Saturday, December 19, 2009

almost there!

Less than a week to go until Christmas and people are still buying trees. We've heard from some folks who have a specific number of days before Christmas when they put up their tree to decorate. We know others are waiting for family members to come home before trimming their tree.

Many people though have already put up their tree and have been asking some common, and some not so common questions. Here's a sampling with my answers in BLUE.

From: jim busche
Sent: Sunday, December 13, 2009 11:34 PM
Subject: Blog Talk Ideas - Scots pine question.

I have a question about our Scots pine that we cut from the lot on Nov 29th. Initially, I'd top it's water up everyday and it seemed to be drinking. These past two nights the water level hasn't changed and I'm worried that there's something wrong with it, the water in the stand smells pretty stagnant too. I wonder if I should change the water? It not near any heat sources, or anything like that. Is this normal? It's not a huge tree, maybe 6ft total. Thanks!

The rate of water absorption will vary throughout the time it is displayed. Some days it will absorb a lot, some days not so much. This is normal.

From: Anne
Sent: Friday, December 18, 2009 4:57 PM
Subject: Christmas Tree Question


I have heard ( but with no follow up info) that there is a type of Christmas Tree that reples cats. Something about the smell they do not like but I have no other information.
Have you heard of such a thing ??

While I make no claims to know anything about how cat’s sense of smell works, I think that’s an urban legend. However, I have had people tell me that if they have cats prone to climb in the Christmas tree, then they only need to have a Blue Spruce one year and that takes care of the problem. This comes about because a Blue Spruce has very sharp, prickly needles and a cat will learn to associate climbing the Christmas tree with ….well, sharp prickly needles.

From: Angie Redd
Sent: Sunday, December 13, 2009 6:10 PM
Subject: Christmas Tree Question


We cut down a Canaan Fir the day after Thanksgiving this year and put it in water within an hour and a half after we got home. We did not cut off any more after bringing it home. Over this last week there were a couple of days that we forgot to put water in it, I don't think that it was completely empty (although I am not completely positive because it is dark under there and hard to see). Since I put water in it a couple days ago it is not really soaking up any. The tree is starting to lose more needles than the Canaan Firs we have had in the past at this point in the season, especially on the lower limbs. Although on the rest of the tree it is not losing an exorbitant amount. There are branches that I run my fingers down and no needles fall off. I am wondering if there is anything that we can do to help it to take up water again with still having almost two weeks until Christmas. Also is it a great fire hazard to have the lights on with it getting more dry at this point?

Thanks so much for your help. I was excited when I found your website and look forward to browsing through it.

The rate of water absorption will vary. Some days it will be a lot, some days not so much. I think it’s fine from what you describe.

If your light set is less than about 15 years old and rated for indoor use, there is no way they emit enough heat to catch anything on fire, especially a plant full of moisture. A couple years ago on the show “Myth Busters” on the Discovery Channel, they took a tree and ran it in a kiln dryer. It became utterly devoid of any moisture (way more than could possibly happen in a tree displayed in water in your home for 4 weeks). Then they strung about 400 strands of lights on it…it was drawing 10 times more electricity than the average 2500 square foot home. They filmed it through a heat sensitive camera, and while you could see heat rising off this tree like a river current, it still couldn’t light any of the tree on fire. It was fascinating.

From: Mark K.
Sent: Tuesday, December 15, 2009 3:42 PM
Subject: christmas tree question


Is there a nationwide list of organizations that help to plant live trees after the holidays?

Christmas tree farms will be planting 40 – 45 million new trees in the U.S. alone. There are about 350,000 acres in the U.S. planted in conifers for the cut Christmas tree market, growing close to half a billion trees.

Do you want to be a Christmas tree farmer? I’m sure any area farm would love it if you wanted to volunteer to help with planting next spring.

Hello Rick,

Thank you for your quick response. I was talking about live, potted trees to be replanted after Christmas is over.

I am looking for information on nationwide organizations like this one that organize plantings of donated, live Christmas trees.

Hmmm…not that I know of, but I would start with your local parks department. They probably manage the most open / green space in metropolitan areas. Or you could ask the farm / nursery selling the potted tree who some of their customers are …I’m sure they’d love a donated tree.

From: steelerjk
Sent: Wednesday, December 16, 2009 12:45 AM
To: undisclosed-recipients
Subject: Water

I cut down a fresh tree on Dec. 5 and it consumed a lot of water the first 9 days and now has slowed down to very little. Is this normal and will my tree make it until January 1st?

That’s normal. The rate of water absorption will vary…some days it will be a lot, some days not so much. Just check and fill the stand every day even if it only needs a little additional water.

From: bjp78@
Sent: Wednesday, December 16, 2009 7:58 PM
Subject: crackling christmas tree

I have been reading about people and their crackling trees and I too have the same thing happening to my tree. My husband wonders if it could be the pine cones opening up? Our tree has a lot of pine cones on it and he says maybe as the tree is absorbing water the pine cones are opening up causing the crackling noises.

I had that question a couple years ago. I asked some of the plant pathologists and they said it was all of the tree’s plant tissue warming, softening and absorbing moisture. They said it was normal and wouldn’t impact the needle retention or moisture uptake of the tree.

From: jonathan bowden
Sent: Thursday, December 17, 2009 9:04 PM
Subject: Another tree question

First, thanks for all the help you provide people by answering these's really great. Simple it bad for old dead needles to get into the water in the stand? My tree has been great and absorbed plenty of water for the first two weeks but now it seems to be almost stopped at the end of the third week. The only odd thing i did was not clear out a few handfuls of dead needles that fell into stand when i put up the tree.

Nah -- old, fallen needles in the stand won't bother the tree. The plant tissue absorbs water at a molecular level anyway so floating needle debris can't impact that process. I do recommend that after Christmas, washing out the stand before storing until next year. That way you don't have decaying organic matter in the stand for 11 months.

From: Bill Campbell
Sent: Friday, December 18, 2009 9:49 AM
Subject: Condos

Hey Rick!

The condo I live in recently created a bylaw banning live Christmas Trees claiming a fire hazard (I live in a 16 story concrete building).

Do you have any data on fires and Christmas Trees?

Do you have any data on the legality of Strata Councils banning Christmas trees?

Here’s our main safety facts page . Unfortunately, no matter how frustrated I feel that this has happened to you, I can’t possibly advise you on legalities involved. The only general statement I can make is that a condo / owners association can make whatever rules they want as they are a private enterprise. However, I can tell you that no model fire code, neither the International Fire Code or the National Fire Protection Association’s NFPA -1, prohibit cut trees from being displayed in individual units of multi-unit residential dwellings. In other words, if they cop the excuse to you that “oh, it’s against the fire code” you can tell them that’s plain wrong.

Great questions....keep them coming. We'll answer all emails up until Christmas Day. Don't forget to find out about your local tree recycling program. If you live where they have curb side pick up, make sure you know which days you can set the tree out for recycling. If you're like me, you may have to take your tree to a drop off location. Some tips to make it easier: grab an old blanket or sheet or if you have a removal bag, that's great too. Lift the tree vertically and carry outside. Try to let the water level in the stand go down -- that's the ONLY time you'll see that recommendation, but it's to prevent any spillage. Once outside, lay the tree down on it's side on top of the old blanket. Remove the stand, then simply roll it up in the blanket and put in or on your vehicle to transport down to the drop off location. For me, the whole process takes about 30 minutes. That's an easy task to do for a good environmental cause. Tree are 100% biodegradable and recycling programs help in many ways.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

ah, the "environment"

I wanted to post a blog based on a conversation / interview I had yesterday with a reporter. I was asked, "Since the conference on global warming is taking place, my editor wanted to know what your take on Christmas trees and global warming is."

Now, ignoring the obvious irony involved here as I sit in an airport delayed by the massive snow storm pounding the eastern half of the country, I have my own personal views on the topic of "global warming." But I keep those to myself and simply replied that the topic of global warming is not pertinent to Christmas trees specifically, at least when comes to choosing a fake one or a farm-grown one.

But in general, the environment is a topic of interest and importance to consumers. And in my mind, there really is no debate about which is better for the environment. From hybrid vehicles to water-saving toilets, many companies are trying to capture the interest of the environmentally conscious consumer. The Real Christmas Tree industry has it easy – our product has always been the environmental choice. The question is – do consumers know this?

In the fight for market share against artificial trees, the environmental issue is one where the real Christmas tree industry has the upper hand, but it’s up to us to make sure this message is heard and it’s been an uphill battle.

While they’re growing, Real Christmas Trees absorb carbon dioxide and other gases and emit fresh oxygen. They are grown on farms just like any crop. Christmas tree farmers plant new seedlings every spring to replace those harvested. In 2009, an estimated 42 million new trees were planted by Christmas Tree farmers. There are close to 350 million trees growing on tree farms in the U.S. alone. These trees would not exist if not planted by Christmas tree farmers. Christmas trees stabilize the soil, prevent run-off erosion, preserve green spaces and support complex eco-systems. And of course, since they are 100% biodegradable, farm-grown Christmas trees can be easily recycled, whereas fake trees can not.

What about the fake tree? Isn’t it better for the environment if you use something over and over? Artificial trees are a petroleum-based product manufactured primarily in Chinese factories. The average family uses a fake tree for only six to nine years before throwing it away, where it will remain in a landfill indefinitely. The polyvinyl chloride (PVC) used in most artificial trees has been boycotted by many environmental groups.

Is the environment really that big a factor in consumers’ decisions? Yes, research shows that consumers are getting more and more eco-conscious when choosing products. Even if consumers do not recognize the environment as one of the factors in their decision, it is important that the correct facts about Christmas trees are out there.

Does anyone really still believe that Christmas Trees come from forests? Yes, unfortunately some do. Ironically, many ads for fake trees include a selling point that they come in a sturdy cardboard box, while claiming you are “saving a tree” by using a plastic one. They don’t mention where the cardboard comes from, but consumers are smart enough to see this duplicity. Those in the business of farming and selling real Christmas trees have made great strides in recent years in breaking down the myths surrounding real Christmas trees. Visit to learn more.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Common Questions

First, thanks to everyone who has taken our online Christmas Tree survey. If you'd like to participate and see the survey results, go to the front page of the NCTA web site

This is the week when we start seeing tons of questions from Christmas tree lovers and many of them are quite common. Maybe you or someone you know has the same question? Anyway, below is a sampling from this week with my answers in BLUE.

From: M.K.
Sent: Tuesday, December 01, 2009 4:49 AM
Subject: Blog Talk Ideas

We bought our Christmas tree two daysago. A fresh cut was made, and we did get it in the w ater within 4 hours. We did notice a slight split in the trunk but it did not appear deep, less than 1/8 of an inch?

Anyway I used the preservative from th nursery.

The next day it drank hardly any water , maybe 1 inch, and now today the same.

We have not decorated the tree as yet as we normally wait a day or so to let the limbs fall a bit.

Is there anything I can do , or will this be a problem. ?

Thank you,


I would give it some time. Trees have been dormant for months so it can take a while for the warm air in your home to “wake up” the plant tissue. If you got the trunk in water within 4 hours of making a fresh cut and it has not been exposed to air since, then the tree will start absorbing water once it begins losing moisture. Plain tap water is fine, so just keep the stand full as much as possible, because its common for a tree to absorb a LOT of water quickly in a short period of time.

From: al akt
Sent: Monday, November 30, 2009 9:00 PM
To: info@realchristmastrees.orgS
ubject: christmas tree smell, douglas fir?

Hello, my question is regarding the smell or lack of smell. My family and I went to Christmas tree farm on two days ago and chopped our own douglas fir, approx 6 1/2 feet and since bringing it home I cut about 1/2 inch off the base and trimmed some bottom branches then placed it in the stand and immediatly watered the tree but still do not have a smell. Why is this? I've gotten a tree from a douglas fir from a tree lot before that had much more smell than this fresh cut one. any suggestions?

thank you,A.Akturk

From: al akt
Sent: Monday, November 30, 2009 9:08 PM
Subject: christmas tree smell, douglas fir?

2nd email, I forgot to add that the tree is drinking plenty of water, about a 1/2 gallon a day so far. thanks again.

Give it some time. The added moisture in the plant tissue from the water it's absorbing will boost it's scent. But sense of smell is very subjective and trees are each genetically unique. Try to snap or crush a few needles on the interior and that should release some aroma.

From: petec

Sent: Tuesday, December 01, 2009 9:22 PM


Subject: saving a tree


Stumbled upon your site after searching some articles at the weather channel. My question is a simple one and maybe even laughable but I have to know. I know that Christmas trees are just like any other tree but every year after Christmas you see hundreds of them stacked up about to be mulched and that's okay but here's my question. After the tree has been cut and used, is there anyway to "save the tree"? Is there anyway to "pot" the tree that would encourage root growth and development?

thanks for your time,


No, not once it’s cut at the trunk. But fret not, because the farmer who planted the tree in the first place and grew it to that height will plant another in it’s place this Spring. And that mulch made from harvested trees returns nutrients back to earth in a quick fashion. All plants eventually die and decompose, that’s a life cycle.

From: ryansmommy

Sent: Wednesday, December 02, 2009 1:28 AM


Subject: CHristmas Tree Question


I found somewhat of an answer under your FAQ section however, I need to be sure of my answer. I just purchased and put up my christmas tree in my home. After putting it up I found 2 large hairy black spiders wandering about my home. I didn't think much of it. Now I have decorated the tree with lights and bows and have found several very very tiny spiders in the tree, ecspecially at the very tippy top. They seem to be jumping as well. What should I do with my tree? I have vacumed as you have said to do in your FAQ section. I am worried they will grow, multiply, or take over. Is this possible? Should I get rid of the tree?

Thanks Melissa!

I’m not an expert on spiders. Assuming they came with the tree and not with the decorations out of storage, I would just try some ordinary bug spray.

From: Jim C.

Sent: Wednesday, December 02, 2009 12:31 PM


Subject: Info

Question for you, is it better to get a cut tree early and put in water for a week or two before bringing in the house or just wait until we want to put it up to purchase? Thinking it might be better to store in water then let it sit on a lot for 2 more weeks.


Chicago, IL

In your neck of the woods, it wouldn’t matter much. Many lots get multiple shipments throughout the 3-4 week sales season anyway. If you buy a tree later, just do the freshness test. Dry, brittle trees are easy to spot if you check.

From: Matilda
Sent: Thursday, December 03, 2009 8:39 AM
Subject: Christmas tree problem?

My husband and I have always had a real tree for Christmas. We've been getting one for about 20 years now. The tree we got this year produced a foamy residue in the top of the water, it resembled a meringue texture. When my husband went to scoop out the foam it released a horrible smell like someone had vomited in it. The tree has not drank any water except for 1/2 cup since Nov. 27. We called the tree place where we had cut the tree, and they said they have never heard of anything like this. They offered us to come back and get another tree. Would you have any idea what could have caused this. We cut a pine.


Sap most likely. I wouldn’t worry about the rate of water absorption so far. The tree has been dormant for some months and will start to take up more water the longer it’s inside the warm home. The rate will vary throughout the weeks its displayed, this is normal. If the water currently in there is gunky and foul, remove it with a turkey baster or shop vac and fill the stand back up with fresh water. You can add a little baking soda to eliminate any odors.

From: iris
Sent: Thursday, December 03, 2009 11:01 PM
Subject: Christmas Tree Question

Hello. My husband and I recently moved to Southwest Florida, where going out to a tree farm isn't an option. We went to Lowes and bought a Fraizer Fur there. It does have that nice Christmas tree smell, but it also smells like fish. I noticed it the minute we brought it in the door, so it can't be the water as I read in one of your earlier blog posts. Are the trees shipped down here on boats? It just smells like the ocean--not exactly what I was expecting. Is there anything that can be done about it?
Thank you very much.

First, check the full Florida list in our database and the list at the Florida CTA . There might be a farm close enough.
Second, any tree from North Carolina going to your area would not go by cargo boat and even if it did, cargo boats are quite different from fishing boats. There's no way that's the culprit.
My first guess is that there's moisture on the tree and so the odor may be a mildew kind of thing. It may have been raining when the tree was harvested, the trees loaded onto the freight truck may have been all wet when bailed and packed just may have not had time to dry out. Now, I understand what you're saying about the odor, but for what it's worth, those conditions are good for the condition of the tree itself.

I always recommend that the tree be shaken or thumped on the ground forcefully before bringing inside. That can remove access water, old needles, dust, debris, etc. etc. Is it decorated yet? If not, can you take it outside and give it a good shake? Otherwise, I would not have much more of a common sense suggestion.

From: jt brinsky
Sent: Friday, December 04, 2009 8:05 PM
Subject: Tree questions

I bought an 8 foot fraser fir last Saturday from their previous cut stock. When I cut my 1/2 inch from bottom the trunk split about 6 inches or so. I put it in the stand and it is taking some water. Took about 32 ounces today. Has taken about that for most of the week. It looks very fresh, smells good and can't pull needles off the top branches. But if you shake the tree a lot of needles fall off. Could it be from the lower branches where it was split. Should I have taken it back. I still haven't put an lights on it, sicne I am afraid it is going to dry out.

Fraser Fir does split more than other species. It does not effect 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 indicate it has already absorbed a lot of water in the first few days, ½ gallon each day …I think it’s fine. Trees do shed older needles naturally, this is why many retail locations now put trees in a shaker machine. Or some people simply shake or thump the tree outside before setting it up.

From: CDeCredico
Sent: Friday, December 04, 2009 7:00 PM
Subject: Christmas Tree Care

Hello, There is a small debate on whether or not it makes a difference to put bleach in the water for a tree. Does it make a difference and if so, why?Thank you,Cesare

Do NOT put bleach in the water. Bleach is a desiccant and will break down plant tissue. It’s terrible for the tree.

Where do you stand for other things like putting ginger ale or aspirin in the water?Thank you

You know, I was once discussing the topic of what people put in a tree’s water stand with an old tree farmer, and he said to me something I’ll never forget. It’s a “salt of the earth” kind of wisdom if you know what I mean. He said, “I don’t get it. That tree spends 8 years out in my field drinking nothing but rain water. People get it in their home and think it suddenly needs a 7 Up. I never gave that tree any 7 Up.”

Plain tap water is fine. Anything else is just going to facilitate bacteria growth in the stand. Here’s our official recommended care tips. These are compiled by plant pathologists who have actually conducted controlled scientific studies on needle retention and moisture absorption. I trust scientists more than old wives tales.

Great questions everyone....keep them coming!

Saturday, November 28, 2009


The tradition of having a Christmas tree in the White House began 120 years ago in 1889 – Benjamin Harrison’s first Christmas there. The tradition has continued since then, though the details vary from year to year. The residents of the White House change. The decorations change. The people that handle the many, many details change. The species of tree, the location where it was grown and the people donating the tree change.

Yet some things stay the same – the awe inspired by the spectacular look of the White House decked out for the Christmas season, the festive atmosphere, the warmth and grace of the first ladies accepting the trees, and the incredible efforts of the White House staff to make the presentation of the tree special for the family donating it.

In 1966, the National Christmas Tree Association began donating the official White House Christmas tree. That first year, Howard Pierce of Wisconsin loaded up a Christmas tree and hauled it to Washington DC while President and Mrs. Johnson were away for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Over the years, the tradition has evolved into a festive ceremony with a Belgium horses pulling a tree-laden wagon up to the doors of the White House while the Marine band plays Christmas music and the First Lady looks on then accepts the tree on behalf of the American people.

The couple that presented the tree is year, Eric and Gloria Sundback, first donated the official White House Christmas tree 30 years ago. The honor of presenting the tree goes to the winners of NCTA’s national Christmas tree contest, which the Sundbacks have now won four times. In 1979, they presented a tree to First Lady Rosalynn Carter. In 1981 and 1987, they presented trees to Nancy Reagan. And this year, they presented the tree to Michelle Obama.

The Sundback’s noticed a few changes as well. For one, their family had changed. Grandchildren that were not yet born when they last presented a tree were in attendance.
Another difference they noticed was the media coverage of the event. Media covered the selection of the tree in October. Several camera crews went to the farm for the cutting and many more were at the presentation.
In a few days, the media will return to the White House to get the first glimpse of the Christmas magic woven by the skilled employees and volunteers of the White House. I can hardly wait to see what “our” tree looks like when it is decorated!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Let the cones fly!

Well, here we are ...another great season of fresh Christmas trees. We haven't heard (knock on wood) of any major harvest snafus going on, so tree lots and farms should be stocked and ready to go this weekend.

Already getting some good questions from tree enthusiasts out there. Some samples with my answers in blue:

Sent: Wednesday, November 25, 2009 2:46 PM
Subject: Christmas Tree stand question

I have a metal pot that I would like to put my Christmas tree in this year rather than the traditional stand with tree skirt - it is NOT wide enough to hold a stand inside - can I use wet sand? for moisture and stability - or does the tree need to "drink" water and thus I need to find an alternative?
Thank You - Jennifer

You need a good stand so the cut surface of the tree is in water. Wet sand won’t suffice for either water absorption by the tree, nor stability I would think. Is the pot round? There are some good round stands out there…many different shapes and sizes …I wouldn’t assume you couldn’t find on that fits inside the decorative pot. Lots of water though is key to the longevity of the tree itself.

From: CL Page
Sent: Wednesday, November 25, 2009 1:33 PM
Subject: Christmas tree question


Please help me remember the name of the type of tree that is not a fir, nor a pine. The tree has hard needles and lots of space between the branches...enough space so that large ornaments can be hung and move freely. Some people call it the Charlie Brown or Peanuts tree...muchas gracias, CL

That’s a fairly common question. The sparse look is dependent somewhat upon the genetics of the tree, but mostly through the shearing practices of the grower more so than species. The more open, less dense look is starting to become more popular among some consumers, so the Christmas Tree farmers will be working to meet that demand, however the average tree takes 7 to 10 years to get to 6 or 7 feet high and the majority of consumers still want a full, thick tree. Check with farms in your area and ask them if they have a "less sheared" tree or one that "would be graded a cull". The grower will understand what you are looking for.

From: Bob B
Sent: Tuesday, November 24, 2009 11:05 AM
Subject: aspirin hurt the tree?

My son just finished his 6th grade science project.
He took 3 fresh cut 4 ft blue spruce and fed 1 water , fed another a commercial solution to make trees last longer and the third tree aspirin and water.
To his ( and my surprise) after 5 weeks the aspire and water tree drank a lot more but lost a lot more needles ( factor of 10!).
It was a great experiment and he learned al lot but he is having trouble finding research on any type of aspirin poisoning ?

Can you point him in the right direction - thanks

Aspirin won’t poison the tree. It really has no effects at all on moisture levels or needle retention, either positive or negative. You can find a list of published research on post-harvest keepability on this page

From: Kelly
Sent: Tuesday, November 24, 2009 9:46 AM
Subject: Organic christmas trees

I am looking for an organic christmas tree farm in the chicago area, zip code 60558. Can you help me?


No, that’s not a category we keep in our data base. Please bear in mind anyway, a tree labeled “organic” is not any different from one not labeled thus.

OK....good start. Happy Tree Hunting and keep the questions coming. We'll be in the office answering questions on Friday while digesting our turkey!

Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Somewhat related to fake trees trying to horn in...

Received a tweet about getting a fake tree instead of a real one because they are not allowed in this person's apartment building. Posted below with our full answer.

Jenna (@jmd05) asked:
@Trees4Troops Do you have an option for those Military families who live in apartments who are only allowed fake trees due to fire hazards?


First, understand that there is no fire code that prohibits cut trees from being displayed in any individual residential apartment units. Now, if your specific apartment building manager(s) have announced and enforced that prohibition, they are legally allowed to do that, but that’s their personal decision. I just want you to be informed in case they try to deflect your appropriate outrage by copping a “it’s against fire code” excuse.

Second, if you are able, you are encouraged to share with those decision-makers how absurd that prohibition is. Start with this online brochure Also, plenty of information about safety and risk of trees catching on fire from accidental ignition sources on the NCTA web site . We can’t force your apartment manager(s) to listen to facts, logic and reason, but at least we can stick it in their faces.

Third, fake trees are not really any less of a fire hazard than a farm-grown one. Fake trees catch on fire every year …albeit at a very low rate, just like real trees. Plastic can and does combust and burn. See this page for photos from a fire department demonstration

Good Luck.

this is really low ...I mean, ick

Reprinted from Steve Drake's blog on Causaholic. It's about the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation's Trees for Troops program.

The Christmas SPIRIT Foundation (CSF) accidentally discovered a copycat ripoff of our TweetUp4Troops effort to generate support for its Trees for Troops program.And, this ripoff creates an ethical dilemma for the Foundation and CSF would like your opinion and suggestions.Here's the scoop:
The Christmas SPIRIT Foundation, the 501(c)(3) charitable branch of the National Christmas Tree Association, advances the spirit of Christmas for kids, families and the environment. The National Christmas Tree Association represents the growers, wholesalers and retailers of farm-grown Christmas Trees (often referred to as real trees).
For four years, the Foundation -- with support from FedEx -- has implemented a hugely successful Trees for Troops program which touches the lives of military families by providing them a free, farm-grown Christmas tree. The Foundation has reached 50,082 military families around the world.
To help generate financial support for Trees for Troops, the Foundation created and organized TweetUp4Troops events to be held during Veterans Day Week (Nov 7-14). As part of the campaign, the Foundation created a TweetUp4Troops group site, web site and Twitter handle.
Last week, a Foundation staffer accidentally typed in and discovered that someone in the artificial tree industry had registered this domain name and created a web site that is purely sales, a giant advertisement for artificial Christmas trees. The site's creator has NOTHING to do with the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation nor does NOTHING to support the Trees for Troops program.
The Christmas SPIRIT Foundation sees the fake tree industry's action as a rouse designed to "capture and divert" people who support (or want to support) the Foundation and its Trees for Troops program.
It seems to be a hoax to deceive potential donors.
We don't know how many potential sponsors accidentally typed "for" rather than "4" and got the fake page rather than the real TweetUp4Troops site. We're not sure that matters.
The Foundation remains stunned that a company/industry would stoop so low as to try to deceive donors interested in supporting U.S. military families.
So, we're asking for your advice. What does the Foundation do? How can (or should) it respond? What would you do if someone sabotaged your cause or non-profit and attempted to divert your donors into a different web site that is a sales piece rather than a donation page?
Please post your comments and suggestions.
PS: One lesson learned: register every domain name that closely resembles the name and/or Website of your cause.

Let's be clear about is in NO way associated with the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation, Trees for Troops or National Christmas Tree Association; it is currently owned and managed by an artificial tree seller. Those looking to support the troops should visit…. We apologize to any Americans for any confusion this may have caused. This was a pretty low and slimy thing for the fake tree people to do.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

And away they go...

Trees for Troops International Kick-off Event
Yesterday’s Trees for Troops international kick-off event from the Department of Agriculture in Columbus, Ohio went off without a hitch. Over 75 Ohio farmers, area school children, local and FedEx volunteers helped to pack-up handmade holiday cards, decorations and over 200 Christmas trees which are on their way to Kuwait to be delivered to military installations in Kuwait, Afghanistan, and Iraq. The second international shipment is scheduled for November 24 from Thorntown, Ohio. U.S. base deliveries and Trees for Troops Weekend begins in December.

Media onsite included:
Columbus ABC/Fox affiliate- Dave Hill interview
This Week Community Newspapers
Ohio Ag publication
Radio interviews were conducted earlier with radio stations in Columbus and Toledo by Amy Galehouse
Toledo NBC 24 ran a story during their Nov 7th broadcast.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

How Will You Share the Christmas Spirit?

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you've probably heard us mention the Trees for Troops program from time to time. Created by the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation, the 501(c)(3) charitable branch of NCTA, the Trees for Troops program has delivered more than 50,000 Real Christmas Trees to military families across the nation and around the world.

The program is gearing up for its fifth year, with a goal of delivering 15,000 trees to more than 50 military bases. You can learn more about the program by visiting, but I wanted to point out a few quick ways you can get involved this year.

1) Make a donation to the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation. This is probably the quickest and easiest way to show your support -- just visit

2) Purchase a tree at a participating farm or lot during Trees for Troops Weekend - Dec. 4-6, 2009. Find a location near you at (Hint: you may not have to wait until T4T Weekend -- some of the locations are taking pre-orders -- call the farm/lot to check.)

3) Host or attend a "TweetUp4Troops" event in your area. This year, individuals and groups across the nation will be hosting local grassroots fundraising events during Veteran's Day Week - and it's not too late to join them. Learn more at

4) Purchase a T4T commemorative ornament. For $30 (plus S&H), you can purchase a commemorative pewter ornament, with proceeds benefiting the Trees for Troops program. With a $50 donation, an additional ornament will be sent to a deserving military family.

5) Purchase Trees for Troops apparel. Through a special offer from Greater than Goods, $5 from each item purchased will be donated to the program.

6) Leave a message for the troops. Show your support at

Thank you to everyone for your support of the program!

Friday, October 23, 2009

2009 White House Christmas Tree Selected

It may be a new administration in the White House - but some things never change. Continuing a long-time tradition (since 1966 in fact), White House staff selected the Blue Room Christmas Tree earlier this week.

Director of the Executive Residence and White House Chief Usher Stephen Rochon and Superintendent of Grounds Dale Haney traveled to Shepherdstown, W.V., to handpick a beautiful 18 1/2-foot Douglas-fir. This tree will be transported to the White House and presented to First Lady Michelle Obama around Thanksgiving by Christmas Tree growers Eric and Gloria Sundback.

The Sundbacks earned this honor by winning the National Christmas Tree Association's (NCTA) national Christmas Tree contest held in August 2009 in Chattanooga, Tenn., and becoming Grand Champion.

Eric and Gloria are no strangers to the White House Christmas experience. This will be the fourth time that the couple has won the contest and presented a tree to the First Lady.

Learn more about the Sundbacks and the Blue Room Christmas Tree at

Friday, September 4, 2009

oh, those desperate, silly fake tree peeps

Apparently fake tree sellers are incapable of admitting defeat. The proverbial ship has left the harbor on the environment issue when it comes to choosing a fake, plastic tree over a real, farm-grown one. Even decidedly pro-environmental groups have recommended for years to use a real Christmas tree instead of a fake one ...for example,

And many environment and health groups recommend avoiding products made of PVC, the plastic that makes up most fake tree needle simulations.

But, undeterred, the fake tree people last year paid a company who does research for the vinyl industry to do a "study" concluding that buy a tree from a farm was worse for the environment than buying a plastic tree made in China. It got little news coverage, what there was mostly ridiculed the very notion. But they are at it again:

Seriously, this issue should be put to rest. Christmas tree farms in North American planted an estimated 42 million new trees in 2009 and there are close to 350,000 acres in the U.S. alone producing Christmas trees. You get an average of about 1,000 trees per acre so that means U.S. farmers are currently growing around 350 million trees. Can anyone seriously think a factory in China spewing out hunks of plastic and metal is a better environmental choice?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Christmas tree farm's off-season activity

Wow, a fascinating article at of all places popped up today on my google alert. A Christmas tree farm hosts a professional disc golf tournament. The course is laid out around the tree farm.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

why do trees help fish?

How Does a Christmas Tree Improve Fishing?

Let me say up front, I’m not a biologist. I don’t even play one on TV. This is not my field of expertise. I am, however, an avid and frequent angler. I fish as often as possible from March through November. I fish most often for largemouth bass, but I have targeted many other species as well.
I have been asked in this capacity why or how sinking Christmas Trees into a pond or lake improves fishing. There are three main reasons this practice impacts fishing, so the answer is not as simple as most people who ask hope it will be.
First, the impact has a lot to do with the food chain in a fresh body of water. As woody plant tissue decomposes in water, more so than leafy material, the nutrients released spur a bloom of new aquatic vegetation known as phytoplankton, along with filamentous algae (moss) and rooted plants. This vegetation forms the bottom of the food chain. The first animals in the food chain are zooplankton (such as the water flea, seed shrimp and copepod). Zooplankton feed on the phytoplankton. Aquatic insects, snails, crayfish, mussels, etc. are next in the food chain, feeding on the zooplankton. Small, non-predatory fish are also part of the food chain at this point, feeding on phytoplankton, zooplankton and small aquatic insects. Different species of shad and minnow are the most common of these small, non-predatory fish.
At this point, the predators enter the picture, starting with small predators such as sunfish and crappie. Then moving on up the food chain to the bigger predators such as the largemouth bass … and then me, or at least homo sapiens in general, armed with a rod and reel and bait.
It is also known that in any impoundment of fresh water, whether natural or man-made, woody mass decomposes fairly quickly. So dropping farm-grown Christmas Trees into lakes and ponds helps restart or at least rejuvenate the food chain, which leads up to popular predatory fish targeted by anglers. Simply put, decomposing woody mass leads to a healthier ecosystem in fresh bodies of water.
Confused yet?
Reason number two that dropping trees helps fishing has to do with the instinctive behavior of the popular species of game fish targeted by anglers. Many of the predator species are structure-oriented, meaning, they relate to, move around and live on/in/near structure(s). The term “structure” can refer to any item in the water large enough for fish to see and identify from the area surrounding the structure.
Imagine a plain, round swimming pool. No matter where you were in the swimming pool, your surroundings would be the same and unidentifiable from anywhere else in the pool. Now, if I throw your poolside chair in and it sinks to the bottom, it becomes an identifiable object, or structure. You could find that structure even if you were swimming underwater with your eyes closed.
This instinctive behavior to relate to and move around structures exists in both prey and predator species but more so in the larger predators. Now, it’s certainly not the only thing impacting where fish are in a body of water; water temp, dissolved oxygen, presence of prey, water clarity, etc. all have great impact as well. However, when angling, one smart tactic is to find an underwater structure and fish near it, since it’s common for fish to be near.
Make sense?
The third way sinking Christmas Trees improves fishing has to do with the predatory techniques of the popular game species. Like many other predators in the animal kingdom, game fish often execute ambush tactics to catch and consume prey. This is true for all species of freshwater fish predators – from bluegill to crappie to bass and even for northern species such as pike, walleye and muskie. What’s an ambush? It’s when a predator is hiding somewhere and prey comes by and gets eaten. It’s the opposite of stalking or chasing prey; instead of expending energy to go find prey, the predator waits for the prey to come to it.
Largemouth bass are very versatile and efficient predators; in fact, they are credited by biologists and enthusiasts with being among the best predators in the entire animal kingdom. So, while they are quite capable of actively foraging and pursuing prey and often do, they also use ambush tactics. Simply put, big fish eat smaller fish, and they find it easier to do so if they take them by surprise or ambush them from a hidden spot, like a sunken Christmas Tree.
So the trees draw prey (small fish which feed on the phytoplankton and zooplankton) and the predators – crappie, bass, etc. – are waiting to eat them. Again, the smart angler understands this dynamic and uses things like sunken Christmas Trees as locations to fish for game species.
And that’s the long answer to the question “How does a Christmas Tree improve fishing?” They help boost and support the food chain, while providing structure-oriented fish with identifiable objects to live in/on/around and provide ambush cover for predators.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Protecting Our Environmnent from Invasive Pests!

Just saw an article about the USDA's Animal Plant Health Inspection Service publishing rules on importing goods from China, particularly artificial Christmas trees.

"APHIS said it issued more than 300 emergency orders since 2002 because of wood-boring beetles it found in imported Chinese artificial trees."

Read the full post here.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Christmas Trees for the Fishies

Saturday, we helped to give used Christmas trees a second life by dropping them into
Mark Twain Lake. In all, about 400 trees were dropped from 2 different locations. This was the fifth year that the Army Corp of Engineers (Corp) has run such a program at this lake. Prior to that they had recycled some trees without the help of boats -- walking them into the water at various places.

The water level can vary quite a bit on a Corp lake, depending on rain and water/flow control needed on the other side of the dam. However, the Corp says that the ideal depth for the trees is 5 to 20 feet. They want to be sure that boats won't hit the trees if the water level drops. And if the water level drops low enough that the trees become exposed to the air, then the trees will deteriorate too quickly.

To make sure the trees sink and stay in the targeted areas, we drilled a hole through the trunk of each tree, then laced a coated wire through the hole and through a cinder block.

Then we loaded the trees onto boats and they were taken to predetermined spots on the lake.

Among the 30 or so volunteers were various fishermen. As a bonus for their giving back to the lake that supplies them with food, fun and comaradarie, they also get a little inside knowledge about where the trees are located, giving them a bit of an edge in knowing where the bigger fish are likely to hang out in hopes of finding smaller fish that stray away from the protective branches of the sunken yule trees.

From the perspective of the volunteers of the Christmas Spirit Foundation, we salute the Army Corp of Engineers for their hard work in putting together an amazingly well organized effort that helps the environment! Kudos.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A Monster and a Must See!!
Read the editorial under the last picture... it says it all!

SHIP FROM CHINA - The Emma MaerskWhat a wonder 'Made in China' is displacing North American goods big time with this floating continent transporting goods across the Pacific in 4 days no less!!! This is how Wal-Mart gets all it's stuff from China . Get a load of this ship! 15,000 containers and a 207' beam! And look at the crew-size: 13 people for a ship longer than a US aircraft carrier which has a crew of 5,000 men and officers. Think it's big enough? Notice that 207' beam means it cannot fit through the Panama or Suez Canals .. It is strictly transpacific. Check out the cruise speed: 31 knots means the goods arrive 4 days before the typical container ship (18-20 knots) on a China-to-California run. So this behemoth is hugely competitive when carrying perishable goods. This ship was built in five sections. The sections floated together and then welded. The command bridge is higher than a 10-story building and has 11 cargo crane rigs that can operate simultaneously.Additional info:Country of origin - Denmark Length - 1,302 ftWidth - 207 ftNet cargo - 123,200 tons Engine - 14 in-line cylinders diesel engine (110,000 BHP) Cruise Speed - 31 knots Cargo capacity - 15,000 TEU (1 TEU = 20 ft 3)Crew - 13 people First Trip - Sept. 08, 2006 Construction cost - US $145,000,000+Silicone painting applied to the ship bottom reduces water resistance and saves 317,000 gallons of diesel per year. Most all of these containers are shipped back to China , EMPTY! We send nothing back on most of these ships.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Some of the stories from Trees for Troops recipients.

Read through some of these, and it's easy to see why this is a labor of love for all involved. It's such a worthwhile endeavor. Thanks to all who donated.

Trees for Troops
My Story E-mails 2009

From: Emily Miller
Subject: Thank you

Thank you so much Trees for Troops and Glove Hollow Farm at Fort Knox, KY. We appreciate your donation and your continual support for soldiers and their families. It is very encouraging that you care.

Sgt. Justin Miller, Emily and Davis
Fort Knox, KY

From: Erin Bill
Subject: Thank you!

To whom it may concern:

Please thank all your sponsors and contributors on our behalf this year for their amazing generosity. My husband and I just got married this summer; he is active duty Air Force and we are stationed in the cold north here at Ellsworth Air Force Base. This morning after he got home from working the midnight shift, we were able to drive across base and pick up a beautiful tree for FREE. I can't believe it! What a wonderful gift. Our dog and cat have been exploring the tree all morning, and I'm adding lights and ornaments. It has been a busy and sometimes stressful year, and this gift of a Christmas tree just makes me smile all is just what we needed.


Erin and Jeff Bill
28th Maintenance Squadron
Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota

From: Sabbatino, Lisa Mr DoD Ben
Subject: trees for troops

I just want to say thank you for donating the trees to military families. I know that my family greatly appreciates it. My husband has had to miss many holidays, birthdays, and many other special events over the years. Its never gets any easier. But we do the best we can to cope. I picked up my tree today at Ft.Carson, and it is one of the most beautiful trees my family has had. I just want to say thank you for thinking of us. We really do appreciate it.
Lisa Sabbatino

From: Jared & Rochelle Laskey
Subject: Thank you!

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! Rochelle Laskey, wife of Cpl. Laskey (USMC)

From: Jennifer Molina
Subject: Thank You!

First of all, I want to say Thank you, thank you so much for the tree. I love it so much. We have never had a real tree before. My husband and I have been married for 6 years and never had a real tree because it was too expensive. Here is our story. My husband is currently in Iraq waiting to come home. His flight keeps getting canceled. This christmas is very important to us because he will meet his 4 month old son for the first time. Our Daughter Aliyah keeps counting the days till she can be with daddy and watch cartoons together again. This is our first deployment and it has been hard, but it has kept us all strong. I attached a picture of the tree next to our fireplace. It is not decorated because we are hoping daddy will be home soon to help us decorate. One again thank you so much for giving us a tree and making our christmas alot more jolly. Jennifer Molina(785) 579-6927 "When you feel like giving up,remember why you held on for so long in the first place"

From: ewoods999@
Subject: Thank you Trees for Troops

Thanks to all the organization's and employees that made Trees for Troops possible this year.

My husband and I appreciate the beautiful tree provided us this year at Fort Lewis. The money we didn't spend on a tree went to buying food for junior enlisted soldiers and their families for their christmas dinner. Because of your gift we were able to pay it forward.

Thanks again for our tree and may all of you enjoy a joyous and safe holiday season.

Best regards,

Bill and Liz Moore

Subject: Thank you

I just wanted to thank your organization so much for our tree. Money was a bit tight this year and getting a free tree made things somewhat easier. Our son is leaving in mid- January for Fort Bragg and then he's going to Afghanistan. This gesture made our holiday so much brighter. Thank you so much.
Hoping you had a Merry Christmas

Peace to everyone in the New Year,
Margaret Browning

To Whom It May Concern:

Hello and Happy Holidays to you all. My name is Britt Heinbaugh Ross and I am a thankful recipient of a tree from the Trees for Troops program. We just love our tree, and had great fun decorating it as well. This is our daughter Olivia’s first Christmas that she’s really aware of things and comes in each morning to where the tree is displayed to say, “ohhhh!” Great memories for us, those memories you helped bring out by your wonderful generosity to the Trees for Troops program. We are especially grateful this holiday season as my husband Chaplain Jeff Ross aka “Dada” is not here with us but serving in Iraq. Having the tree easily accessible for me through this program was just another task that I did not have to endure alone with a toddler. So again, I thank you very, very much. This program means a great deal too many here on Camp Pendleton, that I have personally talked with and have casually met while waiting in line for the tree.

Seasons Greetings and Happy New Year!

All our best,

Britt and Olivia Ross

From: Tanya
Subject: Thank you

Dear FedEx & the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation,
I wanted to thank you so much for the free tree that I received in December 2008. I am a Marine wife on Camp Pendleton and it was an extremely hard year for me. My husband was deployment to Iraq from January 2008 to May 2008. He found out a week before Christmas 2007 that he had to go back. Then when he came home in May 2008, he received orders to report to Okinawa Japan in August 2008. He has always loved real Christmas trees (I always had an artificial tree) so picking out the Christmas tree was always a big deal to him and my 2 girls. This year was the first year that I had to pick out the tree by myself. Thankful your organization made this an easy task for me. The trees were big and beautiful. The whole event brought me to tears. I must have hugged 10-20 FedEx workers who were on hand - they must have thought I was nuts! I wanted them all to know how much this meant to me and my girls. Everything has a happy ending - I found out that day (12/5) that my husband would be able to come home for Christmas. That tree stood in my livingroom from 12/5 thru 12/23 undecorated waiting for him to come home. I watered it everyday so that it would last until he came and it did!

I just wanted to all to know that your kindness, dedication and generosity was greatly appreciated. My family thanks you from the bottom of our hearts. Please see attached picture of the decorated tree.Sincerely,
Tanya Foreman
USMC WifeCamp Pendleton CA

From: Vesper Bitle
Subject: Christmas tree

Thank you so much for making our Christmas special!!
My husband is deployed and so I thought we would just get an artificial tree. I saw the trees for troops program and signed up for it, but didn't know if there would be enough trees. Well I went out and bought an artificial tree and then received a call that there were plenty of real Christmas trees. We went to look to see what we could 9 year old found the perfect tree!!! Needless to say, we returned the artificial one (which was a big help) and we set up our tree that we received from trees for troops. It was a challenge being my first time doing that alone, but in the end it worked out and we had many wonderful surprises with the tree. We actually found a little birds nest inside & added it to the tree as an ornament. Our three boys were thrilled with it you can see the happy faces in our pictures!!! Here is a before decorating, after decorating and photos of our three sons for you. Again, thank you for making it a very special Christmas!!
God bless you,
Vesper, Nicholas, Taryl & Toby Bitle