O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum; wie treu sind deine Blätter!
– Ernst Anschütz, 1824
Kudos to you if recognized these as the original lyrics to the well-known carol O Christmas Tree. It is hard to imagine the holidays without this time-honoured tradition (which, believe it or not, originated in 16th century Germany). Without a tree, where would Santa stash the heaps of presents? What else in our home would we slather mercilessly in bucket-loads of ornaments, miles of garlands and strings of blinking lights? What else would children sit beneath as they gape reverently upwards and count down the days to the big Twelve Twenty-Five?
Yes folks, the tree is here to stay… even if your evergreen of choice is of the artificial variety. And hey, if that’s the case, then that’s just fine. But if we could have your ear for a moment, we’d love to tell you why you should consider cutting your own real tree this year.
Why harvest your own?
There are many reasons why people love to cut their own Christmas tree each year besides just fresh air and exercise. By cutting your own tree, you are helping to:
When you cut your own tree at a family-owned farm, you are supporting our local farmers. Did you know that the majority (if not all) of our cut-your-own operations in York Durham Headwaters are family owned and operated? That means your purchase is making an immediate difference in the lives of a farmer and his or her family. “The live tree is a huge business in Canada,” says Matt Youmans of Spademan Tree Farm in Port Perry. “It employs tons of Canadians with everyone working the farms, so buying one is helping the economy.”
For many of our farmers, tree farming has been a way of life for generations. “I started working when I was six,” says Brian Horton of Horton Tree Farms in Whitchurch-Stouffville. “We’d be pruning and trimming the trees in the spring and selling them in the fall. But I’d also be playing in the woods, fishing and swimming in the pond. It was a pretty good life.”
Improve the environment
Cutting your own tree is actually good for the environment… no, we’re not just saying that. It’s true. As Matt Youmans points out, “Juvenile, or younger trees, absorb more carbon dioxide and produce more oxygen than older trees. They’re helping the environment simply by growing. When you cut a tree, it returns to the earth within six months when you’re done with it. And we’re replacing the cut trees with new trees all the time, so this is truly a renewable resource.”
Many of our tree farmers in York Durham Headwaters do not use pesticides, fertilizers or insecticides. “We believe that while the farm is ‘ours,’ we are really just stewards of the land for our lifetimes,” says the Johnson family of Cricket Creek Farm in Mono. “It is our responsibility to care for the land and nurture the soil, that it may continue to provide for us, for our children, and for our local community for years to come. Accordingly, we use no herbicides, pesticides or artificial fertilizers on our farm.”
Family fun and memory making
Supporting local and improving the environment are great reasons to harvest your own tree, of course. But the best reason by far is that it is simply a lot of fun. A day spent harvesting your tree is about more than just picking one out and cutting it down. Our family-owned tree farms in YDH go out of their way to turn your arboreal task into an outdoor adventure. Many have hot chocolate or apple cider, warm crackling fires, toboggan rides and other holiday experiences for the whole family.
“I think it’s really important that people make an effort to get the family together during the holidays, and the start of the season is getting the tree,” says George Powell of Powell’s Tree Farm in Bowmanville. “It’s a great experience to come out here and get a tree. We have hot cider and cookies in the garage, and there’s everybody singing Christmas carols and having a good time tying the tree on the car.”
Matt Youmans of Spademan Tree Farm agrees. “At this farm, what we always say is that we’re selling memories and traditions, not trees,” he states. “If you come to our farm, we have wagon rides on the weekends, we’ve got complimentary hot chocolate and cookies, and you can also buy cider. We’ve got a Christmas nook, so it’s all Christmas knick-knacks and handmade crafts, and bonfires. And then you’ve got the whole experience of going out and cutting the tree and being outside.”
Choosing and caring for your tree
It’s not a bad idea to know what kind of tree you want before you head out. Arguably the traditional tree is a Scotch pine. “In the olden days, especially in Canada, all our natural trees in the Ontario region used to be Scotch pine,” says Matt Youmans. For trees with a different look than the defined triangular shape and short needles of the Scotch pine, or for trees which are hypoallergenic, opt instead for a fir (like the Frazer, balsam, or Douglas), a spruce (such as the Norway, Colorado blue, or noble), or a white pine. All of these and more are grown right here in York Durham Headwaters.
That being said, if you don’t have any reason to pick one particular tree over another, let your aesthetic sense guide you. You never know what you’re going to fall in love with. “At one point, Martha Stewart put a picture of a spruce tree on a magazine, and the next year everybody wanted a spruce tree,” recalls George Powell. “Since then, things have changed and now the Frazer fir is popular. What’s funny is that people will ask me to show them where the Frazer firs are, but they’ll decide they like another one better and they’ll end up going home with a spruce or a pine.”
Whichever variety you choose, make sure that if your tree has been cut for more than an hour by the time you get it home, you cut an additional inch off the bottom before mounting it in your tree stand. This is because the sap will harden at the base of the stump, which will inhibit the uptake of water. And once you have your tree in its stand, keep it hydrated. “Your tree will drink about a litre of water the first night,” says George Powell. “It’s less after that, but make sure you’ve always got water in the reservoir. If you keep your tree watered, it will keep its needles right up to Easter.”
Where to go
For information on where to go to harvest your own Christmas Tree in York Durham Headwaters, check out these helpful links:
Story by Katherine Ryalen