nice, even and full. We wander around until one stands out, it’s tough to make a decision as there are so many nice ones.
You’d think doing this every year, we’d remember to bring some cardboard to put down to cut the tree, but my husband takes off his coat and kneels down to cut. I get Maxon to yell “TIMBER!!” as it falls over a few seconds later. Our two nieces Mollie and Riley are so helpful as they grab the top of the tree and help my husband carry it to our truck.
We drive back up to the barn and pull the trees off the truck and carry them to barn for shaking and baling. All the people working there are so friendly and nice. A young man named Marcos grabs our tree and puts it on the tree shaker to remove loose needles and any hitch-hikers. Then he takes it over to the baler and uses a rope to pull it through, wrapping it in a netting for easier transporting. I ask Marcos how long he’s been working there and he tells me nine years. I also found out he’s family, married to founder Glen Thornton’s granddaughter.
After loading the trees back into our truck, we visit the inside of the barn. There are beautiful wreaths for sale made with a Noble Fir base and blue berried juniper, also free hot cocoa and coffee as well as a heater to warm your hands. You’ll also see tables of hand-made gifts for sale and a life-sized nativity scene. You can’t forget to fill out a postcard that will be mailed to you the following year to get a coupon for $2 off and free shaking and baling. I pay for our tree and also can’t resist buying the special tree watering funnel that has a sort of dip-stick feature to know how full your tree’s water is. They also have special “Marriage-Saving Tree Stand” for sale with free drilling.
Now onto our favorite part: the animals! Behind the old barn is a covered area of pens where you can pet goats of different sizes, a pony, a miniature horse and some sheep. They impatiently stomp their feet and push each other trying to get your attention that they are deserving of some food. You also see a big tom turkey with a hen, some chickens, geese and ducks. My husband raided our change jar of quarters before we left so everyone would have plenty of opportunities to buy handfuls of grain to feed at the animals. While we are enjoying the animals, we see a tractor pulling a large wagon of visitors through the trees for a hay ride.
Thorntons’ Treeland is located at 7617 N.E. 119th Street, Vancouver, Washington 98662 and is open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. … or until it’s too dark to see. They have an informative website and a Facebook page. Thornton’s Treeland is a fun, family friendly place to visit to find that special Christmas tree and make memories with your loved ones!
Tree safety tips from Thornton’s Treeland
- User smaller lights. Miniature lights produce much less heat and reduce the drying effect upon a tree.
- Check your lights for frayed or cracked wire insulation and broken sockets.
- Be sure to water daily! If the supply of water no longer allows the tree to absorb water, the ability of the tree to absorb water later is reduced.
- Always turn off the lights of your tree when leaving the house or retiring for the night.
- Keep your tree away from heat sources including the fireplace or heat system vents.
- Do not block doors or traffic areas with the tree or rearranged furniture.
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