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Whack, Shake and Bale

Written by Annie Billups.

This year, get your Christmas tree Clark Griswold-style by cutting it down yourself. For many families, in fact, bringing home a tree fresh from the fields is on par with watching Chevy Chase’s character bungle his way through the holidays in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, or crossing their fingers that A Christmas Story’s young Ralphie Parker gets his coveted Red Ryder BB gun.

Evergreen Farms Christmas Trees in Elgin, just east of Austin, offers a rustic and friendly atmosphere for selecting the perfect tree. At the farm’s pavilion, owners Mike and Beth Walterscheidt give customers quick safety instructions before heading to the groves via hayride. Don’t worry if you have a bad back—tree-cutting helpers roam the tree rows to do the physical work for anyone who can’t (or chooses not to). Virginia Pine is the most popular tree grown at the farm, admired for its strong fragrance and dense pine needles. But customers love the Leyland Cypress, too, for its old-fashioned look. You can also take a gander at the pre-cut North Carolina Fraser Firs, whose shiny green needles attract Christmas tree shoppers nationwide.

After choosing and cutting a tree, customers take it to the tree-shaker and baling machines. The tree-shaker rids any broken branches or debris hidden in the tree, and the baling machine neatly nets the tree for a safe ride home. A nearby campfire awaits visitors who want to roast marshmallows. Some folks bring picnic meals, and others buy ingredients for making S’mores from the concession stand. A gift shop near the entrance sells fresh-cut garlands and wreaths, as well as other Christmas essentials.

Evergreen Farms Christmas Trees opens the Friday after Thanksgiving. For more information, call 512/281-4833; Texas boasts dozens of other Christmas tree farms. To find one near you, visit the Texas Christmas Tree Growers Association Web site at

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