“Oh, Christmas tree! Oh, Christmas tree!” This famous song is always the first thing that comes to my mind about this time of year with Christmas quickly approaching.
Some trees have been up for weeks already and then some families prefer to “wait” until after Thanksgiving to make that yearly trek to the tree farm or tree outlet.
If going to a tree farm, it usually involves taking the children to have them experience the thrill of the hunt to find that elusive perfect specimen. My children always had the time of their life running about making suggestions and anticipating their selection to be “the one” that would be the final choice.
Usually, in most cases the final say was between mom and dad — and even then it was a yearly battle — too tall, too fat or too skinny, a flat spot, or a hole or space that wouldn’t look right. Eventually a decision was made and then the fun began with each child making a few cuts until the inevitable “timber” could be heard echoing across the tree farm.
Back in my day, Eby’s was about the only tree farm around and it was a hub of activity for weeks. Now there are numerous growers to choose from, as well as countless seasonal outlets. Know your source because freshness is essential in picking a tree that will survive the weeks that it is interned in a somewhat hostile environment inside a dry and warm home.
If buying from a pre-cut source and retailer make certain that your tree has been freshly cut and no more than two or three weeks old. This will give you (with proper preparation) another three to four weeks before becoming a hazard. It is highly recommended that one make a cut at the base of your tree of a minimum of 1 inch to expose fresh wood and to then plunge that cut in a container of water for several hours or overnight to hydrate the tree. Once inside and mounted on a tree-stand make certain the base is submerged in the reservoir and kept on a close watch for several days to keep the water level full. A trick that I’ve heard about, but have no conclusive evidence that it works, is to put some aspirin in the water. Supposedly it increases the absorption process.
While white pines and Scotch pines were once the norm (and still are), other newcomers are quickly catching on and challenging the old stand-byes.
Some have been around for some time like the Douglas fir and white and blue Spruce but another recent popular variety is the Fraser fir that has caught on with a bang. While similar to the Douglas fir in needle size and overall tree shape, the Fraser fir has a darker green needle with a silver underside that makes it a standout.
The Douglas fir is a handsome and majestic tree with soft short needles making it a natural while the spruces have short and extremely stiff needles that are very uncomfortable to deal with. They are, however, one of the most perfect in shape and density.
This brings to mind one of our ventures to Eby’s in the early ‘60s and, upon exiting to have our tree measured and priced, followed a car with trunk open and a fresh-cut, powder-blue spruce with a red ribbon attached to it.
My wife and I had that “deer-in-the-headlight look” because there was signage everywhere to not cut “ANY TREE WITH A RED RIBBON ATTACHED” as they were prized and perfect blue spruce trees that came with a healthy price tag (even back then they were a couple hundred dollars while the norm was $6 to $10 for standard trees).
While we weren’t there to see the outcome of this huge mistake (as they were shuttled into a small barn), it always nagged me to wonder what decision was eventually made. It would have been embarrassing to say the least but more than likely an innocent mistake.