We had lots of snow early this year in the Northeast, but we’re not expecting any measurable snowfall in New England during the annual tree hunting season. Going in search of the perfect Christmas tree is always a joy, but even better when you have to trudge through 6 inches of snow, right? We really will miss the snow again this year – oh well, I guess that means no puddle on the floor from melting snow.
Our local tree farm has new owners who have promised to begin planting lots of new trees – exciting! In what we can only assume is a new world record, it took us only five minutes to find a tree this year - the sparse offerings made that feat possible. Ironically, this may also be the nicest tree that we’ve had in years – a little pudgy, but beautful nonetheless.
When looking for a tree, we try to find a symmetrically round tree without any bald spots. Last year we had to scale down to fit our new ceiling height, so this year we thought we’d expand outward rather than upward. There is something to be said for a short, pudgy tree – stability. A few years ago, our tree was so big that it tipped over, partially landing on our oldest son. Don’t worry, all was well and we had a good laugh. Hopefully our selection this year won’t have to be anchored to anything.
Pricing and the perfect tree are always the subject of debate. Inevitably, the perfect tree always seems to win out, to the dismay of my wallet. I’ve failed to mention that many tree farms, only accept cash or check, so fair warning, come prepared with at least $50, because most tree farms no longer allow you to tag trees and return later to cut and collect them.
If you’re brave and doing your own cutting, make sure you bring a well sharpened saw, or be prepared to hack away at the sticky stump for a while. You’ll need someone to hold the tree and guide it to the ground as you get near the end. If you have young kids that need entertaining, try to make short order of it or enlist the help of a nearby family or one of the kind helpers. Most farms have carts, so be sure to grab one if you are going long and far for the perfect tree. Dragging can lead to broken limbs and dirt or snow in your otherwise perfect tree.
Having the tree bundled is quite an interesting task to watch. If you’ve selected the right tree, it will struggle to fit through the bundler. That is a sign of a full, rotund tree that will compete with Santa for girth. This year, it took three people to get the tree through the bundler – ah, a job well done. Now comes time to pay and partake in snacks and hot cider – my favorite part of the trip. Of course, this is encouragement to haul your tightly constrained tree to the car and tie it down for the trip home. Once you get the kids settled into the car, mount the tree on the roof like a trophy. If you’re one of those lucky folks with a pickup, we’re jealous! We use heavy twine (which we always bring with us) to wrap the top and bottom twice, through and over the tree, then cross tying the two sides. Make sure that the doors are open when you do this. Don’t laugh, the first time we did this we opened the windows, not even thinking we wouldn’t be able to open the doors afterward…lesson learned. Folks with SUVs or Minivans may be tempted to stuff the tree inside. Don’t do it – you’ll be cleaning the sticky, messy remains well after the tree is gone.
When you arrive home, immediately cut the bottom branches to fit it in the stand. We use these branches to make a wreath or spray. Experts recommend making a fresh cut to the trunk, but we’ve always felt that if the tree is cut fresh and put into water with an hour it isn’t necessary. Most experts also recommend a flat cut, but we disagree. We always cut it at a slight angle (approximately 5-8%) so that if the trunk rests against the bottom of the base, there will be an unobstructed surface to absorb water. Never make a “V” cut and never compromise the stability of the tree. Mounting the stand while the tree is lying on the ground makes the process a bit easier.
Now you’re ready to stand it up, fill the base to the rim with warm water and let it drip dry. If you plan on storing it longer, you should put it into a sheltered area to protect it from drying winds.You should do this outside if the tree is wet or if you haven’t prepared the area where it will stand, in advance. Once inside, get it in the perfect spot and cut the netting. It should unfold quickly, perhaps to reveal some remaining surprises inside. When placing a tree, be sure to test its tendency to tip by giving it a little push or pull. Once you’ve determined its most likely path should it tip, rotate the tree to ensure that path is toward the wall.
Fill the tree base to about 1/4 below the rim with warm water. You will need to water the tree every day for the first week. Thereafter, you should check it every other day. We do not add anything to the water and most experts recommend just plain water.
We’ve provided some tips based upon our experiences and opinions, but for more, The University of Illinois has an excellent comprehensive list of tips as does the National Christmas Tree Association. Most importantly, enjoy the time with your family and have fun!
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