When you live in Atlanta, New England-style Christmas traditions from White Christmas to sleigh rides are in the "I'll Be Home For Christmas" category. Remember that last line, "Only in my dreams?"
But cutting your own Christmas tree, tying it atop the family vehicle and hoisting it upright in the living room? That tradition is on the "can do" list, thanks to a smattering of choose-and-cut tree farms in the metro area.
This year’s crop is not only ample, it's overflowing, or make that "fast-growing," according to Nathan Bottoms, co-owner with his Dad and brother of Bottoms Christmas Tree Farm in Cumming. "The trees have done exceptionally well," he says. "We will sell more 2-year-old trees than we ever have in 21 years of owning the farm. They are bigger and fuller, more like 3-year old trees. They took off growing with all that rain this past year."
The Bottoms' farm has more than 2,000 trees to choose from on about 10 acres. Its website describes the process as, "We provide the saw, you provide the saw power."
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But Nathan allows as that's "just a saying. We have guys in the field who will be glad to cut your tree for you. We won't force you to do it."
Like many of the other "farm to tree stand" operations, Bottoms hosts holiday temptations during tree-slaying season, including free hot cider, marshmallow roasting around a fire pit and a walking trail with farm animals worthy of bit parts in "Away in a Manger."
And like all the other choose-and-cut farms, the Bottoms family cherishes the tradition. "We've always had a real tree we cut ourselves from the beginning," Nathan says. "We got the tree farm when I was 10 and I'm 31, but even before that we'd pick our own and cut it."
The senior Bottoms, Dennis and Sandra, always choose a Virginia Pine, according to son Nathan. "I'm a Frasier Fir guy myself, so that's what my wife Megan and I always have at our house."
With all that evergreen knowledge in the family tree, Nathan does offer up a few tips for folks choosing and chopping for the first time in 2018.
"Know what you want before you get to the farm," he advises. "That way the farmers can point you to the right area and you won't be walking forever. Knowing what size you want is more important than what type."
He also recommends taking what the family calls the "rear view mirror" approach. "You know how the mirror says 'objects are larger than they appear?' That's how trees are when you see them in the field. Bring your measurements and know the max height including a stand so you don't have to saw after you leave the farm."
The Georgia Christmas Tree Association adds one more tip on its website that boils down to this: Don't feel guilty for cutting live trees. According to the GCTA, tree farms benefit the environment by absorbing CO2 and other gases, emitting vast lungfuls of oxygen, stabilizing soil and creating natural wildlife sanctuaries.
If you want in on all that tradition and fresh air, put one of these eight local tree farms on your holiday bucket list:
9 a.m. to sunset starting Thanksgiving Day and closing a week or two before Christmas. Check their Facebook page before you go. No admission fee for the public during Christmas tree season
3565 Hwy 155 N, Stockbridge. 770-954-9356. www.aboutyule.com
This aptly-named family farm sells cut-your-own trees in varieties that include Leyland Cypress, Virginia Pine and Blue Ice. For the ambitious, 15-foot trees are available. Yule Forest also features trees of all sizes, shapes and fullness so even Linus-like relatives can find something suitable. During the season they provide shoppers with free hot apple cider and candy canes, with free hay rides thrown in on the weekends.
Thompson’s Tree Farm
Tree sale begins Nov. 17 through Dec. 16 unless the tree supply runs out; 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Black Friday Nov. 23; Noon to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday; 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays; 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Thanksgiving
1829 Prospect Road, Lawrenceville. 770-513-2552. www.thompsonstreefarm.
Chop down your own tree choosing from Leyland Cypress, Murray Cypress, Blue Ice, Green Giant and Carolina Sapphire. Bells and whistles include a chance to feed pet goats and cows, free hot chocolate, cider and hay rides on weekends, weather permitting.
Bottoms Christmas Tree Farm
Tree sales begin Nov. 17 and run through Dec. 22, 3 p.m. to dark Monday Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to dark Saturdays and closed Sundays; Thanksgiving week schedule is 3 p.m. to dark Monday and Tuesday, 9 a.m. to dark Wednesday-Saturday including full open hours Thanksgiving Day.
5880 John Burruss Road, Cumming.770-887-2728. www.bottomstreefarm.com
Cut-and-choose options include Leyland Cypress, highly recommended for those with allergies or asthma since the variety does not produce pollen, Virginia Pine, Carolina Sapphire, Deodar Cedar and Fraser Firs. Another family favorite are the farm's White Pines, which take their time growing in Georgia and so are ideal for the 6-foot to 8-foot, shapely tree customers.
Added holiday freebies include hot apple cider, a marshmallow roast on an open fire pit and sample jams and jellies.
Hunter’s Christmas Tree Farm
Opens Nov.23 9 a.m. to dusk; 9 a.m. to dusk Saturdays; Closed Sundays; 4 p.m. to dusk Monday-Friday
14680 Wood Road, Milton.770-475-0713. www.hunterschristmastreefarm.com
Leyland Cypress and Murray Cypress await in the field; complimentary Christmas hot chocolate and cookies warm indoors. Pony rides and Santa visits are 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays.
Coker Tree Farm
Beginning Nov. 23, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Black Friday and Saturdays and Sundays, 4 p.m.-6 p.m. weekdays,
2280 Macland Road, Marietta. 770-424-8047 cokertreefarm.com
A cozy choose-and-cut place, Coker Tree Farm lends you a saw and rounds up "elves" when its time to shake, bail and load the tree. It sells a lot of Murray Cypress, a derivative of the Leyland Cypress that the farm says does not drop its needles and will stay green into January if you water it faithfully. Carolina Sapphires are the other option, described by the farm website describes as "without a doubt the most fragrant tree in the Christmas tree industry." Coker Tree Farm has served the area for 37 years so take them at their word when they say not to cut a Carolina Sapphire before they be cut down before December 1st
Sleepy Hollow Christmas Tree Farm
The farm opens Nov. 23 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. then has hours from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays; closed Mondays; 2-6 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays and so on until they don't have any more trees.
628 Sleepy Hollow Road, Powder Springs. 770-942-6770. www.sleepyhollowtrees.com
Sleepy Hollow prides itself on a wide selection of trees you can cut yourself, including Leyland Cypress, Murray Cypress, Virginia Pines, Carolina Sapphires, Blue Ice and Naylor’s Blue. If you want the joy of being out on the farm without cutting a tree, they also sell pre-cut Fraser Firs. They live up to their motto: "It's Christmas. Keep it real."
The Kinsey Family Farm
Beginning Nov. 17 and selling through Dec. 20; November hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Black Friday (Nov. 23), Saturdays and Sundays; 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Friday, closed Thanksgiving; December hours: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Friday; 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Note that Kinsley Family Farm does not start selling trees until noon each day, except on Black Friday Nov. 23 when sales begin at 9 a.m.
7170 Jot-em Down Road, Gainesville. 770-887-6028
The Kinsleys have tended these trees, some for years, and they're out in the field ready to be browsed and harvested. The choose-and-cut options include Murray Cypress, and for those who can wait to cut until after Thanksgiving, Carolina Sapphire Cypress and Arizona Cypress. Pre-cut and trees in containers are other options.
Holiday merriment down on the farm includes marshmallow roasting and hot chocolate at the barn and wagon rides to the tree fields. This isn't a nighttime adventure, though--be sure to show before the last tractor run departs at 5:30 p.m.
Berry Patch Farms
The farm is open for trees Nov. 23 through Dec. 10, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Black Friday (Nov. 23) and Saturdays and Sundays; 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday
786 Arnold Mill Rd, Woodstock. 770-926-0561 www.berrypatchfarms.net
Berry Patch provides the saw and points you out to the Leyland Cypress. The farm especially recommends that variety for families with little kids since it's so soft and doesn't have needles to shed. The subsequent rest on the porch, warm funnel cake and hot apple cider in hand, is popular with all ages.