We are determined to have a fresh tree for the Christmas season. When I say fresh I mean as opposed to an artificial tree. We have nothing against the artificial trees but we prefer the real tree.
When I was very young I had a next door neighbor who had many allergies and evergreen trees was one of them. I remember how they had a tree made from shiny aluminium and it was lighted by a color wheel that rotated with different colors, one after another. It looked high tech and more like something out of a science fiction movie.

The first tree I really remember getting was with my parents. It was night and we were buying the tree from a yard in the nearby city. Back then most people heated with coal and the smoke was dense and hung close to the ground all through the neighborhood. My parents drove some type of sedan with a large trunk and the lid or lock was frozen. The man who was selling the trees from his front lawn brought a tea pot of hot water to thaw the frozen lock so that they could bring the tree home in the trunk.

For years we had the fresh tree with the large old fashioned lights. I guess at the time they were not really old fashioned but compared to today’s LCD lights they might as well have been candles. My dad would get the strings of lights out every year and go through them to see what ones worked and what ones did not. A few strings were wired in series which meant if one bulb was out the whole string was out.
That meant going through the whole string one bulb at a time to see which one was the culprit. Each bulb had to be removed and replaced with one that was new and hopefully in good condition because if it was a dud then the whole exercise would need to be repeated with an other bulb and plenty of cussing and fuming.

But I digress…
We like the fresh tree and there are a few things we do that may help to keep it fresh until we ditch it.
First we try to choose a fresh tree.

To begin with because we live in a zone 4 climate several factors work against us when we try to see how fresh a tree is. One is the tree its self. Spruce, Scotch Pine, Balsam and all evergreen trees. They don’t loose their needles easily and the ones that are dead stay green for quite a while unlike say a maple tree whose leaves would wilt and die in just a few days. The second is the temperature that is usually fairly cold. As a matter of fact last night it was at least 15 degrees below 0 Fahrenheit. The cold keeps old trees in a suspended state where they stay together but can continue to dry out.
So how can we know it’s fresh? I pick it up and slam the trunk into the ground and see if the needles fall out. It’s a dramatic exhibition but only about as accurate as kicking the tire on a used car.

A better way is to fold a small branch end over on its self and see if it breaks or springs back. If it is very brittle the tree may be old. Also stripping a small branch to see if the needles fall off can indicate how much the tree is likely to shed when it is brought indoors. Usually we end up picking the one that looks the best regardless to any other factors. After all who wants a tree that has 3 trunks and misshaped limbs.

We might buy a tree 3 weeks before Christmas but we usually do not bring it indoors until about 2 weeks before. If it has been cold we bring the tree in and lean it up to let the branches “fall”. The trees are usually packed together for shipping and in some cases they are wrapped tightly so that more trees can be packed on the truck with minimum damage. This wrapping of the fresh cut green tree forces the branches against the trunk and when the tree is brought into the warm house the branches will fall back to a more natural shape.

After the tree thaws out we stand it up and trim any branches that are out of place and while we are at it we trim at least 1 inch off the bottom of the tree. The theory is this will open fresh pours in the wood (xylem and phloem) that allows water and nutrients to go up and down the tree. Then when the tree begins to dry out the water will be drawn up into the tree to help it stay supple. Now that I think of it I am not absolutely sure that the water in the tree stand goes up the tree or into the air, or the cat for that matter.

Anyway the tree is up and it will stay even if the needles begin to drop because more than likely it cost in excess of $30.00 and who wants to throw 30 dollars out?
And after all it was a living tree before someone cut it down and what more can we expect from a dead tree in the living room?

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