Monday, December 8, 2014

The Best Christmas Tree Hunt Ever! (and Chili!)

When you live near a National Forest full of pine trees, there's really no excuse not to go cut your own Christmas tree. Especially when you live with some outdoors-loving guys, and your church has an annual Christmas tree hunt.

So, how do you hunt a Christmas tree?

First, grab a couple handy sons who like to carry sharp objects.

Add a third son whose talent is avoiding cameras (hi, Jacob!).

Throw in a rowdy dog, a patient husband, and about thirty friends (and a few more dogs, just for good measure).

And then head for the hills. Make sure you're bundled up before you start your search!

Of course, if you're legs are short, it helps if you have a strong dad to pull the sled :)

The problem with hunting for a Christmas tree is that the "perfect" one is always around the next corner. In fact, doesn't the one on top of the cliff look beautiful? Sorry, it's too big!

But seriously, with all these trees to choose from, where do you start?

Some are too big, some are too small. Some were blown down in last year's storm, some have grown crooked.

But eventually, you just have to pick one. After all, it's 3:30, we have a twenty minute hike back to the car, and sunset is at 4:15. So we pick one.

And haul it back to the car (this is why you make sure you bring a couple sons with you!).

Thatcher thinks the whole process is fascinating. And why can't we go find those deer he keeps smelling?

When we arrive back at the parking area, it's time to load up. Puppies first.

Add the all-important tree tag that gives us permission to remove the tree from the forest...

...and tie our prize to the top of the car.

Whew! A successful hunt!

Now it's time for the whole crew to head back to the church for our annual Chili Supper! And there's one of my Sunday School students making sure she's first in line :)

But before we know it, the chili is gone, and it's time to head home.

Now, isn't that the saddest sight you've ever seen?

But no worries - I have the recipe for the chili our family brought!

Jan's Savory Chili


1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork
1 onion

3 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes
3 (14.5 oz) cans small red beans
2 cups beef broth
1 Tablespoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
3 Tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons oregano
1 teaspoon salt

Brown the meats and onion together. Put all ingredients together in a crock pot. Cook on low for about 9-10 hours.

Serve with any toppings you like. A dollop of sour cream is particularly tasty.

This chili isn't hot and spicy - there are just enough of the spices to give it a warm, savory flavor.

So, time to share. Where do you find your Christmas tree?


  1. What fun that was to enjoy the hunt without leaving my home. The chili recipe looks amazing too.

    I find my tree in the attic. lolol.

    1. Oh Tina, how sad. An attic tree :(

      LOL - my husband says I'll eventually switch to a ready-made tree, and I say he's nuts. I love a fresh tree. Even cleaning up the pine needles in January. And February. And March.

  2. The first thought I had, because I haven't had my coffee yet, was "Jan is poaching on federal land?" So what's the scoop? Is it about thinning the forest? Do you have to pay for a tree hunting license? Do you really have that third son or is he a figment of your imagination?

    And the chili looks great. The four year old grandgirl LOVES chili and requested it for her birthday with beans! Grandboy made sure there was no meat in it because he is a vegetarian at six. Looking forward when they can go tree hunting!

    1. Nope, no poaching here! The forest service sells permits for $10 (what a bargain!), and there are rules you need to follow - the trees can't be in picnic areas or campgrounds, you have to cut the stump 1-2" from the ground, etc. And yes, it helps thin the forest. Fewer small trees and underbrush = less fire danger. :)

      And I really do have a 3rd son. He's the oldest and has never liked having his picture taken! The three of them look very different from each other, but you can tell they're brothers.

      I was surprised how much the children at our church love chili! Mine didn't until they were in their teens, and one still sorts out the beans and onions! Yay for your granddaughter!

  3. Jan, I'll say y'all ate some chili! LOL And just about licked the bowls clean. :)

    Thanks for your recipe. I've never tried using pork in chili. Will give it a go!

    Now next week we need to see the decorated tree. :) I hope to have mine by then. We buy ours at a lot here in town. The man brings in the Frazier firs fresh from North Carolina.

    1. Oooh! The Frazier firs are beautiful!

      Our Black Hills Spruce is beautiful, too - but rather rustic. I'll be sure to include a picture in next week's post :)

  4. like Tina said I got to sit here and see pics of the hunt while munching on breakfast tacos :-) I love chili but I didn't like homemade chili until I was way grown - now I don't want the stuff in a can I want the real stuff!

    1. There's nothing like a tromp in the snowy woods! We hadn't been up in the Hills since our farewell to autumn tour a month or so ago, and I've been missing it. Sigh.

      And I'm with you. Chili in a can is ok for emergencies - but it would have to be a pretty dire emergency!

  5. What?! No pictures of the decorated tree? Come on, Jan.

    I find my Christmas tree in a large box in the garage. Assemble, plug in the lights and we're ready to go. :D

    1. I have a large group of ladies coming for dinner on Wednesday night. If I set that tree up (it's a good 12 feet tall!), no one will have a place to sit! So tree decorating will take place on Friday, and meanwhile the tree is in a bucket of water. It looks good in the back yard!

  6. Do you know how tough it was for me to find a state that had cowboys... and Christmas tree farms? And make it believable???? That was my assignment to win my Waterbrook contract, cowboys + Christmas tree farm and kids.

    After lots of dead ends because most cowboy states have tree harvesting permits, not Christmas tree farms, LOL... I realized that Washington state has both!!! And hence the location for my Double S Ranch series next year!!! Three smokin' hot cowboys... searchin' for love, but pretty darn skeptical if not downright cynical!!!... and a sprawling ranch and a Christmas tree farm... Jan, this looks like so much fun! To wander into the mountains and harvest a tree! And then a chili supper at the church, better yet!!!! What a wonderful day!

    1. It WAS a wonderful day. It's our favorite church activity of the year!

      And you're right about the Christmas tree farms. I remember we talked about that back when you were planning this series. It seems like it would be a good match, doesn't it? When we lived in non-pine tree growing areas (like west Texas), the trees were always trucked in from somewhere. It makes me wonder if anyone around here has attempted it.

      Oh, and our resident cowboys came along on the hunt. The dad pulling the baby in the sled is a future rancher - inheriting the family ranch from his parents, who were also along for the fun. I go to church with cowboys :)

  7. Laughing at Tina's attic tree! And Connealy's is in a plastic bag in her closet...

    SO FUNNY!!!!!

  8. Oh -- thanks for taking me on the hunt. And yes, I want a shot of the decorated tree at some point. Loved Thatcher supervising y'all -- but he looks a bit dejected being relegated to a crate in the back of the van! LOL

    Live Christmas trees up here are ridiculously expensive. $80 for a decent sized one. IKEA has a program where you can buy a tree fro $20 and you get a coupon when you bring it back for composting after the holidays. Alas you'd need a car to do that, and I don't have a car.

    And the saddest thing ever -- I had my Christmas ornaments stored in wicker baskets in the basement. Almost all the ornaments are homemade or bought at church bazaars so thing fibre filled and made from natural elements. Some were even stuffed with seeds and rice. Well, some overwintering mice made themselves cozy in the baskets and chewed their way through almost everything. A whole lifetime of ornaments gone in a pouf of mice droppings. :-(

    1. Oh, Kav, NO!!! I'm so sorry to hear that! It makes me want to put my ornaments in plastic bins (right now they're in the attic in big boxes).

    2. Oh Kav, how awful! We had a similar thing happen years ago - mice got into stuff in the basement. The wheat weaving ornaments got hit the worst. And yes, I've also switched to plastic tubs - but mostly to protect the more fragile things from movers.

      Movers. They're the bane of my existence.

      And to buy a Christmas tree is expensive here, too! Of course, if you buy one you can choose a nice, full Scotch Pine or White Pine. But we like our rustic Black Hills Spruce. :)

      You're right about Thatcher, too. He was the first one in the car - even before the other dogs - and he was quite disappointed. We'll have to take him up in the Hills again, along with Wynter. She didn't get to go on the Christmas tree hunt because of her anti-social tendencies. (aka "grumpy old lady").

      That reminds me, she has a birthday soon - she'll be turning 10.

  9. Sounds delicious! I have to try this chili. I made some the other day and it was UNDERWHELMING.