[ 🌲 winter 2021 update: to come ! ]
Choosing a 🌲 Christmas tree to take pride and place in one’s home is a special family tradition . . . it takes a while to find the perfect tree – small, tall, full . . . we all have different taste and requests!
Once chosen, we take home our new Christmas friend and get prepared to 🎄 decorate it with our treasured decorations and lights . . . slowly it comes alive and truly 🌟 sparkles once night falls . . . and with the lovely scent the tree gives off in our home, and a bit of mulled wine and some gingerbread or other treats, we are all infused with the Christmas magic and spirit (literally, for some! 😉🙃).
And what if you could not only choose your own 🌲 Christmas tree, but also cut it down yourself? Oh, but you CAN!
Not far from the 🏔 Pays du Mont-Blanc, in Arculinge (Reignier-Esery), is 🌲 La Maison Pugin, éléveurs de sapins, and on 🗓 three December Sundays each year, the family-run 🌲 Christmas tree plantation opens its doors to the public . . . and 🌲🪓 you can choose and cut down your very own tree!
La Maison Pugin story
🌲 La Maison Pugin is a family business, founded by Jaque and Lucas Pugin (brothers from an agricultural family). With a firm desire to “ pérenniser notre patrimoine familial et de perpétuer l’activité agricole ” (“ to retain our family’s heritage and agricultural activity ”), they decided to start growing 🌲 Christmas trees, and have been doing so since 1989.
By starting a 🌲 Christmas tree plantation in Haute-Savoie, they hoped to:
- 🌲 promote a local, sustainable market;
- 🌲 be ecologically friendly (when you supply the local market, then less transport is required);
- 🌲 to ensure optimal quality (well-nurtured and freshly cut trees);
I asked Jaque what he and his brother loved most about their work:
🇫🇷 ” Il y a deux aspects majeurs : nature / magie. Le plaisir de travailler à l’extérieur, sur nos terres, à réaliser NOTRE projet. Faire pousser des arbres, ça n’est pas rien . . . on les bichonne, on les arrange, on les voit évoluer. Parfois ils vont bien, parfois ils poussent tordus, ils ont besoin de plus d’attention. Et faire pousser des arbres qui sont destinés à la magie de Noël, au bonheur des enfants, c’est aussi une grande source d’accomplissement. ”
🇬🇧 ”There are two major aspects: nature and magic. The pleasure of working outside, on our land, seeing OUR project evolve. To grow trees is not nothing . . . we pamper them, we arrange them, we watch them evolve. Sometimes they are fine, sometimes they grow crooked, and then they need more attention. And to be able to grow trees that are destined for the magic of Christmas, for the happiness of children, this is also a great sense of accomplishment.”
The life of a 🌲 Maison Pugin Christmas tree
A 🎄 Christmas tree should not to be removed from a forest; it is a plant that should derive from a special culture and it takes between 5 and 10 years to grow and be ready to provide the magic we desire for our December festivities.
The 🌲 Maison Pugin sapins grow at an altitude of around 600m, near the majestic Salève, and benefit from an ideal climate and sun exposure. Winters are cold and snowy and summers are wet, with mild temperatures = perfect conditions for growing a happy 🎄 Christmas tree! The Maison Pugin sapins are grown in harmony with nature, with the knowledge that they will ultimately be cut down. In the 5 to 10 years of growth, they absorb CO2 and contribute to the balance of the local flora and fauna. In addition, the plantations are located next to the family home, so the trees can be nurtured around the clock.
🐑 Les Moutondeuses 🐑
I asked Jaque what the most difficult aspect of his work was . . .
🇫🇷 “ Sur le plan cultural, la plus grande difficulté est de tenir les sols “propres”. La croissance des sapins est lente : entre 10 et 40 cm par année ! De ce fait, pour que la croissance se passe dans les meilleures conditions, il ne faut pas qu’ils soient envahis d’herbes de tous genres. Pour cela, la MAISON PUGIN a pris le parti de “déléguer cette tache” à 🐑 des moutons de la race Shropshire, qui font un travail remarquable et naturel !!! ”
🇬🇧 ”The biggest challenge is keeping the soil “clean”. The growth of Christmas trees is slow: between 10 and 40 cm per year! Therefore, for growth to occur in optimal conditions, the trees must not be invaded by any weeds or other plants. In order to prevent the invasion of these other plants, La Maison Pugin decided to “delegate the task” to 🐑 Shropshire sheep, who do a remarkable and natural job of it!”
What a superb maintenance plan: ecologically friendly (and cute) 🐑 Shropshire sheep, and with no need for noisy “tondeuses” (moutondeuses – you see the worldplay? – a “tondeuse” is a lawnmower), which would also be more damaging to the environment. Incredibly, this race of sheep, recently brought over to France from the Sceptred Isle, never eats fruit trees or Christmas trees! They only eat herbaceous plants, so they tidy up around the sapins!
Types of Christmas tree at 🌲 La Maison Pugin
At present La Maison Pugin grows THREE types of 🌲 Christmas tree:
🌲 Nørdmann – originally from Western Asia, this tree is the more popular choice as it copes better with warm homes, keeping its needles longer. It is dark green in colour and its needles are flat and shiny and don’t pique!
🌲 Epicéa – this type of tree, the Norway spruce, naturally grows in alpine forests and is often described as “ rustic and sweetly-scented ”. It has fine, sharp needles;
🌲 Pungens – also known as an épicéa bleu, due to its subtle blue hue, the Pungens is a conifer that originates from North America. It is a tree with a harmonious shape, often perfectly conical. Its needles are also sharp. It copes well in warm homes.
[ ⇒ to read more about the different trees, see website ]
[ 2020 update: for this strange year, La Maison Pugin will be selling their Christmas trees online, and they’ll deliver to your front door! ]
Normallly, as well as being open to come and cut down your own tree on x3 December Sundays, 🌲 La Maison Pugin also sells its trees at local outlets around Annemasse, Reignier, Saint-Julien-en-Genevois, Annecy and Thonon.
Also for sale are 🔥 Bûches Savoyardes, small wooden logs perfect for lighting up an outdoor space or bringing a warm ambience to outdoor events.
Journées 🌲 « Venez choisir & couper votre sapin! »
[ 2020 update: not happening this year, due to Covid-19 restrictions! ]
Every year since 2015, the 🌲 Maison Pugin has been opening its doors to the public and the curious, and welcomes you 🌲 to choose and cut down your very own special Christmas tree! This is a popular custom in 🇺🇸 North America and some parts of Europe, and the Pugin brothers brought this festive cheer to 🗻 Haute-Savoie!
These open days are full of Christmas cheer, with on offer: 🎨 workshops, games, 🐑 farm animals . . . and little ones learn to be apprentice bûcherons (lumberjacks)!
I asked Jaque to describe the atmosphere of these open days at the plantation . . .
🇫🇷 “ L’atmosphère est MA-GIQUE, tous les gens ont le smile. On accueille les gens dans une période de l’année très favorable, c’est un vrai moment de partage de bonne humeur. En 2017, lors du deuxième dimanche au moment de l’ouverture, alors qu’un tapis de 15 cm de neige recouvrait le sol, il s’est mis à pleuvoir. Une pluie battante et continue… Nous nous sommes posé la question d’annuler la journée pour cause de conditions météo, mais les gens ont commencé à arriver, arriver, arriver… avec un sourire et une bonne humeur qui nous a réchauffé. Il a plut toute la journée sans interruption mais l’ambiance était assez incroyable. En termes d’affluence, ce dimanche 10 décembre et deuxième plus important que la MAISON PUGIN ait organisé . . . “.
🇬🇧 ”The atmosphere is MA-GICAL, everyone wears a smile. We welcome people at a favourable time of year, it’s a real moment to share the joyful mood of Christmas. In 2017, on the second Sunday open to the public, with a 15cm thick carpet of snow covering the ground, it began to rain! And the rain kept falling . . . We asked ourselves if we should cancel the day’s events because of the poor weather conditions, but then the people started arriving . . . and then more and more arrived, and all with a smile and in a good mood, and this warmed us. It rained all day without stopping, but the atmosphere was pretty amazing. In fact, in terms of visitors, that Sunday was the second most profitable that the Maison Pugin has organised!”
MBFF at the 🌲 La Maison Pugin
The MBFF tribe headed to 🌲 La Maison Pugin on a slightly 🌧 moist day in December 2018!
We set off to choose our tree . . .
We passed some friendly donkeys on the way . . .
We chose our tree quickly!
We used one of the colourful measuring rulers, in order to see into which price category our tree fell!
Daddy was put in charge of chopping down our tree . . .
Once cut, we set off to have our tree packaged! (there are little carts available to help you transport your tree to the car!)
We enjoyed the activites on offer for the kids, and drank some mulled wine . . .
Once back at our car, we promptly (did I say we? Had I mentioned to Daddy MBFF that it was not a suitable spot when we parked? Yes, I do believe so!) got our car stuck in the MUD, as we tried to drive away! 😉🙃 Thankfully, the friendly staff pulled us out of the mud with their 🚜 green tractor! This part of our adventure might have been the highlight for the boys!
Here we are heading home to decorate our tree, after the mud incident: