I don't think I've ever seen so many evergreens in one place at the same time. In 2002, our annual quest for the perfect Christmas tree took us to Dzen Tree Farm in South Windsor, Connecticut, which I'd seen advertised in the newspaper.
I'd also heard a rumor that this was one cut-your-own tree farm where you can drive right up and select your tree.
I was rather skeptical, but with a five-week-old baby along on our tree mission, we figured it was worth a shot. I was even more incredulous when we drove into the farm and got our first look at just how large it is--140 acres of Christmas trees!
We stopped briefly to visit the farm's resident family of reindeer and to say "hello" to Santa Claus (unfortunately, Santa is too busy preparing for Christmas to visit Dzen Tree Farm in 2012, but live reindeer are back after an absence of several years!). Actually, our tiny munchkin didn't even open an eyeball to see whose lap she was in when we handed her over to the big guy in the red suit. Santa definitely knows when you are sleeping when you're sleeping on him! John Dzen, Jr. told me that one of the farm's special attractions is a 50-year-old nativity set that he has restored and placed inside a manger he built with wood taken from a 75-year-old barn.
A helpful employee gave us directions for navigating our way to the soft-needled Balsam trees, but we quickly found ourselves "lost" amid the vast expanses of evergreens. There were, indeed, many roads to traverse where trees were not much more than an arm's length outside the car window. Still, I was convinced that we'd have to set out on foot with baby nestled in her carrier to find a fitting tree.
That's when Bruce hit the brakes. "What about that one?"
The tree he was pointing to was just the right size and had a perfect shape--it is obvious that the Christmas trees at Dzen Tree Farm are well cared for and groomed throughout the year. The one drawback--it was a Blue Spruce, which, while beautiful, is difficult to decorate due to the sharp, spiky needles.
Still, I hopped out of the car, figuring it was worth a look. I returned and attested to the fact that, spiky needles notwithstanding, this could, indeed, be the tree for us. Bruce walked the few feet from the car to have a look of his own, then bounded back instantly shouting, "This is it; hand me the saw!"
So, baby's first tree will always be remembered as the "drive-by tree," and my doubts about Dzen Tree Farm have been forever erased. In 2010, the Dzen family built a new road to the top of the hill to provide easy access to the farm's tallest Christmas trees (up to 10 feet). Granted, if you're looking for the old-fashioned adventure of slogging through cold snow to argue with family members over whether the tree you saw a half hour ago was better looking than the one you're about to cut down, you can find that at Dzen, too. Whatever kind of tree hunt you're searching for, here's what you need to know:
Hours: Dzen Tree Farm is open daily from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. from the Friday after Thanksgiving through Christmas Eve.
Prices: For 2012, choose and cut any fresh tree for $40, or select a fresh-cut tree for $40. Cash and checks are the only accepted forms of payment. Saws are provided to those who would like to cut their own trees. Wreaths, holiday plants and other decorating accessories are also available in the greenhouse.
Tree Varieties: Dzen Tree Farm currently grows Balsam Fir and Fraser Fir trees.
Directions: Dzen Tree Farm is located at 215 Barber Hill Road in South Windsor, Connecticut. From Hartford, take 84 East to exit 62 for Manchester/Buckland Hills Mall. At the end of the exit ramp, turn left onto Buckland Road. At the tenth light, turn right onto Route 74 East/Ellington Road. You will see signs for the tree farm. At the second stop sign, turn left onto Miller Road. At the second stop sign, turn right onto Barber Hill Road. The farm is a half-mile on the left side--look for the red Welcome Building at the entrance.
For More Information: Call Dzen Tree Farm at 860-648-2233.