Cut your own Christmas tree this year. Heres the who, what, where, and why of the Valleys tree-farming tradition.
According to historical accounts, it was in 1851 that Mark Carr noted a growing demand for cut Christmas trees. A savvy entrepreneur from Hunter in
Carrs enduring legacy is that there are now dozens of Christmas tree farms throughout the region. Often located on rolling hillsides along country roads, these farms offer freshly cut trees, or you can cut one down yourself. And note the use of the verb cut. Lest you harbor any fantasies of doing the Paul Bunyan thing with an ax: Christmas trees are sawed, not chopped, down. While many customers tote their own saws (you know how we guys are about tools), most farms are happy to lend you one before sending you off on your lumberjack-style adventure.
Of course, the thrill of searching for the ideal evergreen is what lures us out into the fields in the first place. I cant think of a more meaningful way to begin the season, says Susanne Warren of Stone Ridge, who each year launches a search for the perfect tree with her husband, David, and their three children. Last year, they opted for a Douglas fir, which works well for children (since firs like pines are soft woods and easier to cut than other types of trees). Its funny, though, says Susanne. We always rove around for an hour, but then come back to one of the first trees we saw. Six-year-old Mattison did the sawing honors (with just a little assistance from dads steady hand). You should have seen his smile as the tree fell with a little whoosh, says Susanne.
In an effort to make your tree-cutting trip a true holiday excursion, a number of farms offer refreshments (hot cider and cocoa are popular) and special events. Some have gift shops and farm markets, and many offer holiday wreaths, roping, and other decorative greenery. Most farms open for business right after Thanksgiving. But Carole CrimiVaroli, co-owner of Mountain Fresh Farms in
Caring for Your Tree
The staff at most tree farms will wrap your tree in netting and load it onto your car for you. But you should also bundle it in a plastic or cloth tarp to keep it from drying out and protect it from road salt.
When you get your tree home, shave a one-inch section of bark from the bottom and place the tree in a sturdy stand with plenty of water. If cared for properly, a fresh-cut tree should last five weeks. When it is time to dispose of your tree, check www.realchristmastrees.org for local tree recycling information.
To Kill a Christmas Tree?
Many people think that it is cruel to kill a tree by cutting it down. But that is a misconception: Christmas trees are actually grown as crops, just like corn or wheat, and are meant to be harvested. Theyre only grown to be used as Christmas trees; if people stopped buying them, tree farmers wouldnt raise them. The trees also help prevent the earth-warming greenhouse effect by absorbing carbon dioxide and other gases, and by emitting fresh oxygen. In fact, one acre of Christmas trees produces the daily oxygen requirements for 18 people.
Some people opt to buy a living Christmas tree that can be replanted after the holiday. If this is your preference, you should avoid purchasing a tree potted in very dry or hard soil, which can indicate that it hasnt been watered properly. Jennifer Jorgensen of
Which Tree For Me?
The four most popular types of Christmas trees in
Douglas fir: Blue to dark green, these needles have a sweet fragrance when crushed.
Balsam fir: Native to the Valley, this variety has a dark green appearance with short, long-lasting needles. It keeps its pleasing fragrance throughout the season.
Fraser fir: These branches turn slightly upward; the tree has good symmetrical form and needle retention and a great aroma.
Blue spruce: Good symmetrical form; with a dark green to powdery blue hue.
Scotch pine: It has short, dark-green needles (which can be painfully sharp) and thick branches. Wont drop its needles even when dry.
White pine: The long, light-green needles last throughout the season, but there is little fragrance. Branches can be too dense for large ornaments.
Cut Your Own
Here is a selection of mid-Hudson farms where
you can cut your own Christmas tree
(call for directions and days/hours of operation):
Pleasant Valley, 845-635-3206
Need a nine-foot tree? Theyve got em in six different varieties. Wagon rides and refreshments, too.
Cut-your-own and fresh-cut trees available, as well as table centerpieces and kissing balls.
F.W. Battenfeld & Son
Red Hook, 845-758-8018
Horse-drawn wagon rides, refreshments and Santa
visits make this farm a good choice for families.
Primrose Hill Farm
Over 100 years old, this family farm has six tree varieties, plus wreaths, gifts, and carts for hauling your tree in from the fields.
Forevergreen Christmas Tree Farm
Tag trees now they have Scotch pine,
Fox Ridge Christmas Tree Farm
Choose from seven types of trees, as well
as wreaths and garlands.
Pine View Farm
Balsam, firs and spruces; candy canes
and live animals will amuse the kids.
Mountain Fresh Farms
Five types of trees, plus horse-drawn wagon rides,
a petting zoo, and outdoor fireplace.
This farm has trees ranging from tabletop to
cathedral size; other holiday items also available.
Hardwick Tree Farm
Near the Taconic, this farm grows fir trees and serves cookies and cider after you make your choice.
Hellers Farm Partnership