Seven hours, five people, a bunch of bungee cords and ratchet straps, a tarp, and one rental chainsaw. No, it's not how long the latest bug fix for my programming team took (though I would love to see a bug resolution read "solved via chainsaw"); it's what it takes for me, my wife, and our three kids to travel to the forests of northern Arizona to cut a Christmas tree. It was an adventure, a good one! I was reminded how nice it is to see tangible results, real-world results, of effort.

Imagine this, without the fog, and at 6000 feet above sea level. Photo by Dan Otis / Unsplash

Long-time readers will know that I am simultaneously not the most outdoorsy person, and more outdoorsy than you might think. That said, operating a chainsaw is not something I've ever had to do on a regular basis, and I think before last weekend I'd only ever held one once. But the price of Christmas trees has gone WAY up compared to years past, and so my wife K.C. and I decided we could probably save some money and make an adventure out of it if we cut one down ourselves.

It was definitely an adventure, in more ways than one. For example we knew we needed a chainsaw, and rented one from a local hardware store, but it turns out that to cut down a Christmas tree and take it home with you, you also need a BUNCH of other things, including:

  • A tarp, to wrap the tree in so that it doesn't get wind damage while driving.
  • Bungee cords, to make sure the tree stays wrapped by the tarp.
  • Ratchet straps, to attach the newly-wrapped tree to the roof rack of our car, AND
  • Snacks, to ensure that the kids don't riot and eat us on the long car ride.

Even renting the chainsaw was more difficult than I predicted; the person at the hardware store who showed me how to operate it must have assumed that I already knew what to do (despite my obvious "city boy" appearance) because he blazed through the company-mandated instructions like his hair was on fire. About all I got was "don't press the little dome button with liquid in it because you'll flood the engine, oh and also pull this cord to start". I just nodded blithely and assumed it would work out.

Despite that, work out it did! The chainsaw worked perfectly the two times I needed to use it, and I didn't lose any limbs.

But shortly after getting the trees to the car, there was an entirely different problem: we had two cut trees (one for us, and one for my father-in-law) and somehow it escaped us that that meant we would need to lift two pine trees, wrapped in a tarp and bungee cords, onto the top of our car. Carrying one tree we could do, but two? That was a bigger problem.

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