Like toilet paper in April, fresh Nova Scotia Christmas trees this December are the product of panic shopping. This craze was aided by a few news stories discussing the fact that more trees have been exported south to the states this year. Apparently Americans love Canadian Christmas trees so they are considered a hot-ticket item in this COVID Christmas season. Well why not? With all the other things going on in the USA this year, American families may as well reward themselves with real trees. While back in Nova Scotia, the local news outlets are emphasizing that if a Nova Scotian family wants a real tree, shop early or risk going without.
Some local lots received shipments of a few hundred trees only to have them gone by the next day. One particular lot has replenished their tree stock about five times so far. Business is booming. Those of us who love freshly cut trees, really love them. But, how fresh is fresh? Some of these trees were cut in November, especially those exported and those delivered to the local tree lots by December first. If you know how to care for a cut tree to make it last longer, you will be fine. There will, however, be a surplus of needles by the time the holidays are over. Isn’t this part of the tradition? Complaints of needles at Christmas are as popular as complaints about the weather during the rest of the year.
The Doc and I like our trees as fresh as possible. We have a wood stove that resides in the same room as our tree so we want it to be able to survive the sipping-mulled-wine-while-sitting by-the-fire-and-enjoying-the-Christmas-tree season. Every year–except for the last two–since 1986, The Doc and I, plus any enthusiastic family members, went on the annual jaunt to the tree farm. Last year and the year before, we took the easy route and went to a retail lot. With this year’s expected shortage, we decided to cut one again.
This year with COVID, things are much different. This year, appointments are necessary; the number of cars allowed on the large tree farm have been reduced to about five at a time. According to their website, you need to show up ten minutes early to check in, if you are too late you will not be allowed in, and you have an hour to get in and out and off the lot. All doable.
When you go to the U-Cut farm, you go prepared. You need boots. Depending on the weather, you choose either snow boots or rubber boots. If there is no snow, I guarantee there will be mud. It’s has been a rainy November and December thus far, so this year rubber boots are in order, paired with warm socks. You need a saw. The Doc has a worthy Christmas-tree-cutting saw. If you don’t have one, the lot can lend you one that has been well used but will still do the job. You need rope if you plan to tie the tree to your vehicle’s roof. Stories have been told of people venturing out to get a tree with a small car and without a plan of how to transport said tree home. This is a first-time mistake and hopefully doesn’t happen twice. If you are really prepared you have roof racks. You may want gloves because it is a lot easier to hold and heft a cut tree with gloves on. Plus it is damn cold in them there tree hills and your fingers will freeze. Hats and hoods and warm jackets are also an asset. I don’t recommend arriving at the U-Cut in your favourite leather coat. Tree cutting can be a sticky, messy and chilly job. We also bring a tarp, because we do not need a huge tree and it usually fits in the hatchback once it’s bailed.
I booked our appointment almost a week in advance. It was for Monday, the first day they had available appointments on their online calendar. This was fine because, as retirees, we can do Mondays. In previous years, the lot wasn’t open on Monday, just Friday through Sunday, which were always very busy days. I was impressed that the owners had decided to expand their hours to accommodate the limitations of the year. U-Cut tree lots are for the sentimental. It’s a difficult business in a year such as this–the real money is in exports and selling large numbers to retailers.
And so we checked in at our allotted time; answered our COVID-related questions and; after a short wait, were flagged forward into the tree farm. This is where it gets interesting. First you need to decide the best place to stop. I decided early, looking at the trees not far inside the lot. People often go further in before pulling off. The Doc decided to keep driving so I got a little cranky with him and he made his way back to the area that I originally pointed out.
We parked, got out, stepped over the muddy shoulder (not as muddy as usual due to less traffic) and began the tree hunt. Within minutes, possibly seconds, I spied the perfect tree; but at second glance, and because we know that trees look a whole lot smaller when outdoors, we decided that this particular tree was well over our height requirement. Minutes later, I pointed out another nicely-shaped tree, but The Doc wasn’t sold on this one and we kept looking. And then there it was, right in front of us–nicely shaped and a manageable size–our 2020 Christmas tree. No glowing lights or jubilant trumpet music, but we recognized it none the less.
It didn’t take long to cut the tree down, pay the gate keeper, have it baled and pushed into the back hatch and be on our way with plenty of our allotted hour to spare. Pretty easy actually. A lot easier than during those more crowded years.
Our tree is currently in place in our stand filled with water. Every-day watering is a must. Decorating will commence in the next day or so. We will take our time. It is still early for us, yet I am looking forward to having this tree filled with our trimmings of red and gold. I am looking forward to seeing my favourite ornaments: the tree-top Santa, the candy canes, birds and snowflakes, the homemade frame with a baby picture of JT made by The Doc’s mom, and all the other hanging trinkets that make our Christmas tree ours. Like everyone else who has navigated this unusual year, I don’t mind seeing them all a little early.
Thank you for reading.
Photos: Jenn Stone
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