Over the past 10 years, I’ve written a couple of articles about Christmas trees and the role they play in the Parmenter family.
Yes, there were years when we left our tree up well into late February. There comes this time when you know the tree should probably be taken down, but you just don’t want to let go of the holiday season quite yet, and the thought of pulling a tree that is 6-feet wide through a doorway can be a bit intense. The trail of needles across the living room, then dining room, then the mass destruction at the door is a mess that not many vacuums could handle.
Yes, our family had trees that had to be cabled to the wall so they didn’t fall over. They were typically piñon pines that we hunted down on Bureau of Land Management land somewhere. I remember trekking through sagebrush with two or three other families, so perhaps there was a one-upmanship that happened within the group, where the family that found the biggest tree – and was able to get it back to the car without destroying it – won.
While I’m not sure if we “won,” we gave it the old Parmenter effort.
And yes, it was always a real tree. Not until I lived in Florida could I justify an artificial tree. If there was ever a place where a fake tree seemed to fit, it would be there, in Palm Beach County.
If you do go out and “hunt” down a tree or even just take the family out for an enjoyable outing with hot cocoa, the dog and your trusted handsaw, the Forest Service has some helpful hints.
First, go grab a permit. In Durango, you can get them at the San Juan Public Lands Center or at Kroegers. Eight dollars is a pretty cheap investment for what will be a super fun day.
As a side note, do not expect to find the perfect tree. Very few trees in the forest are perfect. And when you find the tree that “just might be the one,” don’t forget where it was located because there is a good chance that you will “just go look at that one other tree over there,” and when you get closer, it’s actually two trees that are close to each other. Well, now you’ve forgotten where that first tree was and you have to start all over. And remember that whatever tree you get, it will become twice as big once you get it in the house.
What are the best trees to get? Look for white fir, subalpine fir or spruce trees. Fir trees have needles that are “friendly” to the touch. (Side note: Don’t cut down Douglas fir trees – try to identify them by their cones, which hang down from the branches and have little tails on the scales). Don’t cut pine trees, especially ponderosas.
You can cut piñon pines, but they’ve been hammered over the past couple of decades by drought and insects. Only cut ones where there are multiple young trees growing in an area.
Happy holidays to you all, and whatever tree you get – real, artificial or white ones – enjoy this time with those that bring you happiness. And remember, be kind.
Darrin Parmenter is the director and horticulture agent of the La Plata County Extension Office. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 382-6464.Darrin Parmenter