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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Real or Fake? The truth about Christmas Trees

The ability to cut down my own tree at an adorable farm in December was something I really missed the last two years.  While living in Salt Lake City, you can really only get pre-cut trees unless you can get a state permit to cut a tree through land management agencies like the BLM or other forestry departments.   Living in my apartment I wanted the cut tree experience, but really didn't have the supplies to be chopping down a tree in the middle of a National Forest.  What this meant is that the last two years in Utah, we headed somewhere with a mass amount of cut trees like Lowe's to pick up our already-dead-needles-everywhere Christmas tree.  A few days after bringing it home, our poor tree was losing needles faster than I could sweep them.  I missed that hype of selecting and cutting a tree, that piney smell in my house, and our pre-cut tree barely made it to Christmas Day. 

Yes, I could easily avoid the hassle and just grab a fake tree at the store and solve my Christmas tree woes.  But if you are an all-natural Christmas tree fan it is hard to stop cold turkey and go the artificial route.  And I must say, I have some solid reasons for sticking to this Christmas tradition:  
  1. Storage! when you live in an apartment with no storage and tend to move a lot, hauling around a fake tree is just one more thing to put in the moving van.  They take up a lot of room and the fewer holiday items I have to store and move, the better.
  2. You miss the fun outing!  Think hot cocoa and sleigh rides with Christmas music.  What better way to get in the holiday spirit?
  3. It's more environmentally responsible.  Artificial trees are actually less environmentally friendly.
So a cut-your-own at a local farm provides a fun outing, the freshest tree, and no storage room needed after the holidays.  But why is cutting your own tree the most environmentally responsible option?  Glad you asked.  

I know some of you were scowling at my gripes of cutting down trees and are ready to type tree murderer in the comment field.  But before you do, let's discuss some facts.  It actually only takes about 5-8 years on average for a tree to grow between 6-8 feet tall; a lot less than I thought.  We aren't talking 1,000 year-old trees in the protected forest. We are talking about tree farms designed and planted for this exact purpose.  Even better, for every tree cut, a farmer is planting 1-3 more to help sustain his crop.  Purchase and cut one tree, and a farmer will likely plant three more creating more trees in the long run.  More trees cut means every more trees planted and in the long term, more CO2 uptake, more pretty tree farms across the country sides.

When you consider composition, what it boils down to fresh real trees are a renewable resource.  The fake tree you bought that came from China made of plastic? That is not.  According to an article on the Huffington Post, 85% of fake trees are made in china and are made from petroleum-based plastics that are not biodegradable (China = less stringent environmental regulations, and more harmful junk going into your Christmas tree).  When you throw out that fake tree eventually it's just going to a landfill.  You have to use your artificial tree for 15 to 20 years to start to break even on the environmental impact of purchasing and disposing of that fake tree one day.  When you throw out your cut tree, it is a biodegradable product.  Your old tree can even be recycled into mulch or wood chips.

This is one of my favorite reasons of why we should go cut tree vs. artificial.  You have to look at Christmas trees like an agricultural product.  By going to your local tree farm you are contributing to a local farmer.  You are helping a farmer buy gifts for his children, not a big company make more money to produce trees abroad. It is also interesting to note that christmas trees are usually farmed on land that is not suitable for others types of crops.  When planted, they also help to stabilize soil and provide a habitat for various birds and critters.  If bringing home that fresh tree you picked with your family and the smell of Christmas wafting through your house it what kickstarts your Christmas, then go get that tree (guilt-free!).  Pick one, plant three, and support your local farmer.

Now that your conscious is cleared, the question is where to get a tree (especially  in Connecticut). is entirely dedicated to Christmas Trees (especially pick-your-own trees) in the states, and is organized by county.  I am proud to say Connecticut is a mecca for the Christmas Tree and the amount of Christmas tree farms is almost overwhelming.  

Each county has a ton of locations on where you can get your tree (about 25 per county).  These tree farms are also organized by what type of activities are offered (sleigh rides, cocoa etc), the business' websites, hours, phone numbers and updates.  Some farms even allow you to go and tag your tree in advance, selecting your tree in the warmer months and choosing to cut it down closer to Christmas.  We take our Christmas Tree selection and cutting serious here.  This site is a great start on selecting what kind of tree farm fits your tree hunting needs.

If you are a CT local, you can start by selecting the link below to be taken to the list of tree farms in your county.  

Fairfield and Litchfield Counties  Hartford and Tolland Counties  New Haven and Middlesex Counties    Windham and New London Counties

Once you found the perfect farm for your christmas tree needs, brush up on a few tips that will make the endeavor much more enjoyable. 

1.  Do your research so you can find a farm that has everything you want. Some places are a simple operations, with various trees and no frills, and some places have cider, sleigh rides and carols.  Some farms only have cut trees, some farms have a "you choose we cut" policy, and some let you choose cut and haul your own tree away. There are a lot of options, but this site organizes them all very well for you, with all the details you need.

2.  I highly recommend giving the farm a call before you go. Make sure they are still open, that they still have a lot of trees in stock (some farms are hit harder than others and trees are limited) and ask any other questions.

3.  Ask Questions.  I always ask if they take credit cards, and if dogs are allowed.  

4.  Bring the appropriate supplies.  Some places provide saws, and some don't.  I would check to see what they provide and what you may need.  Definitely bring a pair of gloves to haul out any particular prickly trees.  A measuring tape (and knowing the height of your ceilings) is also helpful to make sure your tree will work in your space.  A pair of shears are also useful (to trim there or have at home) to trim off some of the low branches.  Don't forget bungee cords for the easiest way to secure your tree on the roof of your car.

5.  Dress appropriate!  Warm clothes and boots that are good for walking through a tree-farm are super important. 

I wanted dog-friendly, credit card friendly, saws available, a decent price, and to be able to choose and cut my own tree.  I also didn't want to travel too far outside of the borough and wanted a small local operation.  Thanks to I quickly found Perry's Tree Farm.

Some of my most informative posts are basically a montage of all the mistakes I made in hopes to prevent you from making the same ones.  For starters, I forgot gloves and had to ask one of the guys working the event to help us carry out the tree.  I also didn't bring enough bungee cords so our tree did some sliding around on the journey back home.  I also didn't really do enough research into the type of tree.  While my blue spruce is the prettiest color, holds ornaments really well, and its spiky branches are a good deterrent for kids and pets, it does require decorating your tree in full protection due to the spikey needles.

Happy tree hunting and in the meantime, I will be decking the halls and trimming my christmas tree (while wearing my gardening gloves).  Happy Holidays! 

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