Chicken Coop Chatter©
Did you know there are 15,000 registered Christmas tree farms in this country? All 50 states share the billion dollar market for 25-30 million fresh Christmas trees annually. Of those 50 states, did you know that Oregon and Washington are the leading producers, along with Michigan, Wisconsin, North Carolina and Pennsylvania? In 2013, 63,000 acres of Oregon land was devoted to Christmas tree farming. Many of those farms also have additional market shares in retail sales of hand crafted Christmas decor and offer sleigh and wagon rides to patrons looking for the perfect Christmas tree, while others have pre-cut trees available for sale or will cut and load the tree selected by the customer. The most commonly grown and available trees here in the Northwest are Douglas Fir, Nobel Fir, and Grand Fir. I am especially partial to the Grand Fir.
Here in the Pacific NW, those commercially grown trees are cut then harvested via Helicopter and loaded onto trucks to be shipped around the nation and to other countries. The skill of those pilots is something amazing to observe as they work non-stop loading the trucks in all kinds of weather. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=08K_aEajzNA . The pilots are under strict air traffic controls, but are allowed to fly in low visibility and inclement weather conditions that would typically ground the helicopters any other time of year. They are required to be in constant contact with air traffic control while harvesting the trees. Though the pilots are well trained and do an amazing job, there are times when they do go down while loading the trucks, it is a very risky job as they fly very close to the tops of trees and in very tight quarters.
The very first tree farm in this country was started by a land owner and logger in NY state, that realized it was difficult for most people to get out to cut a tree in the forest, so he harvested trees from his land and brought them into the heart of the city, thus starting not only the first Christmas tree farm, but the first commercial Christmas tree stand for the purchase of those trees back in 1851. It was in 1856 that Franklin Pierce our 14th President commissioned a decorated tree in the White House, but nearly 100 years later in 1923 President Calvin Coolidge presented the very first lighting ceremony on the White House Lawn. It was still nearly 10 years later before NY began having a Christmas Tree lighting ceremony in the town square in 1931.
Even back in the mid 1800s people were concerned that having a Christmas tree to display would decimate the population of Pine and Fir tree forests, but it was quickly established that there were always young trees growing that made suitable Christmas trees, and farms cropped up across the nation to provide trees that were grown for the purpose of Christmas trees. Those trees do not naturally grow in that typical vision of a pyramid, they are cultured and sheared to have that shape, though there are farms you can purchase just a naturally grown tree that is not that perfect shape we associate with a Christmas tree. My oldest son worked on a Christmas tree farm, shearing those trees with a razor sharp machete' and he bears deep scars from those blades.
The first record of a decorated Christmas tree was recorded in 1510, and the first lighting available in string lights was in 1890, when Thomas Edison's assistant developed and began selling them. Until then any lighting on the trees was candles. Even though Christmas trees were available, they did not become a centerpiece in homes until 1905, which is about the same time that elaborate store displays began showing up in the department stores of the large cities.
The Germans developed the first artificial tree, that was originally made of goose feathers, dye and wire frames. The Germans are also credited with the very fragile glass ornaments that our Grandparents and Great-grandparents may have decorated their traditional tree with. The original company continues to sell those hand blown glass ornaments and though they do have a line of ornaments made in other countries, their original glass ornaments are clearly labeled to be authentic. Our Mother had a set of those ornaments when we were growing up, that most likely were handed down from prior generations.
As a family we cut our tree annually and my sons are carrying on that tradition with their children. Here in the Pacific NW you have the option of treking to a tree farm of cultured trees or off to the mountains to cut a natural tree. The family time is invaluable, and more of an experience than running to the nearest Christmas tree sales lot. If you are equipped with proper clothing and traction devices for your vehicle, plan a day to spend time with the children and discuss the benefits that come with the experience.
The mountain experience has many benefits to the forest. By cutting the smaller trees it allows more moisture for the roots of the larger trees, in addition it removes the underbrush that fuels many of the fires in our region. Many of the younger trees would become fuel for our forest fires rather than grow up to their full size without sunshine due to the larger trees that shade them. Removing the younger trees cleans up the forest floor allowing more of the indigenous wild plants to take root. In a sense, cutting the natural trees is a form of forest management. You do need a permit and you are only allowed a certain number of trees, so no single individual can over-harvest in any region.
Most often you are not allowed to use chain saws, but handsaws and axes are allowed, so we benefit from the exercise of wandering around through designated areas to find that one special tree, cutting it, and then dragging it back to our waiting rig. In addition the kidlets have fun on their sleds or rolling around in the snow and of course the family snowball fight is a must before we head back out of the forest lands.
Research is being conducted at Washington State University to grow trees that will hold their needles longer before dropping in hopes of growing trees with a longer life span during the Christmas season. These are not altered trees, the research is using trees that naturally hold their needles longer, and seeds collected from around the country. The purpose is to make the trees safer from drying out too quickly and causing potential fire hazards as they begin dropping their needles.
Be sure to keep your Christmas tree watered. They require 1 quart of water daily per inch diameter of the tree trunk or they will dry out very quickly. Always cut off 2-3 inches of the trunk after purchase so the tree is able to absorb as much water as possible. If you are not able to set the tree up right away, then plunge that trunk into a deep bucket of warm water until you are ready to bring it indoors. Be sure to shake the tree well outdoors to dislodge any loose needles and especially to dislodge any hitch-hiking insects before bringing it indoors. Shaking it into the chicken run will give the birds something to scratch around in, with a little added protein. With many areas experiencing uncommonly warm weather at times, deer ticks, spiders and other bugs will be sheltering in those tree limbs.
When you're ready to take the Christmas tree down after the holiday season, remove any and all adornments and be sure to put it in the Chicken run for the chickens to enjoy climbing on, or at least chop off the limbs and toss those into the chicken run for the chickens to scratch around in. Pine and fir trees are suitable and can be used if you practice a deep litter system in your coops. The boughs offer a natural air-freshener and will compost along with the litter. They can also be composted or run through a chipper to use as mulch for the landscape. If these are not options for you, the boy scouts and other youth organizations offer a Christmas tree pickup in metropolitan areas for recycling as one of their local fund raisers. There is no need for waste, and the benefits to you, the forest, your chickens and garden or local recycling group are invaluable.
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