Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Finding the perfect little Christmas tree in Faribault December 19, 2016

Our family Christmas tree always sat on the end of the kitchen table, as shown in this Christmas 1964 photo. That's me in the red jumper with four of my five siblings.

The Kletscher family Christmas tree always sat on the end of the kitchen table, as shown in this Christmas 1964 photo. That’s me in the red jumper with four of my five siblings.

FEW PHOTOS EXIST OF ME as a child. So I treasure each one, especially a rare color print of me and four siblings clustered around the kitchen table on Christmas Eve 1964. We are dressed in our Sunday best, back home from worship services at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Vesta. I’m surprised we were willing to pose given the pile of presents.




But it is not the gifts or the setting or even the impatient look on my middle brother’s face that remain imprinted upon my memory so many decades removed from the farm. It is the Christmas tree. I never realized how small that table-topped tree until I grew into adulthood. But it’s short, maybe three feet. I recall going to the local grocer and sorting through trees leaning in the snow against the side of the grocery store. Such memories.




A few years ago, with my three children grown and gone, I decided to down-size our Christmas tree from average to small. I longed for a tree like the ones of my childhood. Imperfect and short with short needles. And I found that tree at Kuntze Christmas Tree Lot along Second Avenue Northwest in Faribault.




This no-frills lot run since 1988 by Ken Mueller (and in business since 1939) features fresh-cut, untrimmed trees from a dairy farm near Duluth. They’re as natural as a tree can be. Shaped by nature. Pinecones and leaves still clinging to branches. Pliable, fresh needles. Exactly what I wanted.




This season, Ken’s had a run on trees. Donahue’s Greenhouse, a major supplier of Christmas trees to locals, is no longer open during the holiday season. So on the date I shopped, December 10, I found a limited selection of trees in Ken’s lot. He’s not planning to restock. After sorting through about a half-dozen trees, my husband and I chose our Charlie Brown tree and Ken placed it in the back of our van. Yes, the tree is that small.




Randy handed him $20, told him to keep the $4 change and they chatted for a bit because this tree salesman is a talker. Plus I wanted to snap a few photos.




Now the tree stands in my living room, nestled between a window and a chest of drawers my dad once shared with his oldest brother. I snapped a selfie of myself with the tree after stringing the lights. I’m not good at selfies. (Or maybe I am since I meant for the tree to be the focus.)




I’m much better at choosing a tree that reminds me of happy childhood Christmases on the family farm. For me, it’s all about the memories.

BONUS PHOTO: The message on the back of Ken’s business card:




TELL ME: If you have a Christmas tree in your house, is it real or fake? Why?

This year the Christmas Tree Promotion Board has launched a campaign of “It’s Christmas. Keep it real.”Β  The board markets the tradition, scent and natural beauty of real trees.

Β© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


20 Responses to “Finding the perfect little Christmas tree in Faribault”

  1. Colleen Gengler Says:

    We have always had a real tree in part because of the memories, just like you! When I was growing up, for many years we went to a local lot south of Owatonna and cut our own. We’d troop through the lot to find the perfect one. But, we never got carried away (think Chevy Chase in Christmas Vacation). People say well they are so messy. I’m fortunate to be able to put it into a tiled sunporch which can be closed off. Cleanup is not bad at all. When my husband and I were struggling to get it cut off at the bottom, I jokingly said “maybe we should get a fake one” and he said “never!” I agree – never.

    • Thanks for sharing your Christmas tree memories. For awhile, we had friends who welcomed friends to their rural Faribault acreage to cut down a tree. They specifically planted evergreens to be gifted at Christmas. So our kids grew up with memory.

  2. Littlesundog Says:

    When I was young, Dad cut a cedar to sit on a corner table top – it was very small! But when we moved to town when I was eight, Mom got an artificial tree that took up a whole corner of our tiny home. As the years went by, more and more handmade ornaments adorned the tree. I have had both real and artificial trees, and I really prefer the artificial. I was always panicked about fire danger and cleaning up needles and watering was an extra chore. I sure did love the smell though. πŸ™‚ I love these images – it looks COLD! And I like your eyeglass frames – what I can see of them! ha ha I am terrible with selfies too.

    • Lori, thanks for sharing your childhood tree memories, so similar to mine with the mini tabletop tree.

      As for the selfie, I sort of intentionally framed it with only part of my face so the tree (and not me) would be showcased.

      I love my new eyeglasses, too, purchased in September. I hadn’t had an eye check in six years. When I put my new glasses on, I could not believe the improvement in my vision. I just sat there in awe, repeating, “I can see. I can see. Everything is so clear.” Lesson learned: Don’t wait too long b/n eye exams, at my age. Mostly I wait because of the cost…

  3. Sue Ready Says:

    My husband found what he thinks is the perfect Christmas tree up north on our property despite the fact it looks like a Charlie Brown tree to me. But it was free and on our property. Last year we had a fake tree for the first time ever and we hated it so back to a real one which is ever so much better.
    Happy Holidays to you.

  4. Dee Bjork Says:

    This year my Mother Ruth (90 yrs old) wanted a real Christmas tree. At 90, you respect her wishes. The tree is small and perfect. Each night, the timer is set and the lights go on in Mom’s living room for her to enjoy her Living Tree. Merry Christmas.

  5. Love your tree – oh so BEAUTIFUL πŸ™‚ We purchased a small live tree this year (need to take a pic and share it). Mr. Craves was so giddy in picking out a tree that I got giddy too. I am more into the decorating of the tree. I placed some presents around it yesterday and it is starting to feel more and more like the Holiday. Happy Day – Enjoy!

  6. Jackie Says:

    First of all I love your tree… it’s perfect! I grew up with a real tree every year! Rick had a fake tree growing but when we were married I won out, and real trees is what we had until….. all the kids were grown and moved out, and we had brand new carpet in the house. I guess I “caved” and decided it would be nice not to have the mess anymore. you see we had to haul the Christmas tree up a flight of stair to our living room, hence needles everywhere. It was just time!!! At first it was hard and I hated going “fake” but we bought a beautiful tree, that looks “real” and as time has passed I not longer regret our decision. It’s easy, it’s clean, it’s a lovely tree. I did go out with my dad this year and helped his get his tree, He still insists on “Real”… I was glad to be part of that!.

    • I understand your reason for getting a fake tree. We are fortunate to just ours in the front door and right into the living room. The trees I buy from Kuntzes are so fresh they shed very few needles.

      So wonderful that you can be part of the looking for a tree with your dad.

  7. Amber Schmidt Says:

    Izzy can’t wait to see Grandma and Grandpa’s real tree! Maybe Grandpa will show her how to water it. πŸ™‚

  8. I haven’t had a live tree in years. We skipped a tree this year because of our new kitten.

  9. Beth Ann Says:

    Perfect tree and it honestly does not look like a Charlie Brown tree to me. No tree for us this year—I did decorate but did not put the outdoor lights out or get a tree because we won’t be around that much. Last year we got a live tree and put it on our back deck and I loved seeing it there even if it only had lights on it. We would have to do some major moving of furniture to make room for a tree and I just wasn’t feeling it this year so we are doing without. Love that Izzy will be there to see the tree in person and maybe might have a gift under it. πŸ™‚

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