Tuesday, December 6, 2011

~Christmas Workshop~ O Christmas Tree

Follow these easy steps to ensure your Christmas tree is perfect this year.

Purchasing Your Tree

Base your shopping around the fact that trees will remain fresh for three to four weeks. The website for the National Christmas Tree Association, realchristmastrees.org, has a search engine that can find you any species in any state.

Testing Freshly Cut Trees

Do a freshness test on the trees. Gently grasp a branch between your thumb and forefinger and pull it toward you. If the tree is fresh then just a few needles should come off. Green needles on fresh trees break crisply when bent sharply with the fingers, similar to a fresh carrot. Look for other indicators of dryness or deterioration: excessive needle loss, discolored foliage, musty odor, needle pliability, and wrinkled bark.

Cutting the Stump

Make a fresh cut to remove about a 1/2-inch-thick disc of wood from the base of the trunk before putting the tree in the stand. Make the cut perpendicular to the stem axis. Don't cut the trunk at an angle, or into a V-shape, which makes it far more difficult to hold the tree in the stand and also reduces the amount of water available to the tree. Next step is to place the tree in a stand.

After Buying Your Tree

Place the tree in water as soon as possible. Most species can go six to eight hours after cutting the trunk and still take up water. Don't bruise the cut surface or get it dirty.

Watering Your Tree

As a general rule, stands should provide 1 quart of water per inch of stem diameter. Check the stand daily to make sure the level of water does not go below the base of the tree.

How to Prune Your Tree

Clean up your freshly cut tree with a little bit of judicious pruning. Stand the tree upright, and study it from a distance to see which areas need pruning. Prune small growths that jut straight out from the top and bottom of the branches.

How to Light Your Tree

This technique will play up the depth of the tree better than draping lights only around the perimeter, while also concealing the wires. Starting at the bottom bough, string lights along the underside of each branch. When you get near the end, loop lights around the top of the branch. Work back to the tree trunk, winding around branch and light strand. Continue around the tree. Reverse the procedure on upper branches (or those above eye level of an average adult), stringing lights first along the top, then back around bottom.

It's a good thing...or is it?

This picture was taken by Jordan.  He enjoyed stepping behind the camera to capture some pictures of our tree shopping day.

Over the weekend our family visited Red Feather Tree Farm, a local Christmas tree farm that has been in business for as long as I can remember.  When I was younger our family visited Red Feather a few times to purchase a fine quality tree.   It is that time of year again and so I am carrying out the tradition. 

I was looking forward to the nostalgic aroma of the assorted firs, freshly popped popcorn and forest-like atmosphere. For miles your eyes feast on what is yours for the taking.  What will it be this year?  A Douglas fir, Redwood, Cedar or Spruce?  On page 114 of the Living December issue you can read more about the various kinds of trees before you shop.

I enjoyed reading Martha's tree tips for selecting, creating and maintaining our Christmas tree.  The decorating aspect had to be rather whimsical as the children have not yet mastered the idea of admiring shiny objects with their eyes only.  You could say that our tree is dressed differently from one day to the next.  Occasionally, Ben and I notice that the ornaments are clumped together in a single patch.  Our tree has definitely added a new level of excitement to our home.

Photo Gallery

When we arrived at the tree farm we were greeted with a smile and a saw.  This never changes.  For the past few years, my oldest son, Jordan, has been the family lumberjack. He works hard, grunting, cutting back and forth with a fervent purpose.  Jordan always takes pride in taking down our family Douglas Fir.

The kids are buckled into the ATV and the tree hunt begins.  

Sarah and I enjoyed the fast and bumpy ride through the forest. 

This tree is cute, but a little too small.

Yes!  This one is just right.

The tree has been cut down thanks to Jordan and his big muscles.

The Christmas tree has been tightly secured to the roof, or at least we hope, right?  Gabriel, at right, is not so sure. 

  Jordan suggested that we pick up an apple pie from one of our favorite bakeries, Machado's. 

As soon as the tree had been re-cut and set in its stand, we watched the movie A Christmas Story and decorated our tree.

I can so relate to this mother.  This was exactly how I felt (and probably looked) at Thanksgiving.  She could use a soak in the tub or some time away at a day spa, don't you think?

Jordan wanted to get a group picture of everyone holding some of their favorite tree ornaments. 

Online, Ben read about the proper way to string Christmas lights, on Martha's website.

Let the decorating begin!

Here it is.  The Douglas Fir, in all its glory, was decorated (and redecorated) by six little hands.  

~O Christmas Tree~

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