Wednesday, December 22, 2010

fake trees catch on fire!!

we show these every year the fire safety officials are finally weighing in too

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

You better watch out...

Final Numbers from the 2010 Trees for Troops program sponsored by the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation and FedEx:

11,627 - fresh trees donated by American farms

5,397 - fresh trees donated by other Americans

200 - fresh trees dontated by the Walter Reed Hometown Hero's program


17,224 - total trees delivered for free to U.S. military families

16, 651 - total trees delivered in 2010

0 (zero) - total number of fake, plastic trees in the program

59 - total bases in the U.S. receiving trees

7 - overseas bases receiving trees

It's a great program folks. You should check it out and try to support it.

Here's a letter we received last week. I have no idea who it's from, it wasn't signed. I certainly agree with the statement that more people should get a real tree instead of a fake one.

Here's another great letter and photo. I'll let this one speak for itself.

Thanks for the letter and photo Ryan!

Finally, I saw this today in another trade magazine. Apparently, one of the largest manufacturers of building venting products has stopped using PVC plastic in all of it's products because of the environmental and health hazards of that material. So if they don't even use PVC for vents in your walls, why would want to put a tree made of PVC in your living room???

Thursday, December 16, 2010

odds and ends

Check out the great segment on Christmas tree farming from the History Channel’s special on Christmas. Click HERE.

Last week, THIS ARTICLE caught our attention. Apparently an open tractor trailer had an accident and the trees spilled out onto the road. First, I certainly hope the driver is OK. Second, I feel bad for anyone stuck in that traffic. But it also made me think – this was December 10. Wonder what those people who think trees are cut and hauled in August were thinking? Actually most lots will be getting their last shipments of trees this week.

There was going to be a segment about marketing Christmas trees on The Daily Show today but it got cut at the last minute. Bummer.

OK, so I really do my best to not let jerk-ity jerks rile me up with emails, but sometimes I lash out. Check out this one from earlier in the week and let me know if it was too mean of a reply.

From: michael
Sent: Sunday, December 12, 2010 12:21 PM
Subject: Informative site!

It really is an informative site you have here. Great facts, some of them which prove that Christmas trees, whether fake or real, should not be bought or sold at all. The fact that you try to make it sound "eco" to grow them is absurd. These trees are grown on land that formerly had virgin forests, where a tree that was 20 times + the size of a living room christmas tree, and was infinitely more useful/less detrimental to the planet. Yes, a real tree is better than a plastic tree shipped from China, but no christmas tree is better than real one that takes up land, shipping and growing costs, and then is thrown on the side of the road to hit the land fill just one month later.
Personally, I'd rather see a virgin forest and a bunch of Scrooges with no holiday decor. But, then, where would the industry be, and the Christmas cheer?

Perhaps, in our lifetime, we may find a replacement for the ridiculously wasteful consumer holiday, along with the christmas tree. And, in that same lifetime, we'll see our forests diminish to specks of national park reserves due to the growing number of mindless people who think that land should profit people, in some way or another. If a farmer feels the need to grow something, what happened to good ole fashioned food? I can live without a christmas tree, but not without christmas dinner. Show me some facts about the millions of starving people compared to the 30 million christmas trees sold each year in the states. Now that's some interesting facts...

Wow, I feel sad for you. There are almost 400 million trees growing on Christmas tree farms in the U.S….they would not exist if they hadn’t been planted by the farmers. It has nothing to do with “virgin forest” …you’ve seen too many Disney movies.

If you don’t want to decorate your home with a Christmas tree, that’s fine. About 20% of households in the U.S. don’t put up any Christmas tree each year, so you’re not the only one. But don’t spread your personal derision on others who choose to do so.

Merry Christmas!

For some reason, that email just bugged me. Anyway, here are some more common questions.

From: Nalini
Sent: Friday, December 10, 2010 11:37 PM
Subject: Blog Talk Ideas

Thank you for having a blog about christmas trees! we cut our tree from a great farm in our area and when we got it home we put it right into the stand. One thing is that my husband did not fill the stand with water and I just assumed he had done so; therefore our tree sat without water for over 8 hours. After we both realized the tree had no water we filled it up right away! It seems now to be drying out on the ends of the needles and does not seem to be drinking any water. I put my hand down in the stand to feel the stump and it was sticky with sap...could this be why the tree is not drinking water? what should we do? we have not decorated the tree yet, but were planning on doing it tomorrow. I will wait for your reply until we decorate! thank you for your time and help!

Well, generally it's best to get the cut surface of the tree's trunk into water within a 3 - 6 hour time. The reason is that air molecules get into the plant tissue and inhibit the plant's ability to absorb water and move it up the stem to the foliage. If you think it was much longer than that before you put water in the stand (unless it was outside in a cold/damp environment) I would take the critical step in making a fresh cut. That way you know for sure. After that, don't worry about the rate of water absorption as that will fluctuate...that's normal.

From: Nalini
Sent: Saturday, December 11, 2010 1:26 PM
To: Rick Dungey
Subject: Re: Blog Talk Ideas

Hi Rick,
It was more than 3 to 6 hours before we got it into water! we will take your advice and make a fresh cut! Thank you for your quick reply and for helping us save our tree!!! I enjoyed reading your blog and you have been so helpful!!!

aww, shucks....

From: will
Sent: Thursday, December 16, 2010 1:33 PM
Subject: Christmas Tree Question

About two weeks ago we purchased a Fraser Fur, I stored it in my unheated garage, and last week we put it up and decorated it. Prior to decorating it I cut about 1-1.5" off the bottom of the trunk. It was drank the water very quickly, near emptying the tree stand so everyday we add more water to top it up. Starting today when I checked it the water level had only dropped approximately 1" and the branches appears as though they are sagging more then before. Do you have any ideas on what I can do to "liven-up" the tree again? I would drill holes but the top of the base isn't that large to allow me clear access with a drill.

That tree is doing exactly what it’s supposed to. It absorbed water, the branches relaxed as it came out of a dormant state. The rate of water absorption will vary from day to day…that’s normal. That tree sounds perfect. Even if there were something wrong, drilling holes in the side won’t do anything. Read the November 30 blog entry for a technical explanation.

Friday, December 10, 2010

common questions

First, a good now, I'm sure you've heard of the Trees for Troops program sponsored by the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation and FedEx. Check out some of the feedback from that:

Thank you and the Christmas Spirit Foundation for all that you do for Fort Drum. This year's event was a hit and so many Families were excited about receiving a Christmas tree. Below is a link to our local media coverage of the event.

it just wasnt feeling very much like the holidays especialy with him so far away but now that we have our tree its beginning to look a little brighter...this is a wonderful gift.

We got a tree! Thank you! We were going to get one this weekend, but I fell and broke my leg Friday night, so all Christmas decoration plans came to a screeching halt, so this was a nice welcome surprise to receive a tree from this program. Thank you again for all that you do for our Soldiers and their Families.

I just wanted to express my thanks for the beautiful Christmas tree we received at Camp Lejeune today. Having a live tree will make this Christmas all the more special, particularly since it’s the first one we get to spend with my husband in three years. Thank you for your generosity and God bless you!

Want to read more? Visit . And hey, make a donation while you're there. That's a 501(c)3 charity that could use the help.

OK, on to some common questions:

From: Arnie []
Sent: Saturday, December 04, 2010 6:01 PM
Subject: [Tree Talk] New comment on A very common tree question about water uptake.

Nearly everyone I know has noticed the same thing over the years, that real Xmas trees do not have the strong tree smell that they used to have. This is not because we all go to the cheapest lots. I have gone to many a TOP tree lot, and took a whiff of their BEST and most expensive trees, and, still NO SCENT!

This is a real problem, and I can only guess what the problem is. I cannot help but think, that just like with other products, producers are cutting corners as much as they can to grow things, larger, FASTER, and CHEAPER, through bad selective breeding, bad soil, and bad nutrients.

Reluctantly, I've gone to using just an artificial tree. I can only hope that enough people complain enough to generate a market which will bring back Xmas tree-scented Xmas trees.

hmm...not sure what to tell you Arnie. My tree smells fantastic! I'm not a doctor, but I'm pretty sure that sense of smell changes over time, just like hearing and vision. I also know that sense of smell is subjective and different from person to person. So you might smell something and say "that doesn't smell very strong" and someone else might say "whew, that is potent!"

Here are the things I do know: you can NOT selectively breed out scent from a plant. And even if you could, why would a farmer want to? Seriously. And if it were scientifically possible, wouldn't that actually be more expensive, not less?

Airborne molecules that our noses pick up as scent are released by the resin in a plant. More resin is prominent when a tree has slowly come out of a dormant state and absorbed a lot of water. So it's quite common for it to take a few days inside the home before a Christmas tree smells it's strongest.

I'm sorry to hear you bought a fake tree. Have fun with that.

From: Ron
Sent: Friday, December 10, 2010 1:07 PM
Subject: Christmas Tree info- help !!

Tuesday night we got our 1st ever perfect tree. We cut 1" fresh cut and put it in water. Wed. I checked the water and was good. Thursday we finished the decorations. (forgot to check water), and Friday morning I noticed that it is completely dry. I don't know how long it was w/o water. I am SO SAD. My son drilled about 6, 1/4 " holes in the side of the base . . Doesn't water go up just under the bark? Will this work? or what can I do, now?

No, unfortunately drilling holes in the side won’t work. For a full scientific explanation, read the blog dated Nov 30 . If you think there was more than 6 hours or so where the cut surface was exposed to air, then the only real effective solution is to make a fresh cut. That removes the plant tissue with air molecules in it so the plant can be re-primed to absorb water molecules.

Sorry, I know that’s not the answer you wanted to hear, but it really is the same thing as with cut flower, snipping off the bottom before putting in a vase of water.

From: Robert
Sent: Tuesday, December 07, 2010 6:06 PM
Subject: Too much aspirin?

Is it possible that I killed my spruce by putting too many aspirins in its water? I've had the tree well watered for over a week and it's begun to lose a lot of needles. I put a hand full of aspirins in the water.

Aspirin is acidic and a lot of it would change the Ph level of the water. Besides, it does not help the tree absorb more water in any way. Remove that water and replace with regular tap water. Plain tap water. Don’t add anything to the tree’s water. Plain tap water.

From: Lorri
Sent: Tuesday, December 07, 2010 11:36 AM
Subject: Christmas Tree Question

I just purchased a fake Christmas tree that was made in China. I live in California. No where on the box or instructions is there a warning regarding lead. I read on your site that California requires a warning label for trees made in China that contain lead. Can I assume that this tree is safe? We also purchase a live tree. The fake tree is for an extra room in the house.

I don’t know if you can assume that or not Lorri. I think the California Prop 65 law has to do with % content of PVC in products, but I’m not an expert on that. My expertise is with farm-grown Christmas trees.

I'm sorry to hear you got a fake tree. Have fun with that.

From: Kriss
Sent: Monday, December 06, 2010 8:58 PM
Subject: Blog Talk Ideas

I cut down a fresh tree in Fraser yesterday, and when I got home, I cut a few feet off the bottom (because it was too tall) but providing a fresh cut. I immediately put it in the stand and filled it with water. It's been 24 hours and the water level hasn't gone all? This doesn't seem right?? Did I hurt the tree cutting too much off the bottom?

No, you didn’t hurt the tree. The rate of water absorption will not be even. Typically it will be within 24 hours that it starts absorbing water, but not always. I’ve had a tree that took 3 days. The plant has to come out of a dormant state and that can take a while. Just make sure to keep the stand full of water because once it starts taking up water it can take up a bunch in a short time.

From: kriss
Sent: Tuesday, December 07, 2010 11:58 AM
To: Rick Dungey
Subject: Re: Blog Talk Ideas

Yay, thank you much, I am relieved and will start decorating it tonite! :) Thank you for being available for questions, this was really helpful!

Merry Christmas!!!

Sure, glad I could help. Keep the questions coming. Have you heard something really strange about Christmas trees this year? Let us know and send us a link.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The tree is up!

This past weekend I finally had time to put up and decorate my tree. I put it inside in it's stand on Friday night and then decorated the thing on Sunday while watching football. So let's review the timeline: I ordered it online from The Rocks Tree Farm in New Hampshire back in November (can't remember the day); they cut it down and boxed it up and shipped it on November 22. It arrived at my house on November 29 (that's actually only 4 shipping days because of Thanksgiving); I made a fresh cut and set it in a bucket of water on my porch on December 1; I put in the stand on December 3; and then decorated it on December 5.

That may seem like A LOT of time...but think about it. From the ordering and cutting and putting up in the stand, I actually spent maybe 20 total minutes. Seriously! 20! That's it. Fake tree people are loony when they try to convince people that getting a farm-grown tree is a "hassle". My sister told me that it takes her more than an hour to get their big ugly fake tree out of the attic and assemble it. HA!

Watch the video I took of putting the stand on to get a few more tips.

And here's the final product. Aint' she a beee-yoot?

So to see the timeline visually, it went from the farm:

To my front door:

To my living room:

Gosh, I love Christmas trees! What fun! And this thing is just what I ordered too. Nice and skinny so it doesn't overwhelm my space. And the tree took up a LOT of water. It was more than a gallon of water in the first 12 hours and then another 2 gallons the rest of the weekend. I had to put my reservoir system full of water next to it while I was out of town the past 2 days. It probably weighs way more than it did with all that water inside it. And it'll last for weeks and weeks and weeks.

OK, sorry to keep rambling about my tree. I'll not show it again until I'm ready to get it recycled back into the Earth. Tomorrow I'll post some common and unique questions we've been getting.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

fish or electricity?

One common question we often get is what to do with a tree you've got home but are not setting up right away. Partly it depends on where you live...advice for someone in say, south Texas would be different than for someone in say, Duluth, Minnesota. But in general, it's a good idea to go ahead and make a fresh cut off the trunk if it hasn't had one in the last 3-6 hours. Then just set the tree into a big bucket of water and lean it against a wall. Leave it in the netting, or in my case the box, and set it somewhere out of the sun and wind as much as possible.

I just did that to the tree we've been following from The Rocks Tree Farm in New Hampshire where it was planted, grown and harvested. It arrived at my house this week, but I'm not ready to set it up inside and decorate yet. So made a fresh cut last night and now have it in a bucket of water on my porch. Here's a quick video of this process.

So I was reading the December issue of Men's Health the other day at lunch and I see an article quoting some allergy doctor saying Christmas trees are bad because they increase mold in a home. What a bunch of hooey. I don't know who this guy is, but I suspect he has an ulterior motive. He claimed he had done a “study” showing a farm-grown Christmas tree raised mold levels in the home.

Dr. Santilli was resoundingly discredited by a group of scientists from his same state of Connecticut shortly after he started conducting interviews in 2007 offering insight into his so-called study. The National Christmas Tree Association issued a White Paper authored and signed by six scientists to allay concerns people may have about Christmas trees if they hear Dr. Santilli’s claims. The White Paper included these points:

Airborne fungi/molds are ubiquitous. Most people are unaffected by exposure to moderate amounts of mold.

The author(s) linked allergenic fungal spores to real Christmas trees without sufficient scientific proof. The data presented are clearly preliminary and the conclusions made by the author(s) are not supported by sound science due to shortcomings in the experimental design.

The presentation states that the number of spores increased during a 2-week trapping period when a fresh tree was placed in a house and decorated. It did not identify the spores, provide baselines and controls, use a proper sampling plan and was not replicated—these are all necessary components of a properly designed study.

There were no indoor and outdoor checks/controls to determine the origin of airborne molds. A well designed study needs to take samples from a comparable room without a Christmas tree in the house as an indoor check and samples from an outdoor location as an outdoor check.

Airborne molds are complex in biological life cycles, ecology and population dynamics in both indoor and outdoor environments. Populations and types of airborne molds can vary with time: within 24 hours, seasons, locations, and geographical areas.

The trend they reported might be interesting, but additional studies would be necessary to provide science-based proof of their hypothesis and for the conclusions of the study. As it is presented, most scientists would consider the information as anecdotal.

In other words, it was completely useless as a source of information or consumer health advice. Send me an email if you'd like a full copy of the White Paper I mentioned.

I got an email that may be the answer to the rare but intriguing question about why a Christmas tree smells like fish.

From: Kevin
Sent: Wednesday, December 01, 2010 9:14 PM
Subject: Christmas tree smelly

I thought that my Christmas tree smelled "fishy", a very bad smell.

It was not the tree, and it was not the water in the stand.

It was a melting electrical outlet that we only use around Christmas time.

The outlet smelled like rotten fish, and when I removed the cover it shot sparks and was black and melted by the wires that connect to it. Please let people know about this issue.

Hmmm …now that is interesting. Thanks Kevin. I always thought that electrical shorts smelled like ozone. Are you an electrician by chance? Is this common?

I am not an electrician. The same thing happened last year in another outlet in the same room. I have too many outlets on one circuit, and that includes the outlets in my garage where I plug in the outside lights. I can send you a picture of the bad outlet if you want.

Well, thanks Kevin. Are there any electricians out there that can shed some light on this?

More common questions to come later this week.