‘Tis the season

Choosing a Christmas tree can be fun, safe

A wreath is seen hanging at Meister’s Tree Farm in Harvey. Visitors can purchase a fresh tree from the tree stand or cut their own from the farm fields. (Photo courtesy of Meister’s Tree Farm)

MARQUETTE — We look forward to many moments every holiday season — choosing the perfect present, helping those in need, telling children Christmas tales, and picking out the perfect tree.

Picking out a tree from a tree farm or heading to the woods to cut one yourself is a way to make memories with loved ones or start a new family tradition.

Those interested in getting a real tree this Christmas can cut their own from the Hiawatha National Forest.

“For folks who enjoy the thrill of the hunt for their tree, we have a really great opportunity for $5 and a little bit of sweat you can cut your own tree from national forest land,” said Janel Crooks, public affairs officer for the Hiawatha National Forest.

To obtain a permit in the form of a tree tag, stop by a national forest district office. With the tag, you will receive tree cutting guidelines, suggested cutting areas and tips on flameproofing your tree.

Yoopers set out into the Hiawatha National Forest to find a Christmas tree. Trees can be cut from the forest by obtaining a tree tag for $5 from a national forest district office in Munising, Rapid River or St. Ignace. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Forest Service)

Crooks recommends those interested call ahead of trying to get a permit during. District offices are located in Munising, 906-387-2512; Rapid River, 906-474-6442; and St. Ignace, 906-643-7900, and generally open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

“Cutting your own Christmas tree is a really great opportunity to get outdoors with your family and enjoy the winter scenery,” Crooks said. “It’s a nice change of pace and a fun holiday tradition, so we encourage the public to get out on their public lands and enjoy the holiday season.”

Trees can also be cut down or picked out at Meister’s Christmas Tree Farm in Harvey.

Owner of the tree farm George Meister said choosing a real tree each Christmas is a way for families to make memories together.

“Bringing the whole family out being able to have that time together to pick that tree that’s going to be in the center of your living room for the month, it’s a fun thing, it’s a special time, memories are made there,” Meister said. “It makes something special out of that tree that’s in your living room instead of just pulling the plastic one out of your closet.”

The fourth generation family farm has been keeping their own family traditions with the sale of trees for over 50 years. The farm features a tree stand with pre cut trees including spruce, white pine, scotch pine and various fir trees such as balsam fir, fraser fir and canaan fir. Individuals can also cut their own tree from the farm fields which include a mix of balsam and fraser fir, scotch pine, white pine, white spruce and blue spruce.

New to Meister’s this year is a gift shop that carries local goods and offers hot cider, coffee, tea and donuts. Tractor-drawn wagon rides to see Santa will also be offered for visitors on Sunday from 3 to 6 p.m. Tickets are $10 and must be booked in advance on www.meistertrees.com.

Seeing new faces and returning guests to the farm each year is what Meister enjoys most about helping local families choose a tree.

“We’ve got grandparents that have brought their children and now they’re bringing their grandchildren, so we’ve got multiple generations coming out,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun to see everyone’s in a good mood, they’re having a good time and they’ve got that Christmas spirit. There really isn’t anything that isn’t enjoyable about it for us.”

For more information, visit Meister’s Tree Farm on Facebook.

Choosing a Christmas tree can be a fun holiday tradition but real trees can pose a fire hazard if not properly cared for, explained Jeff Green, captain of the Marquette Fire Department.

If you didn’t cut the tree yourself, make sure the tree you choose was cut recently, he said.

“A good way to determine that is to take a look at where it was cut. If there’s a lot of sap built up that’s hardened up around the bottom then that’s a pretty good indicator that the tree has been sitting for awhile,” Green said. “Also, if you pick the tree up and bump it on the ground a little bit and get a lot of needles that fall that again is a sign that the tree perhaps has been sitting a while.”

Once you’ve brought your tree home, Green recommends making a fresh cut at the bottom, so it can more easily absorb water.

“Have the type of base that will penetrate the bottom of that tree. A lot of them have spikes and stuff and most people think that’s to sturdy the tree and while that does help, it actually opens up the bottom a little bit like a fresh wound if you will that allows it to draw more water up through the base,” he said.

A tree is less likely to catch fire if it is well watered, Green said. Loss of tree needles is a sign the tree is drying out or dying and may pose a greater risk.

While Christmas tree fires are not common they are dangerous when they occur. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, one of every 52 reported home Christmas tree fires resulted in death.

Many like to begin decorating for the holidays around Thanksgiving. If you’re keeping your tree for an extended amount of time making another fresh cut after a few weeks will help the tree better absorb water, Green said.

When decorating, “the most important thing is to check and make sure the lights have been UL listed or tested by an independent company to make sure that they are fire safe,” he added.

Do not keep candles, open flames or space heaters near the tree and place the tree 3 to 6 feet from a fireplace.

“If you have pets try to keep them as far away as possible from it too because if there’s any way something can be knocked over or bumped into it pets will generally find a way to do that.”

Be sure to dispose of your tree after Christmas. Marquette city and township have designated tree disposal areas for residents.

“Once they are dry and they’re dead and there no longer your decorations get them out of the house even if you have to put them in the yard till spring time to dispose of it. That’s better than keeping it in the house,” Green said.

Trinity Carey can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206.