By Becky Nelson
There was a little bit of snow on the Christmas trees at our store the other morning, as though the heavens had sprinkled a bit of confectioner’s sugar on the branches. I don’t think there is much more beautiful than a sprinkle of snow on an evergreen tree. It evokes all the emotions and soul-felt feelings of my faith and all the fond remembrances of Christmas’ past.
This year is an odd one, as we all know. We have been scrambling to prepare for the season early, as customers are showing up earlier in the season than ever looking for trees and wreaths. Local trees are always a hot commodity, as folks are excited to buy trees they know were grown in their neighborhood and were cut just a short time ago, compared to trees by the truckload chopped more than a month ago from places far away. Demand is high for the local stuff, but local growers are struggling. The supply may be diminished this year as the prolonged summertime drought hampered growth and trees that were set to be cut didn’t grow enough or were stressed and suffering and can’t be cut this year.
Other struggles locally were in pest form, with insects and diseases striking conifers creating lots of problems and destroying the quality of the trees. Again, the drought contributed to this damage, with a tree stressed because of lack of water much more vulnerable to disease and damage than a healthy tree that has had plenty to drink. Folks may see a higher pricetag on trees than in the past, with these factors the driving force behind the supply/demand/price dynamic with shorter supply and the need of growers to be compensated fairly for their product.
Lots of folks have turned to imitation trees to fill their homes with holiday joy, but I would urge all to think of buying a fresh tree, instead. A completely sustainable enterprise, the growing of Christmas trees is a burgeoning industry. The practice keeps open land open, offers shelter and homes for wildlife, and makes celebrations much more festive with the aroma of balsam and other conifers a welcome scent in homes. Even when the tree has served its purpose, it can be “repurposed”. We offer to take back fresh trees when taken out of our customers’ homes, and we pile them back in the woods for shelter for all kinds of woodland creatures, with bunnies, squirrels and birds loving the shelter the piles trees provide. They rot down and compost into soil to nourish the next generation of trees, and the circle of life completes. Unlike plastic or metal trees that use lots of natural resources in the production of the ornament and fill our skies with smog an pollutants as the factories they are born in pump “stuff” into the skies and waters as they are made, natural trees actually help clean the air and provide us with the oxygen we breathe as they provide income to those who grow, prune, nurture, cut and transport them.
I don’t ever put up our Christmas tree without a feelings of gratitude, thanksgiving and nostalgia. The scent reminds me of Christmastimes of my past as do the ornaments that each evokes a memory of where and when I was in my life at the particular time the ornament was acquired. Ornaments given to me by my aunts, ornaments hung on trees by my grandmother, ornaments made by my kids when in school, ornaments given to me by co-workers along my career path and others purchased when our first child was born, our first year married, our first home was purchased.
Sometimes we are lucky enough to find a bird nest nestled in the branches of our tree. I make sure to leave the little nest intact, feeling it is one of the most important and exciting ornaments we can have, further connecting us to the land that nourishes and supports us and that we try to steward to the best of our ability with the least detrimental impact. Trees make me happy. Whether growing in the wild or a plantation or cut like a beautiful flower displayed in my home, I am in awe of trees and the powerful impact they make on our living world.
Becky Nelson is co-owner of Beaver Pond Farm in Newport, New Hampshire. You can contact her through the farm page on Facebook and Instagram, visit the retail store or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.