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Tis the season to visit a Christmas tree farm

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It’s that time of year again— fresh Christmas trees appear for sale on street corners, nurseries, garden supply stores, and in department store parking lots. Sellers at these outlets represent a wide range of interests. Often they are professionals who market trees every year, but there are also a good mix of Boy Scout troops, service clubs, and church groups. In addition to corner lots and other retail vendors, thousands of Christmas trees are sold from Choose and Cut farms. If you’ve never purchased a live Christmas tree direct from the grower, you could be missing out on a lot of family fun!

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In addition to a wide variety of fresh trees in all sizes and shapes, many U-Cut operators provide extras such as free hot chocolate, coffee, candy canes and festive music. Some offer horse-drawn wagon rides, photos with Santa Claus, a petting zoo, and a well-stocked gift shop. Some also offer the free use of saws, and will help carry the tree to your vehicle after baling it for easier transport.

Did you know that Oregon is the largest producer of Christmas trees in the United States? It’s not surprising, considering that 63,000 acres across Benton, Clackamas, Marion, Polk and Yamhill counties are dedicated tree farms. Washington has about 23,000 acres. The Pacific Northwest is the world's largest producer of Douglas fir, but is also known for its Noble and Grand fir, as well as several varieties of pine. Of the estimated 30 million trees harvested annually across the nation, more than eight million will come from Pacific Northwest growers. That’s a lot of fragrant evergreens to decorate!

Once you get your Christmas tree home, follow these tips to keep it fresh:

• Make a fresh cut on the butt to open the pores that have been clogged by sap. Cut off at least one half inch. The fresh-cut surface should be creamy-white, not yellow or brown. If you do not make a fresh cut, the tree will not be able to drink water. Even if holes are drilled to accommodate a pin-type stand, a fresh cut also should be made on the butt. After the cut is made, put the tree in water as soon as possible.

• Place tree in a sturdy stand that will hold at least one gallon of water. An average Christmas tree may consume between a quart and a gallon of water per day. If the water level drops below the cut end of the trunk, a seal will form and no more water will be absorbed, so be sure to water daily!

• Place your Christmas tree a safe distance from any heat source. Decorating with miniature lights that produce less heat with keep your tree from drying out too quickly. Turn off the tree lights when you leave the house or go to bed.

• After Christmas, before the tree dries out, remove it from your house and recycle. Call your local recycling center or garbage pick-up service for information on local chipping and composting.

Find your perfect Christmas tree by first visiting the website of the Pacific Northwest Christmas Tree Association. A leisurely drive through the scenic countryside is always pleasant, and you won't find a fresher tree anywhere. Plus, you can pick just the right species and size— from tabletop versions to 10 footers.

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