It's nearly Christmas Eve. Stockings are hung with care, flickering candles and twinkling tree lights welcome everyone and make everything cozy. Early presents with festive wrapping paper are under the tree, mouth-watering aromas waft through the air, and you find yourself singing along to your favorite Christmas carols on the radio. This season, often called the "most wonderful time of the year," is a time when we enjoy family traditions. It's a time out from some of the cares of the world when we make an extra special effort to create bliss in our homes and within our families. December snowstorms have certainly made part of this effort for an old-fashioned Christmas easy. Despite the shoveling, who can't admire the beauty of the snowflakes, particularly if you find yourself out on a country drive and happen upon a Christmas tree farm.
A Hallmark movie or idyllic Americana "Norman Rockwell" scene is what I found last weekend while out driving to do errands. Even though we had our tree, it was too compelling to pass by without stopping at this farm. Bustling with activity while perfect large snowflakes fell from the sky, a young girl named Elise offered a warm treat at the hot chocolate shed. Coco, the large resident dog, nonchalantly watched people pass by while he rested near the lodge building; not seeming to mind his coat of snow accentuated on his dark, fluffy fur. Families were selecting their perfect tree from the stand or from out in the field where a snowmobile stood ready to retrieve it. Laughter filled the air, candy canes were passed out to children, and the lodge offered a warm respite with its pot-belly stove and crockpot goodies for the workers and the lucky cat in the Santa chair.
Open the day after Thanksgiving through Christmas Eve, the Dixieland Tree Farm past Silver Creek on Versailles Road has it all. Indeed, it's where we find "American families at their best" according to owners Carl and Judy Forbes. Retired teachers, they are now in their 17th year of business. The farm is named after their daughter Dixie. Their son Ian and daughter-in-law Penny help to run the operation and were on the premises last weekend. It's a shining example of the old-time family owned American business that built our nation and what we all miss with so many foreign made goods making the "yesterday" shops a thing of the past. It's Dixieland and every other locally- owned business that we all should run to and support.
Part of an old-fashioned Christmas is cutting down a special tree to serve as the Christmas tree. Shown is a scene from Dixieland Tree Farm on Versailles Road past Silver Creek.
Many of us have artificial trees. We see them as convenient for a variety of reasons such as being able to use them year after year, decorating early, and no watering. Some food for thought, however, might change our minds and our behavior.
What materials make up an artificial tree? A quick search reveals that these trees are made of plastic; most often PVC. According to a recently published USA Today article, this plastic often contains lead as a stabilizer and other chemicals from its flame retardant materials which have been linked to health problems. The National Christmas Tree Association confirms this and notes that is why they carry a warning label for lead poisoning and a warning particularly for children. They are not fireproof and are susceptible to fire from overloaded or faulty wires. These trees are not recyclable and will remain in landfills "indefinitely." The association also notes that 85 percent of them come from China, where workers earn very little pay and "squat in front of hissing machinery as they melt chips into moldable plastic."
On the other hand, a real tree comes to us as God intended. It gives off the wonderful, pine aroma and offers a bit of real nature in our house with some of its oozing sap. Instead of harmful chemicals as a byproduct, real trees actually produce oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide. Trees are truly a renewable resource if when one is harvested at least one is replanted in its place. After use, the trees are also totally recyclable into mulch. Some farms, including Dixieland, also offer trees in pots that can be replanted!
Trees are grown and harvested on farms throughout the nation, just like any other crop. The Christmas Tree Association states that there are about 350 million conifer trees growing on farms in the United States and that they stabilize the soil, protect water supplies, and support complex ecosystems. How's that for making a healthy contribution to the environment and reducing greenhouse gases? By the way, a fresh tree properly watered and maintained, is not the big bad fire hazard that it has been made out to be.
Dixieland Tree Farm certainly makes up part of this eco-friendly market. They have about 10,000 trees. In addition to Scotch pine, there are three kinds of spruce - white, Norway, and blue, as well as three kinds of fir - Fraser, Douglas and Concolor; the last of which is an old-fashioned variety known for its long needles and citrus smell. Wreaths also adorn the stand and are made from these beautiful evergreens. Even though the season is relatively short, there is preparation of the ground and planting in the spring, mowing of the field, and shearing. It takes about eight to 12 years to grow a six to eight foot tree.
Coming to get your tree is the icing on the cake. A family tradition for many, some even "tailgate" when they come to Dixieland. You can select a tree from the stand or trudge through the fields to pick your own. You can saw it down and drag it back, or the workers can do it for you. Watch it as it goes on the "shaker" to remove any loose needles and get wrapped for loading onto your car. On some days there are also hay rides.
The whole experience is truly an old-fashioned Christmas, much like the ones that we remember from our childhoods or see in the old movies. Personally, my family will be going back next year - to the days when the fresh pine scratched us up a bit and when we found a bird's nest in our tree.
Make it a good week. As Christmas Eve comes, and in the days that follow, remember that an old-fashioned Christmas is so much more than the tree. It's the "Babe in the manger" and the peace that follows. Remember loved ones and to extend cheer to the old and lonely, especially at this time of the year.
Mary Burns Deas writes weekly for the OBSERVER. Comments on this article may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org