Not that many people can say they are the child of a Christmas tree farmer, but I’m one of the few who can.
My family moved from Maine to the town of Earlton, NY, when I was five, and my father spent considerable time and energy clearing the 100 acres of woods of our property. Eventually, he started planting Christmas trees, and began a family business that continues to this day. Veeder’s Tree Farm is not too far from where we grow the Echinacea GreenEnvy used in Farmacy Beauty’s natural skincare products.
Needless to say, for most of my life, Christmas trees have been a central element of my holiday experience. Not only was it a family tradition to head out and search for the perfect tree, cut it down and ferry it home, we also decorated the tree with found and handmade ornaments, like a bird’s nest discovered in the woods, or garlands of popcorn, cranberries and rose hips.
It turns out that running a Christmas tree farm is a great way to connect with the community. Our farm supplied the trees for the local church and the bank; neighbors would come by as early as October to look for and “tag” the perfect tree. My father would select the one for the church, simply tagging it “God.”
As you may guess, I have some thoughts on how to do a Christmas tree right. My personal favorite breed is the somewhat rare Concolor, or White Fir. Despite its name, the Concolor has a bluish-green hue — part of the reason it’s so striking — along with stiff branches (good for holding ornaments) and soft, long needles. The Concolor’s needles are easier to deal with than the Blue Spruce, which has sharp and strong needles that can even produce a rash in some people. They also smell like citrus if crushed and don’t shed at all.
When it comes to buying a tree, I, of course, think everyone should support a cut-your-own Christmas tree farm. First and foremost, it’s where you get the highest quality, freshest trees, while also supporting local farmers. Trees that you pick up at seasonal sidewalk tree lots or your local big box store are typically brought down from Canada, cut weeks before and well on their way to drying out. I also feel that making a day of finding and cutting the tree is a really wonderful way to spend time with family and friends during the holiday season.
If you do buy a pre-cut tree, before putting it in water, cut one inch off the bottom of the trunk — most sellers will do this for you. When you set up your tree, put it in warm water, which helps soften the sap and needle retention, and continue to use warm water when refilling the tree stand. Also key: never let your tree run out of water.
When you light your tree, be sure to start at the trunk, lighting from the center and work your way outwards, which enhances the three-dimensional quality of the tree. On the great “clear-or-colored?” lights debate, like many people I have gone through phases. For many years, I was a devoted clear-lights user, fond of the clean and classic look they provide. However recently, I’ve come back around to the tree decorated with multi-colored lights, loving the interplay of the ornaments and colors, as well as the bit of nostalgia they bring to the tree.
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