Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Factory or Farm?

So you often read comments here or on the NCTA site saying something like "you either have a real tree grown on a farm or a plastic decoration made in a factory" ...something like that.

Factory vs farm.

Pretty clear choice really.

So this article came out describing a factory in Thailand that makes plastic tree decorations out of raw materials made in China and even it's having a hard time competing again factories in China making the same products.

I'm sure David Addington at the Heritage Foundation would be proud. According to him, real Christmas trees grown here by American farm families don't have an image problem and don't need to do any marketing to compete with fake trees made in China.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Americana History

Quick post...

Someone sent this link to us. It has some awesome old photos of shop fronts during Christmas time and old family photos with Christmas trees during the 20s. Check it out: http://www.papatedsplace.com/Christmas1920s.html

I found this awesome commentary article by Brad Stanhope. The comments are particularly amusing.http://bit.ly/skfTfB

Airports can be...well, to be honest, somewhat drab and depressing. But sometimes, when they are decked out in Christmas decor they can be uplifting. Earlier this month I had to travel to a meeting and connecting through O'Hare airport in Chicago I was impressed with the terminal for K and H concourses. I actually didn't mind connecting through O'Hare that day. The photo is from my phone so it's not the best but I wanted to share anyway. Talk about "decking the halls"!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Santa rides a bike?

This is the funniest thing I’ve read all year: "'People just aren't expecting Santa Claus on a bike, to show up with a boombox playing Christmas tunes, with a Christmas tree on the back and a pulled-pork sandwich in his hand,' said Toraldo.”

Well, um…no I guess they wouldn’t expect that. Check out this article about a guy who delivers a Christmas tree and a pulled pork sandwich on a bicycle. I don't make this stuff up people.

In other news, congrats to the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation and FedEx for delivering the 100,000th free farm-grown Christmas tree to a military family this year through the Trees for Troops program.

On a less happy note, stories like this just burn me up (no pun intended). So in an all-too-common scenario, a local TV news station is getting a firefighter to light a Christmas tree on fire so they can do a "fire officials warn about the dangers of Christmas tree fires ..." blah blah blah. This guy had to use 2 road flares to get any kind of burning going, and then says "we're not trying to scare people away from getting a tree ..." Well, duh ... THAT'S EXACTLY what you are accomplishing when you do that!

So what's the message then? ... don't bring 2 lit road flares into your home??!!

GRRRR...that makes me angry! I wonder if David Addington at the Heritage Foundation still thinks Christmas trees "don't have an image problem." I was talking about him with a reporter at the Wall Street Journal yesterday who was writing about the Christmas tree industry and I said "you should call him up and ask him what kind of Christmas tree is displayed inside his home." That would be interesting to know. I bet he has a fake tree.

Yeah, and misinformation about Christmas trees is not a new phenomenon that tree farmers have to deal with. It's been going on for years, ever since factories started making big green toilet bowl brushes and calling them "Christmas trees." Check out this story of a promotional effort to promote fresh, farm-grown Christmas trees from 1969 ... make sure and play the song and listen to the lyrics, it's hilarious.

A couple interesting questions this week:

On a split trunk...
From: Jeffrey
Sent: Wednesday, December 14, 2011 12:02 PM
To: info
Subject: Is this tree damaged?

We purchased a Fraser Fir 2 nights ago and had the nursery fresh cut it for us. We put it into a tree stand and filled the reservoir with water. Since then, I've noticed the tree has barely absorbed any of the water. One thing - I found that the tree has a split in the trunk that rises from the bottom to more than half way up. Is this a fatal flaw and should I have it replaced, or am I barking up the wrong tree so to speak?

We've purchased Frasers for years from the same nursery and have not deviated from our normally successful tree standards.

It does not affect the ability of the tree to take up water through a fresh cut. The reason for the trunk to split is the field conditions prior to harvest. You did everything right. I would monitor the water level for the next few days closely. It can take a while for the tree to start moving water up its system. I put my tree up this past Friday evening and it didn't start taking up water until last night.

From: g_m_reiland@
Sent: Sunday, December 11, 2011 5:31 PM
Subject: tree stand
I have a quick question and was hoping to get information from the experts. I just purchased a fraser fir and brought it in the house this morning. It is in the stand and is sitting pretty flush to the bottom. I told my husband we need to raise it up a bit so water can flow under and he said it's unnecessary and that it's supposed to sit flush so that the tree is more secure. What is your opinion?

While it's best to have the entire surface area of the cut tree trunk wet at all times, I don't think you can create a water-tight seal by having the cut surface flat in the bottom of the stand. Water is absorbed on a molecular level by the plant tissue and it most likely will be able to do so in this case. Most tree stands do have some kind of prong or spike in the bottom to help with both of your points, exposure to water and stability.

From: Michael
Sent: Saturday, December 10, 2011 11:20 PM
Subject: Tallest Christmas Tree Question
Hello. I've been watching a Christmas tree special on television, and have learned that the tallest Christmas tree in a private residence is at the Vanderbilt home, and is "three stories high." Next year, I'd like to try to beat that in my home. Do you have any information on the tallest Christmas tree ever displayed in a private residence? I'm pretty certain I could erect a tree well over 25 feet in my home, which is a concrete monolithic dome home in Las Vegas.If you can come up with any information or links I can research, I would appreciate it!

Sorry Michael, that's not something we would be able to verify or track in any way. In other words, I have no idea how they can prove the "three stories high" tree you saw on the special is indeed the tallest?

Hey check out my tree I put up and decorated this past Friday! Isn't she a beee-yoot?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Interaction and endorsement

I got a great email from Alison this week, providing some feedback about our web site and the way we provide information about Christmas Trees. Here's our interaction:

Hi Alison. Interesting points, thanks for writing in… but missing key facts /considerations. Elaborations below in blue to specific points….

From: Alison
Sent: Tuesday, December 06, 2011 9:50 PM
To: info
Subject: Hi

Just was looking through all your arguments about real vs. fake trees. You might want to at least be a bit more honest,

-- there’s nothing on the site that isn’t factual or sourced / linked if it’s opinion …can’t be much more honest than that

and a little less obvious about which one you’re pushing.
-- really? You think we should be less obvious? I think being pretty up-front and obvious about what our association stands for and believes in is the right way to go…subterfuge or subtlety would not serve our purposes I feel.

Maybe at least throw in the facts that real trees take a lot of water,
-- so? …so do house plants and pets and people ….so what? What’s the point?

and a whole bunch of fuel to truck the trees to their final resting place.
-- not necessarily. Some people buy a tree at a local farm, and many people in the U.S. and Canada live near areas where Christmas trees are grown. Besides, if you chastised people every time they purchased an agricultural product that had to be hauled to them, well, you would be chastising pretty much every person that eats bananas north of Mexico, every person who eats broccoli south of roughly the 35th parallel, etc. Personally, I’m glad I live in a place where I can buy agricultural products from all over.

Also that it totally depends on how long people keep their fake trees. That in itself changes everything.
-- no it doesn’t. It doesn’t matter how long you keep a fake tree, it will eventually end up in a landfill where it will NEVER decompose. 10 years? 20 years? 50 years? 100 years? The Earth will be here a lot longer than you or I and it will have to deal with all the non-biodegradable products we keep manufacturing, like artificial Christmas trees, instead of a the real thing, planted and grown on a farm, replaced by another seedling, then decomposed back into natural elements as all plants are.

Just thought you should know that you might be banking on human stupidity a bit too much,
-- I feel just the opposite Alison. I’m banking on people being smart enough to separate myths and misperceptions from facts.

but then again you might get lucky. Hope you guys make tons of money this year, enjoy mine, and spend it on coming up with more witty Christmas tree propaganda. Alison

Well, at least she thinks I'm witty.

So what do you think? Tell us if you feel as Alison does that we aren't honest on our website or that we should be less obvious in our attempt to convince people who display a Christmas tree to use a real one grown on a farm and to stop buying more plastic and metal fake trees.

Oh, one more quick thing this morning. I noticed the fake tree people again trying to tout an "environmental study" saying a fake tree was better for the environment ... when are they going to give this up? What do the real environmentalists say? Check for yourself, you can't get more "tree hugger-y" than the American Forests organization: http://bit.ly/vUJQTn

Sunday, December 4, 2011

sneaky snake

ha....thought this was funny. If you get a fake tree out of storage, check for snakes when you set it up.


Funny (and disturbing) question:

From: Martha
Sent: Monday, December 05, 2011 7:19 AM
Subject: Very Strange Tree Question

Hi Rick~
I have been searching all over the internet this morning about something the man who helped me purchase a Christmas tree at Home Depot told me last night. He said that many of the trees they get are cut months in advance, are bundled and then submerged in lakes where they freeze and are taken out when ready to be shipped. He said many of the trees they get are full of ice and debris from the lakes...cans, bags, even fish skeletons! I had never heard of this and was fascinated. Is this true? Thanks!

That’s the silliest thing I’ve ever heard. Can you imagine how much extra work and equipment it would take to pull off such a thing? And I can’t even imagine how awful a tree would look if it went through that. Tree harvest starts in mid-November and continues until about a week before Christmas when most retail outlets want their last delivery of trees. Harvesting, baling, loading and hauling is a very efficient process and most trees get to their destination within 3 or 4 days.

From: Gretchen 
Sent: Sunday, December 04, 2011 11:53 AM
Subject: Question

My greetings to you!
I just purchased a fresh cut Christmas tree. Unfortunately, when I placed the tree in the stand, I realized the tree is too fresh. Despite tighten the tree stand screws, the tree is ‘slipping’ out of place. In double checking what could be causing the difficulty, I concluded that it is not the stand itself, the trunk size, or not having tightened the screws. Instead, It seems, the tree is still to “wet” from sap?

Is there way to “dry” the tree or do you have an alternate solution?

Well, you could leave it out of water for a few weeks, but that’s a bad idea. The 4 screw type stands really should have a plastic/rubber tip on the end of the screws so they don’t penetrate the bark as much.  There are other styles of stand beside the 4 screw if you want to look into that, but if not, I would recommend tightening the screws even more if you need to for the tree to be more stable.  Penetrating the bark with those small screws won’t hurt the tree or really inhibit its ability to absorb water.

From: joel
Sent: Sunday, December 04, 2011 7:19 AM
Subject: Christmas Tree misting question...

I hope that subject line makes it through your spam filters...

My wife and I just bought a 7ft Fraser fir last night, and I'm trying to do everything I can to keep it alive for as long as possible.  My wife has decided that if we can't keep this one alive 'til Christmas, then we're going to plastic next year, and I REALLY don't want to have a plastic Christmas Tree.  I think you're probably on my side on that one.

Anyhow, the clerk at the tree place told me that Frasers (maybe all evergreens? Dunno.) take in enough water through the needles and bark that regularly misting them can help to keep them alive for quite a bit longer.  If this is true, I'm all for spraying the thing down as much as I can.

So.  Is this actually true?  If so, to what degree (if it's only going to give me an extra 2 days, I'm not sure it's worth the effort)?  And are there any concerns beyond the obvious (making sure the lights are off and will be off until the water is either absorbed or evaporated, being careful of drenching the presents and ornaments that water may damage, etc)?  Or was he just trying to help me feel better about the potential life span of my cut tree?

Please help me keep this tree alive so I can help keep a real tree in my home.  Thanks!

You guess correctly, I would never get a plastic tree.  Ask your wife is she makes you buy a plastic Christmas Tree, then is it OK to also buy some plastic flowers and just give those to her every Valentines Day.

OK, if I come across as perturbed, it's not directed at you at all.  Stories like yours make me frustrated that people in the industry, for which I work, are sometimes our own worst enemy.  That guy at the tree place is completely wrong.  Spraying water on a tree will do NOTHING to improve moisture level or needle retention, it will simply get your tree and anything under it wet.  Trees don't absorb water in that way.  It will absorb water, at a molecular level, through the stem (trunk) of the plant and move moisture up and out the branches and foliage as it evaporates OUT OF the foliage.  It doesn't work in reverse.

If you got the trunk in water within 3 to 6 hours of a fresh cut off the bottom, then that's what you should do.  Keep the stand filled with water so the cut surface is not exposed to air.
Full care tips page http://www.christmastree.org/care.cfm