Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Christmas Trees

If you take children along to cut a tree you can get them 
to carry it, and use that moment to take a cute photo.
So you want to cut your own Christmas tree? There are two reasons that come to mind when people choose to get their own tree. Either you hate paying $40 or $50 for a tree (don’t blame you), or you enjoy going out with your family and friends to pick out a perfect tree together. Personally, I combine both reasons. I like that it’s cheaper, and I enjoy spending the day driving through the forest looking for a tree. But you can’t just go anywhere you want and cut whatever tree you want. There are rules that need to be followed. For a complete listing of the rules visit the forest service website that outlines everything for you.

However, I’m still going to give you the basics of the rules. A quick and dirty version if you will:

1)      You will need a tree permit
a.       A mere $5 at a forest service office
2)      Trees must be less than 15 feet tall.
3)      Leave at most a 6 inch stump.
4)      Try not to cut the only tree in an area.
5)      Only cut trees within national forest lands.
6)      Do not cut any tree within 150 feet of any water, flowing or still.
7)      Do not cut trees out of campgrounds or other related sites

And now for a quick rundown of tree care:

1)      Be gentle with your tree as you transport it to prevent needle and limb loss.
2)      If tying your tree to the top of a car you may wish to wrap it to prevent wind damage.
3)      Once to your home make a fresh cut on the tree base and place directly in water.
4)      Keep tree in a cool, wind free place until you take it into the house.
5)      Do not put the tree next to any sources of ignition.
6)      Properly dispose of your tree.

That should cover the basics of cutting your own tree. On top of that remember to stay safe while you’re out there. Only take vehicles that you know can handle the rapidly changing conditions of winter forest service roads. A snow storm can start and dump inches of snow in the time it takes you to track down a Christmas tree.

The beginnings of Christmas trees. 
Talking about cutting your own Christmas tree kind of ignores the first decision that must be made when choosing a tree: real or fake? There are people that argue both sides for a variety of reasons. Let’s take a look.
The first reason is almost always aesthetical. It’s either you can’t tell the difference between them (those in favor of fake trees), or you’ll never beat the natural look (those in favor of a real tree). From there the argument usually dives into how you can’t beat the natural pine smell, and the other side arguing that’s a good thing. And then it turns into an argument of needles. The fake tree people say that it’s much easier to clean up, and the other side returns that it’s not so bad. Just make sure to get the right tree and they’ll hardly lose any needles. And finally you get to the cost argument. Well if you go cut your own tree it’s only $5! Yeah, well that $200 fake tree will be usable for years to come. It’ll add up. So this goes on and on for a while and neither side really bends. So who’s right? It’s really based on your own preferences.
Let’s start with the visual arguments. I personally think that a fake tree looks fake, which defeats the purpose of getting a tree in the first place. But, to be honest, it doesn’t look that bad. (Assuming of course it’s a fake green tree, and not one of the bright neon trees.)
The pine smell. This is at least half the reason I like real Christmas trees. It’s as if you get to bring the forest into your home for a month and enjoy it without having to go outdoors. I do realize that some people don’t care about the smell, or they find it offensive, and for them a fake tree may be more appropriate.
A few years old. Trees can take anywhere from 6 to 10
years to be ready for harvest.
The needles can be a pain, I agree. And there have been years that I had to vacuum almost every day just to keep my living room looking clean. But on the other hand my tree last year had next to no needle loss, and it continued to hold its needles well after I had taken it down and thrown it outside. (I should have made a note what type of tree it was, but of course I forgot.) The takeaway is that needle loss can be fairly well avoided with proper watering and tree selection.
The cost argument is usually what gets me. I hate spending $40 on a live tree. Let alone $200 or more on a fake tree. I do realize that if you do normally buy live trees for $40 or more that it quickly adds up from year to year. In that case buying an artificial tree might be cost effective. But remember when considering the cost effectiveness of buying a fake tree that you may not get all the years out of it you think you will. You may think that the tree will last you 10 or 15 years, when in reality it may only last you 5 before it gets too beat up to use anymore. And if you cut your own tree for only $5 it’s hard to argue the cost effectiveness of buying an artificial tree. (Even with factoring in $10 or $15 each year for the gas cost of getting your tree.)

Now let’s explore some environmental factors that might influence your decision. Mainly, which is more environmentally friendly? From the few studies that I could find that explored this issue neither one is that bad for the environment. Especially when compared to things such as driving to work every day. If you travel only a few miles to get a real tree than it can often be less environmentally damaging when compared to a fake tree. But that was based on a 6 year lifespan of an artificial tree. Increasing that lifespan or increasing the distance to get a real tree could flip the results around. However, it should be noted that parking your car for a week or two could offset the environmental cost of either option for any given year.

In conclusion the choice is yours. Depending on what you’re looking for you could choose a real or an artificial tree. Neither one has a huge advantage over the other. If you want to go with a live tree and want to cut it yourself remember to follow the rules and stay safe.

Make sure to tune in next week for another article.


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