Make us your home page

14 feet of tree, acres of fun

Jewel A. Lay of Lazy Lay Acres Christmas Tree Farm shows off the tree bought by Dan Dewitt. The Dewitts’ tree stand couldn’t hold the 14-footer, which now lies on the home’s stairs.

Special to the Times

Jewel A. Lay of Lazy Lay Acres Christmas Tree Farm shows off the tree bought by Dan Dewitt. The Dewitts’ tree stand couldn’t hold the 14-footer, which now lies on the home’s stairs.

When I bought a Christmas tree at Lazy Lay Acres in Pasco County on Sunday, I not only got the expected benefits of shopping at a locally owned business — courtesy, service, the warm glow of handing money over to a neighbor rather than a distant corporation — I also got more bang (way, way more it turned out) for my buck.

Let's compare.

The Lowe's in Spring Hill charges $34.97 for a 7-foot Fraser fir. Not bad. In fact, the buying power of big-box hardware stores has brought down the price of trees in recent years, said Jewel A. Lay, 74, and cut deeply into business at his farm off Saint Joe Road.

A decade ago, lines of waiting cars often stretched a quarter-mile down his sandy driveway; on Sunday there was no line, and it was Lay and his crew who waited for customers.

But I paid $65 for a tree that was conservatively measured at 14 feet — less than twice the price of the Lowe's fir for a tree more than twice as tall. And with five or maybe even 10 times the mass.

The Lowe's tree I could pick up with one hand.

I needed, on the other hand, the help of three workers to cut down the Lazy Lay tree and load it on a trailer pulled by a utility cart. They used a hydraulic lift on the front of a John Deere tractor to unload it; they drew it through a circle of plastic netting, encasing it like a giant sausage, with a winch mounted on a four-wheeler.

When Lay's daughter, Leslee Rose, 49, started taking pictures, I realized I was like a fisherman who had returned to the dock with a 200-pound tarpon. A spectacle. Yes, she said, it was the biggest one they'd sold all season.

Which is when I started to think: Maybe too big.

I'd wanted a tree tall enough to fill our house's two-story entrance and had bought big cedars at Lazy Lay in previous years.

But, looking back, I realized they were probably more like 12 feet than 15.

They did not dwarf my Ford Focus to the point where — to stay with the sausage comparison — it resembled the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile. The weight of the previous trees didn't push the wheel wells down over the top of the tires. My sons were never quite as amazed by their size.

"Oh, my God," my oldest one said on Sunday. "That tree is a beast!"

Yes, that is exactly what it is.

At home, I whittled the trunk with a chain saw to fit it into the stand. My wife, two sons, father-in-law and I, helped by a teenage neighbor, worked like the flag-raisers on Iwo Jima to stand the tree upright — only to watch the legs of the stand collapse and the tree slump against the stairway.

It has been there ever since, imposing on our lives like a giant, sleeping bear.

We walk sideways up the stairs to avoid the branches that jut through the banister spindles, and we hug the walls of the entryway to pass from the kitchen to the living room. I feel twinges of guilt anticipating the tragic waste that usually comes from trying to tame something wild and magnificent.

That, partly, has kept me from taking the obvious remedy: cutting 3 or 4 feet from the base. Also, I hate to remove what I've paid for; $65 for a 12-foot tree wouldn't be quite such a great bargain.

But if I do, eventually, take this option, I'll still have the previously mentioned benefits of doing business with a local.

The trip to Lazy Lay — and, often, to refuel afterward at Pancho Villa's Mexican restaurant in San Antonio — has created a family Christmas tradition, never easy in Florida. The cedars or sand pines we cut, likewise, connect this Northern holiday to the South.

For the price of the tree, you also get access to the petting zoo at Lazy Lay, which my middle school kids still love, and the run of about 60 acres of farmland. My sons and their friend spent most of the time Sunday pelting one another with undersized, volunteer watermelons they picked from one of the Lay's fields.

Lay and his crew, "all of them family or friends," didn't seem to mind at all.

Try that in the parking lot at Lowe's.

if you go

Lazy Lay Acres

Lazy Lay Acres Christmas Tree Farm is at 14920 Swift Road, west of Dade City. Call (352) 567-6808.

14 feet of tree, acres of fun 12/18/08 [Last modified: Sunday, December 21, 2008 9:19pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. New DEP secretary says there's no conflict in political side businesses


    TALLAHASSEE — When Noah Valenstein, the newly appointed head of the Department of Environmental Protection, was applying in April to be the state's top environmental regulator, he left one thing off the application: Companies he started and his wife runs have been paid nearly $1 million by politicians and lobbying …

     Noah Valenstein got the job as secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection on Tuesday May 23rd, on a unanimous vote by Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet. He will take the helm on June 5, with a salary of $150,000 per year. [Florida Governor's Office]
  2. New stores coming to Tyrone Square Mall, like Bath & Body Works


    Tyrone Square Mall will welcome a half dozen new stores, like Bath & Body Works and MidiCi's The Neapolitan Pizza Company, this summer.

  3. Target Corp. reaches $18.5 million settlement with 47 states over data breach


    Target Corp. has agreed to pay Florida $928,963 out of a newly-announced $18.5 million settlement over a huge data breach that occurred in late 2013.

    Forty-seven states and the District of Columbia have reached an $18.5 million settlement with Target Corp. to resolve the states' probe into the discounter's massive pre-Christmas data breach in 2013. 
[Associated Press]
  4. Gov. Rick Scott's family history of alcohol abuse could decide 'liquor wall' bill


    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott must decide Wednesday whether to let Walmart and other big-box stores sell liquor, and he says a factor in his decision is the history of alcohol abuse in his family.

    Florida Governor Rick Scott is considering a veto of a bill that would allow Walmart, Target and other big box retail stores to sell liquor. [Andres Leiva | Tampa Bay Times]
  5. Tampa lands Super Bowl in 2021


    TAMPA — Record rainfall in Los Angeles ultimately may end Tampa Bay's drought of hosting the Super Bowl.

    Mike Tomlin celebrates with LaMarr Woodley and Troy Polamalu after the Steelers beat the Cardinals in 

Super Bowl XLIII  on February 1, 2009 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. [Times files (2009)