Wednesday, December 22, 2010

fake trees catch on fire!!

we show these every year the fire safety officials are finally weighing in too

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

You better watch out...

Final Numbers from the 2010 Trees for Troops program sponsored by the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation and FedEx:

11,627 - fresh trees donated by American farms

5,397 - fresh trees donated by other Americans

200 - fresh trees dontated by the Walter Reed Hometown Hero's program


17,224 - total trees delivered for free to U.S. military families

16, 651 - total trees delivered in 2010

0 (zero) - total number of fake, plastic trees in the program

59 - total bases in the U.S. receiving trees

7 - overseas bases receiving trees

It's a great program folks. You should check it out and try to support it.

Here's a letter we received last week. I have no idea who it's from, it wasn't signed. I certainly agree with the statement that more people should get a real tree instead of a fake one.

Here's another great letter and photo. I'll let this one speak for itself.

Thanks for the letter and photo Ryan!

Finally, I saw this today in another trade magazine. Apparently, one of the largest manufacturers of building venting products has stopped using PVC plastic in all of it's products because of the environmental and health hazards of that material. So if they don't even use PVC for vents in your walls, why would want to put a tree made of PVC in your living room???

Thursday, December 16, 2010

odds and ends

Check out the great segment on Christmas tree farming from the History Channel’s special on Christmas. Click HERE.

Last week, THIS ARTICLE caught our attention. Apparently an open tractor trailer had an accident and the trees spilled out onto the road. First, I certainly hope the driver is OK. Second, I feel bad for anyone stuck in that traffic. But it also made me think – this was December 10. Wonder what those people who think trees are cut and hauled in August were thinking? Actually most lots will be getting their last shipments of trees this week.

There was going to be a segment about marketing Christmas trees on The Daily Show today but it got cut at the last minute. Bummer.

OK, so I really do my best to not let jerk-ity jerks rile me up with emails, but sometimes I lash out. Check out this one from earlier in the week and let me know if it was too mean of a reply.

From: michael
Sent: Sunday, December 12, 2010 12:21 PM
Subject: Informative site!

It really is an informative site you have here. Great facts, some of them which prove that Christmas trees, whether fake or real, should not be bought or sold at all. The fact that you try to make it sound "eco" to grow them is absurd. These trees are grown on land that formerly had virgin forests, where a tree that was 20 times + the size of a living room christmas tree, and was infinitely more useful/less detrimental to the planet. Yes, a real tree is better than a plastic tree shipped from China, but no christmas tree is better than real one that takes up land, shipping and growing costs, and then is thrown on the side of the road to hit the land fill just one month later.
Personally, I'd rather see a virgin forest and a bunch of Scrooges with no holiday decor. But, then, where would the industry be, and the Christmas cheer?

Perhaps, in our lifetime, we may find a replacement for the ridiculously wasteful consumer holiday, along with the christmas tree. And, in that same lifetime, we'll see our forests diminish to specks of national park reserves due to the growing number of mindless people who think that land should profit people, in some way or another. If a farmer feels the need to grow something, what happened to good ole fashioned food? I can live without a christmas tree, but not without christmas dinner. Show me some facts about the millions of starving people compared to the 30 million christmas trees sold each year in the states. Now that's some interesting facts...

Wow, I feel sad for you. There are almost 400 million trees growing on Christmas tree farms in the U.S….they would not exist if they hadn’t been planted by the farmers. It has nothing to do with “virgin forest” …you’ve seen too many Disney movies.

If you don’t want to decorate your home with a Christmas tree, that’s fine. About 20% of households in the U.S. don’t put up any Christmas tree each year, so you’re not the only one. But don’t spread your personal derision on others who choose to do so.

Merry Christmas!

For some reason, that email just bugged me. Anyway, here are some more common questions.

From: Nalini
Sent: Friday, December 10, 2010 11:37 PM
Subject: Blog Talk Ideas

Thank you for having a blog about christmas trees! we cut our tree from a great farm in our area and when we got it home we put it right into the stand. One thing is that my husband did not fill the stand with water and I just assumed he had done so; therefore our tree sat without water for over 8 hours. After we both realized the tree had no water we filled it up right away! It seems now to be drying out on the ends of the needles and does not seem to be drinking any water. I put my hand down in the stand to feel the stump and it was sticky with sap...could this be why the tree is not drinking water? what should we do? we have not decorated the tree yet, but were planning on doing it tomorrow. I will wait for your reply until we decorate! thank you for your time and help!

Well, generally it's best to get the cut surface of the tree's trunk into water within a 3 - 6 hour time. The reason is that air molecules get into the plant tissue and inhibit the plant's ability to absorb water and move it up the stem to the foliage. If you think it was much longer than that before you put water in the stand (unless it was outside in a cold/damp environment) I would take the critical step in making a fresh cut. That way you know for sure. After that, don't worry about the rate of water absorption as that will fluctuate...that's normal.

From: Nalini
Sent: Saturday, December 11, 2010 1:26 PM
To: Rick Dungey
Subject: Re: Blog Talk Ideas

Hi Rick,
It was more than 3 to 6 hours before we got it into water! we will take your advice and make a fresh cut! Thank you for your quick reply and for helping us save our tree!!! I enjoyed reading your blog and you have been so helpful!!!

aww, shucks....

From: will
Sent: Thursday, December 16, 2010 1:33 PM
Subject: Christmas Tree Question

About two weeks ago we purchased a Fraser Fur, I stored it in my unheated garage, and last week we put it up and decorated it. Prior to decorating it I cut about 1-1.5" off the bottom of the trunk. It was drank the water very quickly, near emptying the tree stand so everyday we add more water to top it up. Starting today when I checked it the water level had only dropped approximately 1" and the branches appears as though they are sagging more then before. Do you have any ideas on what I can do to "liven-up" the tree again? I would drill holes but the top of the base isn't that large to allow me clear access with a drill.

That tree is doing exactly what it’s supposed to. It absorbed water, the branches relaxed as it came out of a dormant state. The rate of water absorption will vary from day to day…that’s normal. That tree sounds perfect. Even if there were something wrong, drilling holes in the side won’t do anything. Read the November 30 blog entry for a technical explanation.

odds and ends

Check out the great piece on growing Christmas trees from the History Channel's special on Christmas. Click here.

I saw this article the other day, about a semi truck with an open trailer hauling Christmas trees. There was an accident and the trees fell out on the highway. First, I certainly hope the driver is OK. But also, it made me think -- the date this happened was December 10. What about all those people who claim that real trees are cut and hauled in August? Harvest probably finished this week though as most lots are receiving their final shipments.

There was supposed to be a segment about marketing Christmas trees on The Daily Show tonight but it got cut at the last minute. Bummer.

I don't normally let jerky emails from jerk-ity jerks rile me, but sometimes I let 'em have it. Here's one from earlier this week. Did I come off too mean?

From: michael
Sent: Sunday, December 12, 2010 12:21 PM
Subject: Informative site!

It really is an informative site you have here. Great facts, some of them which prove that Christmas trees, whether fake or real, should not be bought or sold at all. The fact that you try to make it sound "eco" to grow them is absurd. These trees are grown on land that formerly had virgin forests, where a tree that was 20 times + the size of a living room christmas tree, and was infinitely more useful/less detrimental to the planet. Yes, a real tree is better than a plastic tree shipped from China, but no christmas tree is better than real one that takes up land, shipping and growing costs, and then is thrown on the side of the road to hit the land fill just one month later.

Personally, I'd rather see a virgin forest and a bunch of Scrooges with no holiday decor. But, then, where would the industry be, and the Christmas cheer? Perhaps, in our lifetime, we may find a replacement for the ridiculously wasteful consumer holiday, along with the christmas tree. And, in that same lifetime, we'll see our forests diminish to specks of national park reserves due to the growing number of mindless people who think that land should profit people, in some way or another. If a farmer feels the need to grow something, what happened to good ole fashioned food? I can live without a christmas tree, but not without christmas dinner. Show me some facts about the millions of starving people compared to the 30 million christmas trees sold each year in the states. Now that's some interesting facts...

Friday, December 10, 2010

common questions

First, a good now, I'm sure you've heard of the Trees for Troops program sponsored by the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation and FedEx. Check out some of the feedback from that:

Thank you and the Christmas Spirit Foundation for all that you do for Fort Drum. This year's event was a hit and so many Families were excited about receiving a Christmas tree. Below is a link to our local media coverage of the event.

it just wasnt feeling very much like the holidays especialy with him so far away but now that we have our tree its beginning to look a little brighter...this is a wonderful gift.

We got a tree! Thank you! We were going to get one this weekend, but I fell and broke my leg Friday night, so all Christmas decoration plans came to a screeching halt, so this was a nice welcome surprise to receive a tree from this program. Thank you again for all that you do for our Soldiers and their Families.

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!

Want to read more? Visit . And hey, make a donation while you're there. That's a 501(c)3 charity that could use the help.

OK, on to some common questions:

From: Arnie []
Sent: Saturday, December 04, 2010 6:01 PM
Subject: [Tree Talk] New comment on A very common tree question about water uptake.

Nearly everyone I know has noticed the same thing over the years, that real Xmas trees do not have the strong tree smell that they used to have. This is not because we all go to the cheapest lots. I have gone to many a TOP tree lot, and took a whiff of their BEST and most expensive trees, and, still NO SCENT!

This is a real problem, and I can only guess what the problem is. I cannot help but think, that just like with other products, producers are cutting corners as much as they can to grow things, larger, FASTER, and CHEAPER, through bad selective breeding, bad soil, and bad nutrients.

Reluctantly, I've gone to using just an artificial tree. I can only hope that enough people complain enough to generate a market which will bring back Xmas tree-scented Xmas trees.

hmm...not sure what to tell you Arnie. My tree smells fantastic! I'm not a doctor, but I'm pretty sure that sense of smell changes over time, just like hearing and vision. I also know that sense of smell is subjective and different from person to person. So you might smell something and say "that doesn't smell very strong" and someone else might say "whew, that is potent!"

Here are the things I do know: you can NOT selectively breed out scent from a plant. And even if you could, why would a farmer want to? Seriously. And if it were scientifically possible, wouldn't that actually be more expensive, not less?

Airborne molecules that our noses pick up as scent are released by the resin in a plant. More resin is prominent when a tree has slowly come out of a dormant state and absorbed a lot of water. So it's quite common for it to take a few days inside the home before a Christmas tree smells it's strongest.

I'm sorry to hear you bought a fake tree. Have fun with that.

From: Ron
Sent: Friday, December 10, 2010 1:07 PM
Subject: Christmas Tree info- help !!

Tuesday night we got our 1st ever perfect tree. We cut 1" fresh cut and put it in water. Wed. I checked the water and was good. Thursday we finished the decorations. (forgot to check water), and Friday morning I noticed that it is completely dry. I don't know how long it was w/o water. I am SO SAD. My son drilled about 6, 1/4 " holes in the side of the base . . Doesn't water go up just under the bark? Will this work? or what can I do, now?

No, unfortunately drilling holes in the side won’t work. For a full scientific explanation, read the blog dated Nov 30 . If you think there was more than 6 hours or so where the cut surface was exposed to air, then the only real effective solution is to make a fresh cut. That removes the plant tissue with air molecules in it so the plant can be re-primed to absorb water molecules.

Sorry, I know that’s not the answer you wanted to hear, but it really is the same thing as with cut flower, snipping off the bottom before putting in a vase of water.

From: Robert
Sent: Tuesday, December 07, 2010 6:06 PM
Subject: Too much aspirin?

Is it possible that I killed my spruce by putting too many aspirins in its water? I've had the tree well watered for over a week and it's begun to lose a lot of needles. I put a hand full of aspirins in the water.

Aspirin is acidic and a lot of it would change the Ph level of the water. Besides, it does not help the tree absorb more water in any way. Remove that water and replace with regular tap water. Plain tap water. Don’t add anything to the tree’s water. Plain tap water.

From: Lorri
Sent: Tuesday, December 07, 2010 11:36 AM
Subject: Christmas Tree Question

I just purchased a fake Christmas tree that was made in China. I live in California. No where on the box or instructions is there a warning regarding lead. I read on your site that California requires a warning label for trees made in China that contain lead. Can I assume that this tree is safe? We also purchase a live tree. The fake tree is for an extra room in the house.

I don’t know if you can assume that or not Lorri. I think the California Prop 65 law has to do with % content of PVC in products, but I’m not an expert on that. My expertise is with farm-grown Christmas trees.

I'm sorry to hear you got a fake tree. Have fun with that.

From: Kriss
Sent: Monday, December 06, 2010 8:58 PM
Subject: Blog Talk Ideas

I cut down a fresh tree in Fraser yesterday, and when I got home, I cut a few feet off the bottom (because it was too tall) but providing a fresh cut. I immediately put it in the stand and filled it with water. It's been 24 hours and the water level hasn't gone all? This doesn't seem right?? Did I hurt the tree cutting too much off the bottom?

No, you didn’t hurt the tree. The rate of water absorption will not be even. Typically it will be within 24 hours that it starts absorbing water, but not always. I’ve had a tree that took 3 days. The plant has to come out of a dormant state and that can take a while. Just make sure to keep the stand full of water because once it starts taking up water it can take up a bunch in a short time.

From: kriss
Sent: Tuesday, December 07, 2010 11:58 AM
To: Rick Dungey
Subject: Re: Blog Talk Ideas

Yay, thank you much, I am relieved and will start decorating it tonite! :) Thank you for being available for questions, this was really helpful!

Merry Christmas!!!

Sure, glad I could help. Keep the questions coming. Have you heard something really strange about Christmas trees this year? Let us know and send us a link.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The tree is up!

This past weekend I finally had time to put up and decorate my tree. I put it inside in it's stand on Friday night and then decorated the thing on Sunday while watching football. So let's review the timeline: I ordered it online from The Rocks Tree Farm in New Hampshire back in November (can't remember the day); they cut it down and boxed it up and shipped it on November 22. It arrived at my house on November 29 (that's actually only 4 shipping days because of Thanksgiving); I made a fresh cut and set it in a bucket of water on my porch on December 1; I put in the stand on December 3; and then decorated it on December 5.

That may seem like A LOT of time...but think about it. From the ordering and cutting and putting up in the stand, I actually spent maybe 20 total minutes. Seriously! 20! That's it. Fake tree people are loony when they try to convince people that getting a farm-grown tree is a "hassle". My sister told me that it takes her more than an hour to get their big ugly fake tree out of the attic and assemble it. HA!

Watch the video I took of putting the stand on to get a few more tips.

And here's the final product. Aint' she a beee-yoot?

So to see the timeline visually, it went from the farm:

To my front door:

To my living room:

Gosh, I love Christmas trees! What fun! And this thing is just what I ordered too. Nice and skinny so it doesn't overwhelm my space. And the tree took up a LOT of water. It was more than a gallon of water in the first 12 hours and then another 2 gallons the rest of the weekend. I had to put my reservoir system full of water next to it while I was out of town the past 2 days. It probably weighs way more than it did with all that water inside it. And it'll last for weeks and weeks and weeks.

OK, sorry to keep rambling about my tree. I'll not show it again until I'm ready to get it recycled back into the Earth. Tomorrow I'll post some common and unique questions we've been getting.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

fish or electricity?

One common question we often get is what to do with a tree you've got home but are not setting up right away. Partly it depends on where you live...advice for someone in say, south Texas would be different than for someone in say, Duluth, Minnesota. But in general, it's a good idea to go ahead and make a fresh cut off the trunk if it hasn't had one in the last 3-6 hours. Then just set the tree into a big bucket of water and lean it against a wall. Leave it in the netting, or in my case the box, and set it somewhere out of the sun and wind as much as possible.

I just did that to the tree we've been following from The Rocks Tree Farm in New Hampshire where it was planted, grown and harvested. It arrived at my house this week, but I'm not ready to set it up inside and decorate yet. So made a fresh cut last night and now have it in a bucket of water on my porch. Here's a quick video of this process.

So I was reading the December issue of Men's Health the other day at lunch and I see an article quoting some allergy doctor saying Christmas trees are bad because they increase mold in a home. What a bunch of hooey. I don't know who this guy is, but I suspect he has an ulterior motive. He claimed he had done a “study” showing a farm-grown Christmas tree raised mold levels in the home.

Dr. Santilli was resoundingly discredited by a group of scientists from his same state of Connecticut shortly after he started conducting interviews in 2007 offering insight into his so-called study. The National Christmas Tree Association issued a White Paper authored and signed by six scientists to allay concerns people may have about Christmas trees if they hear Dr. Santilli’s claims. The White Paper included these points:

Airborne fungi/molds are ubiquitous. Most people are unaffected by exposure to moderate amounts of mold.

The author(s) linked allergenic fungal spores to real Christmas trees without sufficient scientific proof. The data presented are clearly preliminary and the conclusions made by the author(s) are not supported by sound science due to shortcomings in the experimental design.

The presentation states that the number of spores increased during a 2-week trapping period when a fresh tree was placed in a house and decorated. It did not identify the spores, provide baselines and controls, use a proper sampling plan and was not replicated—these are all necessary components of a properly designed study.

There were no indoor and outdoor checks/controls to determine the origin of airborne molds. A well designed study needs to take samples from a comparable room without a Christmas tree in the house as an indoor check and samples from an outdoor location as an outdoor check.

Airborne molds are complex in biological life cycles, ecology and population dynamics in both indoor and outdoor environments. Populations and types of airborne molds can vary with time: within 24 hours, seasons, locations, and geographical areas.

The trend they reported might be interesting, but additional studies would be necessary to provide science-based proof of their hypothesis and for the conclusions of the study. As it is presented, most scientists would consider the information as anecdotal.

In other words, it was completely useless as a source of information or consumer health advice. Send me an email if you'd like a full copy of the White Paper I mentioned.

I got an email that may be the answer to the rare but intriguing question about why a Christmas tree smells like fish.

From: Kevin
Sent: Wednesday, December 01, 2010 9:14 PM
Subject: Christmas tree smelly

I thought that my Christmas tree smelled "fishy", a very bad smell.

It was not the tree, and it was not the water in the stand.

It was a melting electrical outlet that we only use around Christmas time.

The outlet smelled like rotten fish, and when I removed the cover it shot sparks and was black and melted by the wires that connect to it. Please let people know about this issue.

Hmmm …now that is interesting. Thanks Kevin. I always thought that electrical shorts smelled like ozone. Are you an electrician by chance? Is this common?

I am not an electrician. The same thing happened last year in another outlet in the same room. I have too many outlets on one circuit, and that includes the outlets in my garage where I plug in the outside lights. I can send you a picture of the bad outlet if you want.

Well, thanks Kevin. Are there any electricians out there that can shed some light on this?

More common questions to come later this week.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Common Questions

Lots of people went out this past weekend to get their special tree for this year and begin decorating. It's such a great tradition! From the un-scientific poll we conducted with about 75 retail locations, it seems tree sales were brisk, at least at choose and cut farms. You can see some of the quotes here.

Hey! My tree got here yesterday! Woohoo! So here's what it looked like just last week at The Rocks Tree Farm in New Hampshire where it was planted and grown.

Now here it is on my front porch after I ordered it online last week and it was harvested, boxed up and shipped. You can read earlier posts to follow the whole story.

I can't wait until this weekend when I have free time to put the tree up and decorate! Stay tuned, I can video some of that.

OK, on to some common questions. Obviously we've edited out the email address and full name of people who send in questions, but the questions and answers are just as they are.

From: l_nettesheim
Sent: Tuesday, November 30, 2010 12:30 PM
Subject: conflicting information

On my lunch today, I researched several web pages, and found that just as many comments that both recommend AND dispel the practice of 'drilling holes' in the trunk to increase water uptake for my christmas tree.

Can you settle the debate for me?

Yes, I can. It doesn’t really help. Here’s the scientific explanation.

The cambium is a thin layer of living cells just beneath the bark. When the cambial cells divide, they produce bark to the outside, and xylem (wood) to the inside. Technically, the cambium is only a few layers of cells in thickness. There are two types of xylem (wood): sapwood and heartwood. The sapwood normally makes up a zone of annual growth rings just beneath the bark. Sapwood is efficient in transporting water. At some point -- varies by species -- the sapwood becomes heartwood, and dies. This is easy to see in many species, e.g., white oak has a tan sapwood; yellow-poplar has a green sapwood; redwood has red sapwood. One characteristic of most heartwood is extractives -- chemicals deposited into the cells before they die. One classic example is "fat pine" or "heart pine", the heartwood of longleaf pine. It is very dense and oily with a nice fragrance. This heartwood is impervious to water, very resistant to decay, and difficult to glue. The primary purpose of heartwood is support and strength for the stem.

Normally, Christmas trees are not grown to an age where heartwood forms. Consequently, all the wood in the trunk is sapwood, which can transport water. Thus, the available wood to take up water is essentially the cross-sectional area of the wood in the stem. If you drill a small hole in the center of the trunk, it represents only a small fraction of the cross-sectional area on a typical tree with a trunk diameter of say 4 or 5 inches. Therefore the water uptake would be little affected. Further, if the depth of water in the stand is sufficient to reach the upper end of the hole, there is essentially no reduction in the area available for water uptake.

From: Amanda
Sent: Monday, November 29, 2010 7:32 AM
Subject: blog question about my Christmas Tree

We got a 12 foot tree yesterday at a local lot. They put a fresh cut at bottom when we got it and we had it home and in the tree stand in water within about 3 hours. I just checked this morning and it looks like the tree is not drinking much water. The water is only about a 1/4 inch lower than when I filled it. Our trees usually drink a lot more over night. Is it ok or do we need a fresh cut?

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. It can take some time for the plant to come out of a state of dormancy. Just keep the stand filled with water because it can absorb A LOT of water in a short period of time once it starts.

From: Janelle
Sent: Thursday, November 25, 2010 8:16 PM
Subject: Christmas Tree Question

This year will be my first tree with my new family. Obviously, I've had trees in the past when I was younger, but I never experienced something like this before. My tree is making a clicking noise. I heard it could be the sap, settling, cracks in the bark or even pine beetles or some other sort of bug infestation. It's almost constantly clicking/crackling with or without the lights on. Do you have any sort of insight on what this most likely is?? No one seems to have a definite answer even though this seems to be fairly common.

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: Al Jr.
Sent: Monday, November 29, 2010 6:16 PM
Subject: bleach

hi NCTA i have a question that i have always wondered about.

why do some people put bleach in christmas trees? what exactly does it do?

I can’t speak to reasons people would have to do that, I just know that the scientists recommend against it. It does nothing beneficial for the tree and can actually kill plant tissue.

Keep the questions coming. More to come later this week.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

White House Christmas Tree Gets Thumbs Up

A beautiful Douglas-fir will be the Official White House Christmas Tree this year and will be displayed in the Blue Room throughout the holiday season. The tree was officially presented to the First Lady Michelle Obama in a ceremony at the North Portico on Friday.

The tree was grown and presented by Christmas Tree farmer Christopher Botek of Crystal Springs Tree Farm II of Lehighton, Pa. Botek earned this honor by winning the National Christmas Tree Association's (NCTA) national Christmas Tree contest held in August 2010 in Winston-Salem, N.C., and becoming Grand Champion.

The First Lady and her daughters Malia and Sasha looked the tree over and gave it the thumbs up. Mrs. Obama exclaimed, “We’ll take it!” and wished all “Happy Holidays!”

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Christmas Trees and Tomatoes

And away we go...let the hectic-ness begin in earnest!

First, a word about this blog entry title. I did a long interview today with Beth Wilson, host of an internet blog radio show called Enlisted Spouse Radio. We talked about trees, and talked about the Trees for Troops program obviously, and even talked about indoor gardening for a while. She told me she grew tomatoes inside her home, which I never knew you could do. So I told her I was going to title my next blog "Christmas Trees and Tomotoes" ...I am a man of my word. You can hear the program here.

The tree we are following from farm to home this year was harvested today and sent on its way here to St. Louis. It should arrive maybe this weekend, but we can track it. You can watch a video of the tree being harvested and how they get one into a box on The Rocks Tree Farm's YouTube channel. Click here to see it.

This is gonna be fun really. The Boston Globe was out at the farm today to also document the tree being sent on its way to the Midwest, and we're planning to have plenty of photos and video of the tree once it gets here.

So, just after Thanksgiving, I'll start sharing some of the email questions we get from tree enthusiasts. I try to stick either very common questions or very odd questions. Answers to all will be included. You are welcome to email your questions to or post comments directly here on the blog. As you can see from previous entries, I always remove the full name and email addy before posting here.

Just for a sneak preview though, I got this email recently:
From: Denise
Sent: Thursday, November 18, 2010 8:52 PM
Subject: Blog Talk Ideas
Importance: High

I recently saw an artificial Christmas tree at Hobby Lobby. It had a snow look on the tips & it felt like a plastic or an acrylic. It was definity hard, you could tap your finger nail on it. It was white & what I liked about it was that it would not rub off, like a flocking spray. Do you have any idea what it might have been? Thank you for your help, Denise.

I have no idea what kind of plastic it is. We only use farm-grown real trees, not fake plastic ones.

(shaking head)....

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Order Up!

This year marks the 500th anniversary of the first decorated Christmas Tree, recorded in 1510 in Riga, Latvia. A special 500th Anniversary section has been added to the NCTA web site, click on it to check out what’s available. Have you watched the promotion video done by the Riga tourism folks? You really should, it's impressive. You can watch it here.

I heard there was a commercial on the Mike & Mike show on ESPN2 this morning for Bass Pro Shops that talked about a traditional Christmas and having a Real Christmas Tree. If anyone knows where I can see a copy of that commercial, email us. We’d love to see it. I sometimes watch Mike & Mike in the morning, but didn’t today. DOH!

So apparently our idea of following a tree on the blog from the farm to a home is an interesting enough idea that our little story is getting some attention. Myself and The Rocks Tree Farm in New Hampshire are working with a writer at the Boston Globe to do a feature story on the tree we are following. That’ll be fun.

So today, I went ahead and did the official ordering of the tree. I shot a little video just to show that it really is like ordering anything else online. You can watch the video at our YouTube channel. Sometimes people ask me, “aren’t you afraid of ordering a tree sight unseen?” Well, sure, I guess there’s some risk that the tree I end up with will not be what I had in mind when I ordered it. Whether it will be a different size than what I thought I ordered, or sheared differently or whatever. But, think about it...the farm is really taking the bigger risk. They have to send me a tree and hope that I like it and the buying experience enough that I become a repeat customer and talk about them, leading to referral business. They know nothing about me...I’m just an address and a credit card number.

I think it’s a lot like buying a floral arrangement for a wedding, birthday or funeral services and having it delivered somewhere you aren't. I do that all the time too. There’s lots of online flower delivery businesses out there. You just check a box next to a photo of an arrangement that looks good and is in your price range. I’ve never had any problem with that product, and I’ve never had any problem with a Christmas tree. I check the box next to a picture of the size and species I want, and a few days later I have my tree.

Well, anyway, I ordered the tree – a little sooner than I normally would – but it will be here in St. Louis next week. And hey, next week is Thanksgiving already!!! Woohoo! Tree sales starts in only 9 days!

Next week we’ll have an update on the tree from farm to home and start sharing some email questions, which are already coming in.

Friday, November 5, 2010

50 days until Christmas!!!

Here's something cool. The official 500th Anniversary “The Spirit of Christmas” commemorative painting to benefit the Christmas Spirit Foundation & the National Christmas Tree Association arrived in our office. Lauren from our office is holding it up here while we figure out a place to display it. The original painting was done by artist Jesse Barnes.

You can also buy a copy from Fine Art Limited

I found this story amusing. One of our members in Virginia emailed me about a request they received from a regional magazine to be interviewed about trees. This is not an uncommon thing at all. What was amusing in a "what-were-they-thinking" way was that the article they had written had lines like "people with an avid respect for the environment should choose an artificial Christmas tree" ....WHAT?!!?? Seriously???

First of all, this is completely wrong, but even if you falsely believe that, why then would you expect a tree farmer to help you with that article? More irony, the magazine's mission partly is to be a "seasonal publication that will connect consumers with local family farmers" ....uh, huh. Yet you tell your readers to buy a fake tree made in a factory in China instead of a real tree grown on a family farm.


Friday, October 22, 2010

From farm to home

So last month I posted that we would be blogging about a specific tree going from a farm in New Hampshire to my house here in St. Louis. The idea is that it gives insight maybe into where trees come from in order to get to your living room. There are still a handful of misinformed people out there who think Christmas trees are just harvested from the wild. And, there are many people who don't realize that you can order a tree online.

So, to enlighten folks on these two subjects, Nigel Manley, the manager of a tree farm in New Hampshire, and I brainstormed at the Christmas tree convention this past summer. We weaved together the idea of blogging about a specific tree this year with plenty of images and video. You can see some older posts about it below.

I've purchased a tree online from Nigel's farm before, so I'm familiar with how they do it. Anyway, Nigel posted a video about our inanimate subject recently just following their first snowfall of the year. click here to watch the latest video. And stay tuned throughout this Autumn to watch the tree get harvested, boxed up, shipped to me, and put up in my living room.

The tree I ordered this year is a Balsam fir.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The "debate" that won't die

Interesting discussion with Chelsey this week about our Christmas tree myths page. Here is a sample:


From: Chelsey
Sent: Monday, October 18, 2010 4:06 PM
Subject: Christmas Tree Facts Page


Just so you know, I got on your site for information on real trees. I’ve always had a fake tree, and have never had a problem. However, since they’ve lately gotten more affordable, and we just bought our first home, I thought a real tree would be nice this year. Now I’m not sure because reading your “10 myths about real Christmas trees” piece was a real turn-off for me. You are incredibly derogative to “fake tree people”. Really?? Just state the great things about owning a real tree instead of insulting the very people that you are trying to convert. There are plenty of ways to say the same thing in a positive light. When your goal is to persuade someone, you want to convince them, not offend them. Left such a bad taste in my mouth that I think I am reconsidering my decision. Just FYI

Thanks for the feedback Chelsey. We’ve gotten some interesting and varied responses to that section from all over the world.

From: Chelsey
Sent: Monday, October 18, 2010 4:26 PM
To: Rick Dungey
Subject: RE: Christmas Tree Facts Page

You’re welcome. I work in advertising, and studied a lot in persuasion through college. And to persuade someone, you want to cater more toward them and give the benefits of the other view point, without “demeaning theirs”. It’s much more effective! Facts are always the best, without using too much personal interjection - not that you can’t have fun with it! If you cater to the people that already buy real trees, you won’t increase your business…which really is the whole point, right?? :)

Thanks for the response. Always nice to know when someone actually reads the “contact us” emails…

Yeppers, I’m certainly a real person. This will be my 13th season working for the Christmas tree association. One thing to keep in mind, NCTA is a non-profit association, and not a for-profit business. Our members of course are business owners. Our budget to fulfill our mission of promoting the use of farm-grown Christmas trees is certainly small, as many non-profits’ are. And certainly MUCH smaller than any fake tree companies’ marketing budgets. We do the best we can to do just what you suggest, which is to get facts to families so they can make informed decisions about a farm-grown tree versus a plastic tree. While I am glad to hear your take on the mythbusting page, I would steadfastly submit that all facts on the page are proven facts and are clearly distinguishable from any editorial writing on my part. It has clearly been effective too, as you can see from a fake tree company’s copy-cat site put up shortly after our myths page appeared.

It’s a struggle the tree farmers and retailers have been engaged in with plastic tree importers for almost 40 years now. Fake tree ads for years have included things like “real trees can burst into flames” and “buying an artificial tree saves forests” …totally false claims like that. Much of the feedback on the myths page has been in the vein of “it’s about time the farmers started fighting back”. …like I said, it’s been interesting.

Good luck in your search. I would recommend maybe a 1- year get a fake tree, and the next year get a farm-grown tree approach, so you can make a comparison and decide for the future. But I simply can’t in any capacity recommend using a plastic Christmas tree. My opinion is biased, and I make no bones about it.

Thanks Chelsey. And just to clarify, it's not "fake tree people" that bother me so much, it's the fake trees that bother me. What do you all think of the Christmas Tree Myths page?


or this?

Not much of a debate in my mind.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Well, the Trees for Troops program did not get the Pepsi Refresh grant in September, but it did make the top 100, so it rolls over into the October contest. Woohoo! That means you need to VOTE EVERY DAY the rest of the month.

Interesting news story this week about struggling plastic tree factories in China. Apparently they are struggling partly because they don’t want to pay their workers.

Little Cheer in China's Factories

In late summer, production lines across China's "world factory" usually crank up to meet a surge in Christmas orders. Activity this year, however, has been relatively modest on weak Western demand.

"The U.S. market has not come back and the European market is dropping," said Leona Lam, CEO of the toymaker firm Leconcepts, which does around $250 million of business annually. "I don't see a good Christmas this year for factories."

Lai Xiao Wen, who runs a 50-worker plastic Christmas tree plant, sees bleak times ahead as production costs and wages rise. "It's very tough," said Lai. "I want to change businesses."
Another maker of Christmas trees in Guangzhou noted a 30% rise in orders, but said it was proving tough to find skilled workers to manufacture more trees. "The only way to find more workers is to pay them a lot more," said Frank Shang of Pretty Xmas Tree Manufacturing, producer of 400,000 trees a year. "But we can't afford that."

A recent survey of 60 manufacturers by the Federation of Hong Kong Industries showed a third saying they could only withstand a wage increase of 5%. Wages have doubled in some places after minimum wage increases, spreading labor shortages and a spate of strikes at multinationals like Honda.
Source: Reuters

On a totally unrelated note, we got an email from Lesle about the essay contest (which unfortunately we no longer have). She writes:

My daughter is a senior in high school and was given the assignment from her English teacher to write an essay for a scholarship. She searched on line and found your contest. After turning in the assignment we learned you no longer offer this scholarship. As a parent who has always tried to install the holiday spirit I was thrilled to read her essay. I hope you can share it with others and it will inspire them to also create special family memories.

OK, I’m happy to share this essay written by Allise. Read it and find joy.

My whole childhood revolved around one holiday. Christmas is my mother's world, her cherished celebration, her admitted obsession, and her joyous occasion. December 25th and the surrounding weeks have always been special to me: a time for family, fun, and faith. What symbol is better for Christmas than a marvelously decorated natural fir tree sitting in the living room?

During the first week ofDecember in 1986, my parents picked out, cut down, and brought home a beautiful tree. The next day, my mother went into labor and gave birth to my older brother, Daniel. From that year, until 2005 our family cut down our own Douglas fir tree. A family tradition that continued for 20 years has always been a special trip to the Christmas tree farm in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. After buying a tree my mother immediately makes sure the entire family takes part in finding their ornaments and placing them on the tree.

Each Christmas, she buys us a special ornament to represent what we have done throughout the past year. A car for Daniel's 16th birthday, a glass blown cat for my first pet. Our family tree sits proudly in the living room. My collection of porcelain Barbies mingle with the superstitious German pickle. While Noah's ark rests next to a baby bootie from 1993. The lights illuminate the living room from dusk till dawn, a source of light both literally and in a figurative sense. The tree is a nightlight during midnight snacks and a lovely compliment to the glow of candles as we reminisce of Christmas' past after a traditional meal with family.

In my household, Christmas has always been a month long celebration as a time to enjoy the Christian faith which moves my soul. Our family Christmas tree has always reminded me ofthe peace that comforts me in times oftrouble, the hope I will always have in people, and the joy that comes with everlasting life through my faith in Jesus Christ. I have always loved coming home to see the tree glimmering in the living room.

A Christmas tree is more than a decoration to me. Yes, it is a place to stow presents until Christmas Eve, and yes, it is a lovely clubhouse for my pet cat, but it is so much more than that. It is a symbol of memories, family, and faith. Nothing could replace my childhood memories of searching out the perfect real tree.

Very nice Allise. You’ve inspired me. I hope you keep that spirit alive throughout your life and continue to share it with others.

On another totally unrelated note, someone emailed me this newspaper clipping. It’s a sad and funny, but really sad, illustration of just how disconnected some people are from agriculture. It doesn’t have anything to do with Christmas Trees, but it illustrates the point.

Friday, September 24, 2010


Don't forget to vote...every DAY!!! The Trees for Troops program is still in the top 100 for the Pepsi Refresh grant contest for September but needs a late month push to get the money and provide more trees to service men and women and their families this year.

We watched the preview clip of a short film by Susan Sfarra and put it in our youtube favorites. Watch it here. Susan writes, "my short film THE GROWING SEASON, which was inspired by my early life on a Christmas tree farm. The film continues to screen at film festivals. It screened at a few more film fests in the US and recently finished screening at the Salento International Film Festival in Italy and will screen in Hamburg, Germany next month."

It's a fascinating look into farm work during the summer at Christmas tree farm. It's particularly good for those few misinformed people who think it's a shame to cut down Christmas trees because they come from a forest.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

September tidbits

A few interesting things going on this week.

First, don’t forget to vote for the Trees for Troops program in the Pepsi Refresh grant contest. You can vote once per day online AND once per day by text. That’s 2 votes per day. USE THEM!! Click here.

Second, now that the schools are back in session, many tree farms are planning out their farm tours with school and youth groups. Harvest season and Christmas season are the most popular times for school tours at Christmas tree farms. Although, I’m sure many would love to have the groups out during planting season in the spring too. Here’s a link to a great article about a tree farm in Virginia that does a fantastic job with tours. They go way beyond just “come visit our farm” and incorporate solid education for the kids into the tours. It’s written from the perspective of teaching other tree farm owners / managers how to do better tours, but I think it reads well for anyone, especially if you are a teacher or a youth group leader interested in taking your group of kids on a farm tour.

Third, keep an eye out for the news around the selection of the White House Christmas Tree. It’s taking place a little earlier this year, September 28 to be exact. Now, they won’t actually harvest the tree selected until just before the presentation after Thanksgiving, but staff members from the White House will be visiting the farm of the Grand Champion and picking out which tree they would like. The Grand Champion for 2010 is Crystal Springs Tree Farm II in Lehighton, Pennsylvania. The farm is owned by Christopher Botek. You can read about him winning the National Tree Contest here .

Lastly, I was talking with a farm manager at the convention last month about purchasing trees online. His farm, The Rocks Christmas Tree farm in New Hampshire, sells a pretty large number of trees via online sales. The trees are shipped directly to your home. I was telling him that, while there had been numerous news stories about this over the years, it’s still somewhat of a surprise to most people that they can buy a tree this way. We even posted a video on our YouTube channel last year showing how the tree arrives and how easy it is to take one out of the box and set it up. Check it out here .

So our idea was to go even further and show a tree from “field to family room” as it were. He’s already selected a tree from one of his fields and tagged it. I can blog about it throughout the season and will post pics or vids of the tree all the way through the process until it’s set up and decorated in my home.

I don’t idea?

Here’s the photos of the tree selected.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Tree Farms Need Your Help in Supporting our Military

Help us bring an additional 5,000 military families together in SPIRIT this Christmas, just by clicking the mouse a couple times per day.

Trees for Troops in the Running for $250,000 in grant money from the Pepsi Refresh Project! I emailed the Rush Limbaugh show today to see if they would champion this effort by urging listeners to vote for us each day in September. You never know ...

Since 2005, Trees for Troops has reached over 67,000 military families by delivering fresh Christmas trees donated by American farmers to service members and their families across the U.S. We can add to that number with additional funds.

During the month of September, we are competing for a $250,000 grant in the Pepsi Refresh Project that will help deliver an additional 5,000 trees to military families this Christmas.


Here's the link to vote for the T4T project can also vote with a text from your cell phone.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Making an Eco-Friendly Christmas tree choice

I was asked recently by a magazine editor to sum up in a sentence or two why a farm-grown Christmas tree was better than fake, plastic tree. I struggled to get it down to one or two sentences (because the reasons are so many) but I can expand here.

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 45 million new trees were planted by North American Christmas Tree farmers. There are close to half a billion 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 to prevent erosion, protect green spaces and support complex eco-systems. And of course, farm-grown Christmas trees can be 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 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. But 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.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Making fun of fake trees

OK, so I like to use the "slow season" to poke fun at fake trees. Here's an article from a publication called Christmas 365 that describes, in detail, how to clean a fake Christmas tree. In the summer time. It's 3 pages worth of instructions. Seriously.

ummmmm I guess those arguments from fake tree people about their product being "more convenient" than a farm-grown Christmas tree are, wrong? I can certainly think of WAY better things to do in the summer than get a fake tree out of storage and clean it, and I certainly think a real tree is WAY better in the first place.

Enjoy....and snicker.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

500 Years and Counting!

We have a guest blog submitted this week by Richard Moore, President of the National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA) and his wife, Kay. Richard and Kay own and operate Moore Tree Farm in Groton, New York.

Above (l. to r.) are Franz Raith of Austria and President of The Christmas Tree Growers Council of Europe, Dick and Kay Moore, and Bernd Oelkers, of Germany, who hosted the meeting.

We recently returned from Hamburg, Germany where we attended the summer meeting of the Christmas Tree Growers Council of Europe (CTGCE) to discuss world wide plans for the 500th anniversary of the decorated Christmas Tree. The 500th anniversary plans call for highlighting, century by century, how trees were decorated from the 1500’s to the 21st century. Each century denotes changes from paper ornaments to hand painted works of art to today’s battery powered led displays.

The earliest recorded history of the decorated Christmas Tree is 1510 in the city of Riga in the northern European country of Latvia. According to their legend, the men of the Order of the Blackheads (a long-time merchant’s guild) decorated a tree with paper roses for the marketplace. The fir tree commemorated the Holy Child and the roses were a symbol of the Virgin Mary.

The Christmas Tree Growers Council of Europe is comprised of 13 member nations who represent a vast majority of the Christmas Trees grown in Europe. The two day summer meeting consisted of farm tours, nursery tours, and a ½ day business meeting. The Europeans prefer a more open, less dense tree since over 50% of the homes decorate their tree with real lighted candles. Nordman Fir accounts for upwards of 80% of the market and trees are planted on spacing’s as tight as 32” by 32”. By comparison, common spacing for trees on Christmas Tree farms here in the U.S. is 66” by 72”.

One particularly amazing thing we saw was specialized operator seated equipment that has a high degree of hydraulics; developed so that it can base prune, fertilize, spray, top shear and cut the trees for harvest…all in one machine. Jutek calls this their "portal tractor" to which all of the aforementioned devices connect. The Portal comes in many styles, both one and two row models, with or without cab, and optional spray out riggers to cover four rows at once.

More information about the above organizations can be found at:

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Christmas in July?

well, while not specifically about Christmas Trees by themselves, we did an interview with the local Radio Disney station last week about the Chrismas SPIRIT Foundation's Trees for Troops program. Check it out...30 mins long.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Straw "Christmas Trees" help clean up the Gulf

Thanks to everyone who sent in great stories about how recycling farm-grown Christmas trees gives back to nature and helps the environment. You can see some examples of these on this NCTA web page

Now, a common Christmas tree related machine is helping Gulf Coast residents clean up and protect natural resources from the oil spill. When you buy your farm-grown Christmas tree, most places will put the tree through a netting machine to make it easier and safer to transport home and set up. They are using one of those machines and donated netting to bail up straw instead of Christmas trees. The tubes of netted straw absorb encroaching oil and protect shoreline. Here's an excerpt of an email we received from Steve Mannhard, a Christmas Tree farmer in southern Alabama, who has donated the use of his netting machine.

First, to the folks at Kirk Company, on behalf of residents of Baldwin County, AL on the Gulf Coast, particularly residents of the Josephine Community, which is across Arnica Bay from Orange Beach, Perdido Bay, and the Gulf, we send a giant THANK YOU for the generous donation of netting you promptly donated to the cause of making these unique booms made of hay and Christmas Tree netting. The project was successful in the construction, and we await yet another oil invasion into Perdido Bay from the Gulf to test it. The volunteers making the boom increased their efficiency from some 8 boom sections per hour to well over 50 per hour by using the Kirk baler that I donated to the cause and the netting. The resulting sausages of boom will be deployed as a barrier of last resort once the oil invades the back bays again. It can be deployed quickly, absorb the oil, and be replaced quickly, so the folks are ready with a homemade product to protect their marshlands, inlets, and fragile beaches.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Help Support Trees for Troops with a few clicks!

Supporting military troops and their families this Christmas is just a few clicks away. Trees for Troops, a program of the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation, makes the holidays a little brighter for military personnel and their families by giving them fresh, full-sized farm-grown Christmas Trees grown by American farm families.

Trees for Troops is competing with charities nationwide through the Chase Community Giving Program. More than $5 million will be distributed to top vote getters, in amounts ranging from $25,000 up to $250,000.

You can brighten the holidays for thousands of military families by casting a vote for the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation through the Chase Community Giving program running on the Facebook platform.
Click here, then
on the “Get Started” button on our profile page. Just follow the directions to cast your vote. Don’t delay. Votes must be in by July 12.

Many military personnel spend the holidays far from family members – both immediate and their extended families. The gift of a tree expresses to the military families that they are not alone and that America appreciates their service and sacrifice.

Trees for Troops Facts:
Since 2005, the program has delivered more than 66,000 Real Christmas Trees to military families at more than 50 bases across the U.S. and overseas.

In 2009, Trees for Troops delivered more than 16,500 trees to all branches of the military.
Approximately 300 trees are shipped overseas for troops in the Middle East; the rest are distributed to military families throughout the United States.

As a recipient of the Chase Community Giving program, Trees for Troops would be able to expand and provide even more Christmas spirit to military families.

If you have questions about the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation’s Trees for Troops program or would like to get involved, please contact or call 636/449-5060.

About the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation
The Christmas SPIRIT Foundation – based in Chesterfield, Mo – is a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit foundation that advances the Christmas spirit for children, families and the environment. Trees for Troops is just one of its projects. For more details, go to