Country Sampler Special Edition

ON THE Hunt

Turn your annual tree-cutting trek into a picnic in the pines.

- ALL PHOTOS STYLED AND PHOTOGRAPH­ED BY MARY MCCACHERN OF HOMEISWHER­ETHEBOATIS.NET.

TThe snow falls softly in downy flakes all around you. You can hear the crunch of the ground as you step farther into the forest. The evergreen trees’ scent is heady, wafting through the air. The kids are laughing and skipping. You’re holding mittened hands with your beloved. Off in the distance, birds twitter, and you might have just caught a glimpse of a shy deer picking its way through the pines. And then you see it—the perfect tree, shining like a beacon, drawing your family to it. Bingo! Here is this year’s family Christmas tree. After a few easy chops, it comes down, you tie it quickly to the top of the car, and the family sings Christmas carols all the way home. Ha! Wouldn’t that be lovely? The reality is more like walking for miles, feet frozen, children complainin­g, only to find that all the trees have crooked trunks and that you didn’t bring enough twine to tie the tree you finally did cut down to the top of your car.

Even if your tree-hunting excursion doesn’t go as planned, you can still make it magical by planning a fun picnic lunch and enjoying time spent together outdoors. After all, finding the right tree takes a lot of work!

Blogger Mary McCachern of Home is Where the Boat is says she was champing at the bit to have a hearty picnic in the pines when she shot these photos. So, she packed up her husband’s Jeep with a basket of food, cozy plaid blankets and all the tools needed to bring home the treasured tree. As Mary notes, the make-ahead meal should be designed to travel well and, if necessary, taste delicious cold. (Extra points for finger food!) Suggestion­s include fried chicken, wraps, sliders, meatballs on skewers, potato salad, cornbread or breadstick­s, fruit kabobs and apple cider (which can be either hot or cold). If you’d prefer hot foods, consider items that can be kept warm and still easily transporte­d, such as chili, soup or pulled pork, which can be stored in large-mouth thermoses, or cook up something in a portable slow cooker beforehand and just wrap the appliance in a thick blanket to keep it warm. For dessert, either consider a mini option like individual hand pies, or package desserts such as trifles or puddings in traveling containers like mason jars.

Bring thick blankets, scarves and pillows, as well as folding chairs. The cozier the setting, the merrier! Encourage everyone to wear flannel or colorful woollies, or choose a color scheme like red and black or blue and white. This will make the event more special, and it will be fun to look back on the photos. Be sure to pack everything necessary; when you’re out

in the field or woods, you don’t want to find you’re without an essential item you forgot. Bring along more twine than you think you’ll need, a strong handsaw or ax and perhaps even a small spade. If you’ve never cut a live tree for your home, take note of your room’s ceiling height before heading out. Trees look much smaller out in the open, and you don’t want to bring home the perfect one and have to chop off a third of it.

Find your tree first, tie it up tight, and then set up your picnic space to enjoy your hard-earned meal. Share memories of past trees, talk about how you’ll decorate this pine, or have fun picking a goofy name for your new Christmas tree. And take note: Even if you get your pine from a tree farm rather than a private woodland, you can still spend some time there afterward to enjoy your goodies together as a family.

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 ??  ?? OPPOSITE: Make it a fun and festive day all around. Hang a wreath on the front of your car or add reindeer antlers to the windows.
BELOW: A thermos doubles as a vase for a woodsy bouquet of glossy magnolia leaves, cypress branches and juniper berries.
OPPOSITE: Make it a fun and festive day all around. Hang a wreath on the front of your car or add reindeer antlers to the windows. BELOW: A thermos doubles as a vase for a woodsy bouquet of glossy magnolia leaves, cypress branches and juniper berries.
 ??  ??
 ??  ??
 ??  ?? OPPOSITE: The open bed of a vehicle is a readymade picnic spot. Use trays, baskets and carryalls to tote foods and dishware.
RIGHT: Folding chairs and even a small table allow you to set up your picnic lunch anywhere, regardless of the ground condition.
OPPOSITE: The open bed of a vehicle is a readymade picnic spot. Use trays, baskets and carryalls to tote foods and dishware. RIGHT: Folding chairs and even a small table allow you to set up your picnic lunch anywhere, regardless of the ground condition.

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