By Cody Neff
Christmas is less than two weeks away. You’ve done all of your shopping, right? Have you put your tree up yet? If you don’t have a tree, you might want to look into any of the “choose-and-cut” Christmas tree farms in the area.
According to a brochure from the state Division of Forestry, these choose-and-cut farms keep tradition alive and help the environment.
“While growing on these farms, Christmas trees stabilize the soil, protect water quality and provide cover for wildlife,” the brochure explains. “Growing Christmas trees absorb carbon dioxide while emitting fresh oxygen. They also beautify the landscape with their classic shape and lush foliage.”
One Mercer County man said he’s been planting Christmas trees since the 1940s and he never gets tired of them.
“I planted my first trees in 1946 and on this farm in 1964,” Bluestone Nursery owner Gene Bailey said. “It was just something I was interested in. When I was a teenager, I would spend my time in high school going to the library and reading about evergreens.
“I’m 80 now and I can still plant, but I can’t walk much without something to hold on to. I still plant 3,000 trees a year which I’ve been doing for years now.”
Bailey said a “choose-and-cut” farm is where the customer comes in with their family, goes out to the field, picks a tree and cuts it themselves.
“If they need help, we supply the help,” he said. “If they need it baled, then we’ll bale it for them. It’s a tradition as much as anything. When I was a kid, we would go into the pasture fields and use those trees as Christmas trees.
“This is kind of a follow-up. All of these are planted to be Christmas trees. No trees are cut from the wild any more. If they are, they’re very few.”
Even with changes in the economy and some switching to fake trees, Bailey said sales have stayed pretty steady.
“Of course it depends somewhat on the economy, but I haven’t seen much change,” he said. “We could wholesale far more trees than what we are. As far as people coming out here and getting trees, I haven’t seen much change in many years.
When it comes to bestsellers, for us it’s the Canaan fir, the West Virginia fir tree.
“I would say 75 to 80 percent of the trees we sell are West Virginia Canaan fir. It’s a good tree. It holds its needles quite well. White pine used to be really popular. That’s also a West Virginia tree. It’s lost its popularity, though, and people want the short-needled trees. We still sell some white pines, but not very many.”
Bluestone Nursery is at 3517 Stovall Ridge Road in Camp Creek. You can reach them at 304-887-1183 or 304-487-3052. They’re open until Christmas Eve, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Services they offer include saws, baling, restrooms, and hand washing.
In Fayette County, you can visit Crickmer Farms in Danese or Honey Suckle Glades Farm in Lookout.
Crickmer Farms is at 1635 Crickmer Road in Danese and can be reached by phone at 304-484-7661. The farm is open until Dec. 23 on Friday and Saturday, and on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Services include saws, baling and drag sleds.
Honey Suckle Glades Farm, at 2 Grafton Farm Road in Lookout, also has choose-and-cut trees. Their number is 304-574-0906. They’re open until Christmas Eve, seven days a week during daylight hours. They offer saws to help cut trees. The farm’s owner, Charles Grafton, said fir trees are the most popular trees they sell.
In Nicholas County, you can visit the Yagel Poor Farm to pick out your tree.
The Yagel Poor Farm is at 726 Eureka Road in Craigsville. You can reach them at 304-872-0956 or 304-575-2787. Their last day open is Dec. 21. On Fridays and Mondays the farm is open from noon to dark. On Saturdays and Sundays the farm is open from 9:30 a.m. to dark. The farm is closed Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
Services the farm offers include candy canes for all visitors, hand saws, free tree shaking, mesh baling, cutting and loading help, twine and a chemical restroom. The farm’s owner Art Yagel said he’s seen an even split in the most popular types of trees this year.
“What we’re seeing on the farm is pretty much 50/50 between people liking the long-needled white pine trees and the Canaan fir,” he said. “The Canaan fir is an aromatic short-needled tree. We shake them out clean for you; we provide some preservative tablets with each sale.”
If you’re living in Raleigh County, you can visit the Piney Tree Farm for your Christmas tree.
The farm is at 303 Piney View Drive in Piney View. Their number is 304-253-6842. They are open during all daylight hours and they will cut your tree and take it to your car for you.
“I have the Douglas fir, the white pine, and the red spruce,” owner Charles Hudson said. “The white pine is most popular here. It seems like that’s the native tree and people are going back to native things.”
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Picking the perfect tree
When it comes to picking the perfect tree to finish out your Christmas tradition, the Division of Forestry has a few tips:
1. Buy locally grown Christmas trees, if possible.
2. Bounce and shake the tree. Pull the needles. If the needles fall off, the tree is not fresh.
3. Just before the Christmas tree is put in the tree stand, make a slanting-cut about an inch or two up the trunk from where the tree was originally cut. Cutting off the lower inch or two will make for a fresh, clean area that will let the tree absorb water easily.
4. Keep the base of the tree under water at all times. A Christmas tree may use a quart of water a day, so keep a close watch on the water supply.
5. When it comes to tree decorations, all lights should be checked for faulty wiring and sockets. If any flaw is found, throw away the set of lights. Only lights with the Underwriters Laboratory safety seal should be used. Other sets might be dangerous.
6. Keep all flammable decorations, like paper or cotton, away from the tree. Angel hair, snow spray, and white plastic foam are common decorations on Christmas trees. When used separately, angel hair and snow spray are pretty safe. The National Fire Protection Association reports that when snow spray is used on angel hair, the combination is so flammable that just a spark will cause it to burst into flame.
7. Artificial trees can be dangerous, too. Never string lights on a metal tree. A short circuit can easily electrify the tree and seriously injure anyone who comes into contact with it. Colored spotlights should be used to light this type of tree.
8. Dispose of your tree in the proper way when the holiday season is over. Never try to burn a live Christmas tree in a fireplace or wood stove.