Forestry Friday … Guilt Free Christmas Tree

Christmas tree, fresh cut

It’s a sign, God’s big paint brush. Christmas trees this way!

Do you love having a fresh-cut Christmas tree?  Better yet, do you love going out to the woods and cutting your own tree?  Do you worry that getting a real tree is damaging the environment?  This is your lucky day, because the Forester Artist is here to absolve you of your sins!

x-mas trees

For the best Christmas trees take the road less taken.

Most Christmas trees on the tree lots are grown on Christmas tree farms.  Buy them and they will grow more.  There is no impact to the forest when buying from a Christmas tree farm.

Which on should I cut!  Too many choices.

Which one should I cut.  So many choices!

Many of us like to go directly to the source, the forest.  Is it wrong to cut a Christmas tree in the woods?  Does it damage the environment?  No way!  Get out there and cut that tree!  The reality, in the western United States, is that we actually have too many trees in the forests.  Too many trees…how can that be?

Sugar pine

There’s a couple of beauties! No, not the big one in the middle. That is a mature sugar pine tree.

For the last 100 years there has been aggressive wildfire suppression in our western forests.  This has caused our forests to grow quite dense with more trees per acre than can be healthfully grown.  The result is our forests are becoming very susceptible to disease, insect attack and cataclysmic wildfire.  I’ll post more about that later.

Christmas tree, forestry

I’ll take this one. I forgot my saw, so this hatchet will have to do.

When we thin our commercial forest, we typically space our trees from 18′ to 26′ apart depending on their age and size.  That kind of spacing gives you a lot of latitude when picking a tree.  If you are worried about creating a “hole” in the forest, then select one growing close to another tree.  You can also pick a tree next to road in the ditch, since these trees get removed for road maintenance.  The tree I selected is growing so close to the large sugar pine that a timber faller would have to cut it out of his way in order to fall the large tree.  The small tree is a safety issue because it blocks the timber faller’s escape route.

red fir, silver tip, Christmas tree

Timber baby! This is a premium silver tip. Silver tips are actually red fir trees.

Three nice silver tips loaded up.

Three nice silver tips loaded up.

One of those trees was growing in the ditch next to the road.

One of those trees was growing in the ditch next to the road.

So, if you want to go and cut your own Christmas tree, then go by your local Forest Service office or other local forest headquarters, and get a Christmas tree permit.  Cutting your own is great family fun, but be careful, because it’s easy to get stuck.  It’s always better to take two vehicles.

golden retriever, forest, forestry

Kinta is the truck dog today, since Blitz had a doctor’s appointment.  Uh oh, it looks like Kinta has been into the eggnog!

54 thoughts on “Forestry Friday … Guilt Free Christmas Tree

  1. We have bought our small tree (with soil and roots) at our local supermarket. I know, that isn’t as romantic as going, with a cute dog, to snowy woodlands to pick up a tree. We will return our Bonsai Christmas tree to nature, or keep it on our balcony for next year.
    The Dutch can’t do what you advise: if we all would line up at the entrance of one of our small national parks, these would soon be depleted. No big trees for us, neither snow. But then…we have plenty of Dutch chocolate. 😉
    Merry Christmas and all the best for 2014!

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    • We have millions of acres of National Forests from which to chose a tree. I know it isn’t true in most countries. The living Christmas tree is a wonderful thing to do. Dutch chocolate is even better! 🙂

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  2. Great post Tim I really enjoyed that and am of course always interested in learning more about your forest management – great to see how Christmas tree thinning provides for a healthier forest. Hope you have a great Christmas, best wishes from Wales 🙂

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    • Now that is dedication to getting a great Christmas tree Linda. I applaud your dad’s ingenuity. It would be a wonderful thing for anyone who puts up a Christmas tree to have a chance to cut their own at least once.

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  3. Our first Christmas together was in Bangkok, Thailand, where Mike was stationed. There were no fir trees, so we bought a little silver aluminum tree. That tree was put up and take down for 49 years! Finally, it was retired– and the boys (47 and 50!) howled protest. Ah, well. Life is difficult sometimes.

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    • That is an awesome tradition Maureen. I hope you kept it. I’m sure your boys will want it. I love the fresh cut trees, but a Christmas tradition like that is very cool. Merry Christmas to you and your family.

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  4. Great post, Tim — going out in the Alberta Rockies to cut down the Christmas tree was my favourite activity when I was a kid. One year [early 70s?], the dog decided to roll in some very stinky mess [leftovers from a moose, probably!] & was banned from the heated cab of the truck to the plywood ‘doghouse’ on the back. Ever the dog-lover, I decided to stay with him. I always smile when I think of that very stinky, very cold ride back of a girl, her dog, & a huge Spruce tree huddled in the back of a half-ton. 😉 Thanks for a wonderful walk down memory lane.

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  5. I love this post. When my oldest son was little we went out every year and picked a cedar tree because there were so many cedars and not so many pines in our area. The scent of that tree was heavenly. Now I have an artificial tree, but I have many lovely memories of Christmas tree hunting. Thanks for bringing them to mind with your post. 🙂

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    • I find it wonderful how so many people have those special memories of Christmas tree cutting with their families. When you tell that story I can smell the cedar. Thank for sharing Elizabeth and Merry Christmas.

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  6. Makes good sense. we don’t have pine or firs or what not here in central Texas but lots of folks have Eastern Red cedars on their property but no one wants a cedar. That is what I grew up with and. my Dad cut our trees from our wood lot property. Sometimes they were not so pretty but the main thing is that it was a tree. I “don’t do” trees anymore and care nothing about it. But for folks that do I think it is a great tradition. And yep, the pup looks a wee bit tipsy. Too cute!

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  7. We picked and cut our Christmas from a local tree farm with our kids for many years. We had a high ceiling, so the tree was big. It was easy going in, but once unbound, hard going out. I picked out needles from the carpet for months.

    Kinta does look like he was in the nog. What a goofy face.

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  8. This post is so very interesting. Thankyou for clearing that up for me, but bought a fake tree ten years ago and still using it. It was hard for me, seeing all those used Christmas trees at the end of the season, piled in the lot where we took them to be ground down. I just couldn’t keep “seeing” all that destroyed. Happy Holidays, Tim.

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    • I know what you mean Leslie. It is hard to see something like that go to waste. I look at it this way. If a tree is from a Christmas tree farm then it fullfilled its purpose. In the forest we are helping the neighboring trees by thinning them out. When we thin small trees like that by hand, we leave them on the forest floor and they decompose back into the soil. When they are that small there is no economical way to remove them. When the are larger we can make chips for electricity or lumber from them.

      In our part of Northern California we are fortunate in what we do with old Christmas trees. A local Co-generation plant takes them at no charge and uses them for making electricity. Total utilization of the tree.

      However, I am in agreement with you in that I don’t like seeing them just sent to a landfill to be buried. That being said, many landfills now grind up their green waste and create garden mulch, which is sold to the public.

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