December 6, 2010


Fresh tree marks family tradition

Many carry out annual rite of Christmas Saturday at Lapeer tree farm

TraditionJoe McIntyre/staff photographer
Luke Hopkins and his family, Julie Morgan and 16-month-old Lyle Hopkins, return from cutting a Christmas tree Saturday at Pitman’s Tree Farm in Lapeer.

Staff Reporter

LAPEER — One member of the Mattix family got to help pick out her first Christmas tree Saturday.
Cortland residents Peter and Sarah Mattix brought their 2-year-old daughter Nora to the Pitman Tree Farm on Parker Street to choose the first holiday tree they could share as a family.
Peter Mattix said he was happy to load their 7-foot-tall find onto their vehicle.
“I’ve had a live tree my whole life,” he said. “To me, it’s Christmas nostalgia, it brings back the childhood.”
Sarah Mattix said she and her husband made their first visit to the Pitman tree farm three years ago. They have not gone out to get a tree for the past two years because they were too busy, she said. That made cutting one down Saturday and taking it home all the more enjoyable, she added.
“We went a few years without a tree at all,” Sarah Mattix said. “You look out and see all the trees and the snow, and the mud — it’s nice.”
It was nearly 30 degrees outside and there had been enough snowfall to leave a light coating on the ground.
Ralph Pitman has been selling Christmas trees on his farmland since 1980 and says he is glad to do it. Pitman said he has nearly 7,000 trees “in progress,” from 1 foot to 10 feet tall, on the property.
Trees have been on sale for the past week.
“We do about the same business year after year, a lot of repeat customers,” Pitman said.
Business was steady for much of Saturday afternoon. Families searched the rows of trees and most did not take long before finding the right one. They cut their trees down with a saw and dragged them down a hill where Pitman waited to collect the fee and, when needed, help load them onto the customer’s vehicle.
Marathon residents Pete and Karen Lottridge chose one large tree that filled the back of their pickup truck.
“We’ve got room for it,” Pete Lottridge said.
The family makes sure to pick out a live tree every year for the holidays.
“We pick whatever the boss says,” Lottridge joked, pointing to his wife.
Barbara and Bill Ackley loaded a precut spruce onto their truck.
“We never cut it down, but we always come here to get it,” said Barbara Ackley, who lives at Greek Peak.
She said the tree would be decorated with white lights and placed on the deck outside their house.
The Ackleys, like other customers at the Pitman farm, prefer not to settle for a fake Christmas tree.
“It’s about the real tree,” Barbara Ackley said. “You can’t really put fake ones outside — well maybe you can, but we like the real ones.”
As customers came and went, Lacey Pitman, a student at SUNY Oswego, made wreaths inside a barn. She cut the branches to a hand’s length, bunched them together and pressed a pedal that clamps them around a frame to form the correct wreath shape.
“It was hard at first because your first don’t always look the best,” she said. “Probably the most difficult thing when I was a kid was stepping on the foot pedal because I wasn’t heavy enough to do it.”
Making wreaths by hand is a craft she has perfected since elementary school, but she said it still takes her a bit of practice at the start of each season.


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