Surrounded by row upon row of pine trees, with thousands to choose from at Hirt Tree Farm in Westminster, Chris Kuhlmann walked from tree to tree, measuring each with a nine-foot pole to see which ones would fit in his family room.
Suddenly his wife, Trish, called to him, saying she had found the one. Chris Kuhlmann jogged over to his wife and looked up at the eight-and-a-half-foot tall Canaan fir she had picked.
"Is this the one?" he asked his three children — Brett, 6, Abby, 9, and Nathan 11.
The answer came in a chorus of yeses. Without hesitation, he knelt and began sawing away at the trunk.
Chris Kuhlmann said he and his family have been visiting Hirt Tree Farm for about a decade, but since he was a boy his family has maintained the tradition of cutting its own trees each year.
"There's something about the smell of a real tree," Chris Kuhlmann said. "It's either going to be a real tree for my family or we're aren't putting one up."
Once he had the tree cut, he took a small slice from the trunk, held the core to his nose and breathed deeply.
"This [smell] is why I cut my own tree," he said.
He asked his son Nathan to help him carry the tree to the car. He can't let his three children try to carry it without him, otherwise there wouldn't be any needles left on the tree, Chris Kuhlmann said.
"We'd be having a Charlie Brown Christmas for sure then," he said.
The Kuhlmann family was one of nearly a dozen that visited the farm Sunday morning.
Another family that braved the cold and windy weather — and the muddy fields after a long day of rain on Saturday — was Chuck and Tiffany Klingelhofer, of Westminster. With them was their friend, Ryan Vickery.
All three agreed that cutting their own tree is part of the tradition of the holiday season. Nothing would stop them from doing it themselves, not even snow, Vickery said.
"Last year, it snowed the first week of December, but we came out and literally laid down in the snow to cut [the tree]," Vickery said.
Clyde Hirt, owner of the farm, said he grew up on it. The farm specialized in cattle and nursery crops until the late 1970s when a friend of his in the landscaping business suggested he start his own tree farm. He started planting trees four acres at a time for the next 14 years.
"It's not like a farmer that plants corn in the spring and harvests it in the fall," Hirt said. "It takes 10-14 years to get a tree to the maturity to where it can sell."
The farm sells a variety of trees, including Douglas fir, Canaan fir, white pine, Norway spruce, blue spruce, Serbian spruce and fraser firs.
Since the early '90s when he first started selling trees, the number sold has risen substantially, he said. This year, Hirt said, he is hoping to sell 1,000. One of these was a 20-foot tall Douglas fir purchased by Carroll County government for the county office building. It will be the centerpiece of the county's tree lighting ceremony planned today.
Another couple visiting the farm on Sunday was David and Julie Berry. They had selected a 6-foot-tall spruce for their home. David Berry said he hoped the tree would fit through the front door.
"[The trees] always look smaller when you're out here," he said.
Zepp's Tree Farm is another in the Westminster area. Owner Doug Zepp said he plants trees every year to ensure the farm has a good rotation of fresh pines every year to meet the demand. In addition to the time it takes to grow a crop, Zepp said, a lot of work goes into caring for the trees.
"We plant them in the spring and shear them in June, July and August," Zepp said. "They also need to be sprayed occasionally for fungus throughout the year and we are constantly mowing between the rows."
Zepp said he has been in the landscaping business for decades and when a friend suggested he start a tree farm, he thought it fit well with his business.
"[The tree farm] goes hand in hand with what I do," he said.
Trish Kuhlmann said maintaining the traditions of the holiday season is important to her and her husband. She said she hopes to instill the same sentiment in her children when they get older, but for now, she's just happy the kids are willing to come out when it's so cold.
"For the kids, we cut down our own tree because daddy says so," Trish Kuhlmann said.
Reach staff writer Wiley Hayes at 410-857-3315 or email@example.com.
Christmas Tree Farms in Carroll County
Breezy Trees Farm, 2198 Sams Creek Road, Taylorsville. Open through Dec. 14 from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday only. Contact the farm by calling 410-875-0665 or visit farm's website at http://www.breezytrees.com.
Davidson Tree Farm, 1101 Emory Church Road, Upperco. Open 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday-Sunday. Contract the farm by calling 410-239-6556 ov visit the farm's website at http://www.davidsonchristmastreefarm.com.
Feldof Farm, 2311 Neudecker Road, Westminster. Open 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday only. Contact the farm by calling 410-876-7680.
Fra-Mar Tree Farm, 3601 Shiloh Road, Hampstead. Open through Dec. 21 from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday only. Contact the farm at 410-374-2868.
Hirt Tree Farm, 917 Arnold Road, Westminster. Open through Dec. 23 from 9 a.m.–4 p.m. daily. Contact the farm by calling 410-876-8839 or visit the farm's website at http://www.hirttreefarm.com.
JCK Christmas Tree Farm, 3211 Bert Koontz Road, Taneytown. Open through Dec. 14 from 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday only. Contact the farm by calling 410-346-6610.
Martin Tree Farm, 18130 Falls Road, Hampstead. Open through Dec. 21 Monday through Friday from 3:30–5 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Contact the farm by calling 410-374-2226 or visit the farm's website at http://www.martintreefarm.com.
Otterdale View Christmas Tree Farm, 4364 Middleburg Road, Union Bridge. Open through Dec. 21 Thursday through Sunday from 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Contact the farm by calling 410-775-0176 or visit the farm's website at http://www.otterdaleview.com.
Pine Valley Farms, 1150 Fannie Dorsey Road, Sykesville. Open daily through Dec. 21 from 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Contact the farm by calling 410-795-8314 or visit the farm's website at http://www.pinevalleyfarms.com.
Putman Tree Farm, 316 E. Nicodemus Road, Westminster. Open through Dec. 21 Friday, Saturday and Sunday only from 8 a.m. until dark. Contact the farm by calling 410-848-9584 or visit the farm's website at http://www.putmantreefarm.com.
Sewell's Farm, 3400 Harney Road, Taneytown. Open daily through Dec. 22 from 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Contact the farm by calling 410-756-4397 or visit the farm's website at http://www.sewellsfarm.com.
Showvaker Quality Evergreens, 2020 Garrett Road, Manchester. Open through Dec. 21 Monday through Friday from noon–5 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Contact the farm at 410-374-1499 or visit the farm's website at http://www.qualityevergreens.net.
Thomas Tree Farm, 3501 Hanover Pike, Manchester. Open daily through Dec. 24 from 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Contact the farm by calling 410-374-9538 or visit the farm's website at http://www.thomastreefarm.com.