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Christmas Trees


By Tommy Brannon

Readers of the Mid-South Horse Review, who live in the country and perhaps keep their horses at home, know that there are many challenges to this lifestyle. One of which is what to do about putting up a Christmas tree and how to decorate your home, and perhaps barn.  While city folk have the option of a large tree, smaller tree, commercially cut tree, live tree to plant, or a gaudy aluminum tree, those in the country have the additional option of cutting their tree from somewhere on the farm.

Cost might be a motivating factor as well. You have seen the romantic Currier and Ives prints of bygone days where a Christmas tree the size of the one on the Whitehouse lawn is being dragged behind a team of horses. You have received, no doubt, a Christmas card or two with a picture of a cowboy dragging home a Christmas tree in deep snow behind his horse.  These images may be picturesque, but have you actually tried to do this behind a horse that has not been trained to pull?  After you have been dumped on the ground, your perfectly cut tree that took you hours to finds is being dragged through the mud, not snow (this is the mid-south, after all) behind a panicked equine who is convinced that that tree is going to eat him. Take my advice and put a little pull training into your beast before attempting to drag your tree home.

One can use a horse, however, to help find the perfect tree. The problem with this is perspective: everything looks smaller looking down from horseback than it does on foot, and particularly indoors. It is easy to pick a tree that is too large to fit through the doorway, or whose top is doubled over when it touches the ceiling. Picking a tree can be a great adventure for the children; not only are they invested in decorating it, they can boast that they chose this particular one. This is a really fun task to do with grandchildren!

We in the mid-south are somewhat limited as to the kind of tree growing naturally that will make a good Christmas tree. Although there is an abundance of evergreen species that are native to the mid-south, most of the pine tree varieties, like Lodge Pole and Loblolly, are tall with extended branches, great for making lumber, but not so much for Christmas trees.  Blue Spruce make great Christmas trees as well as White Pine, and both are grown commercially for Christmas trees, but are really hard to find in the flat lands.

Juniperus virginiana,commonly referred to as Cedar, though technically a Juniper, is so abundant in the mid-south that most people hardly notice them. They will sprout up on just about any land that is left fallow for a couple of seasons. They grow on the edge of a forest and in un-mowed fence lines.  If they are not crowded by other trees, they will have just the right shape for a Christmas tree.  If they have other trees next to them or a fence, they can easily have one side that is sparse or even bare. Put that side of the tree to the wall. If you cut one out of a fence line, you can just top the portion of the tree that is above the fence. The shape should be good, and the rest of the tree may live and continue to grow.

Trimming the tree is not just a term for decorating. It is helpful to have a good set of pruning shears to shape the tree and cut off excess branches. One word of caution!!  Any tree brought inside can be a fire hazard. An evergreen contains volatile sap that can ignite with the slightest amount of heat. If you have ever put Cedar branches on a bonfire, you have noticed how quickly they ignite. Keep the tree in water and away from any candles, fireplace, or stove.

Cutting your own tree can be fun, makes great memories for children, and brings in that Christmas spirit. Merry Christmas! And Happy Holidays to all!                

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