Christmas trees and fire safety

mc-btbonfire-1-013114-nn-tifA North Jersey site published a story today about an annual Boonton Township celebration involving a bonfire of burning Christmas trees, complete with a chili cook-off.  That’s a great way to safely enjoy a tree on fire, under the supervision of the local fire department.  Unfortunately, Christmas trees can be the fuel of much greater disaster.

Closer to home, we read about the recent devastating fire that destroyed a beautiful Annapolis mansion, and, more important, the lives of a loving family, was made more sad when fire investigators determined that the catastrophic blaze was caused by an electrical problem that ignited the 15-ft. Christmas tree skirt and tree.

The key is hydration.  A dry Christmas tree can ignite and burn much more quickly than a well-watered tree.  When a tree begins to lose its needles, that’s when it’s time to take it down.  The National Fire Protection Association demonstrated the very real danger with a video contrasting a fire started with a dry tree vs. one that is hydrated.

PBS News Hour produced a segment about Christmas tree fires that explores a much more scientific explanation about why a tree fire can happen so quickly and be so dangerous.  The video illustrates that tree can ignite and spread in 18 seconds.  Although only a tiny percentage of trees (about 250 of the 30 million sold anually) are involved in fires each year, the cost of the property damage is in the millions of dollars.

All of the safety tips emphasize that trees do not spontaneously combust.  There must be a heat source.  In addition to keeping the tree watered, it should not be set up near a heat source–like a fireplace or heating vent.

When Roger and I light our Christmas tree on fire in the fire pit sometime this summer, the same enthusiasm that I have for the 20-foot blaze will be tempered with my memory of how this same uncontrolled fire can wreck lives.

Overwhelmed with possibilities: Christmas Mania

All that we have been waiting for is here:  Jeremy and I want to post several times a day to cover everything we are seeing and doing for the holiday season.

Here’s a mish-mash of what I’ve been thinking about for the last 48 hours:

  1. Changing my cover profile.  Who knew?  OK.  Everyone knew but me.  There are many, many beautiful cover photos to dress up your Facebook wall.  I went to this article to get some ideas, but that launched me into a general search for more cover photos.  I settled on two photos (one for me and one for The Yule Log)–both of beautiful shiny Christmas ornaments.
  2. Improv Everywhere did a very funny spoof of Black Friday shopping.  They set up outside of a New York City dollar store.  The volunteers camped out in a long line and then stormed the business when it opened Friday mornings.  Check out the YouTube video.  I subscribed to their email feed so I can get up-to-date notice of their humorous behavior.

3. 12 Ways to Nerd Up Your Christmas Trees:  This Mashable article has 12 photos of truly crazy Christmas trees.  While I’m partial to the first (a Christmas tree made of books), check out the third Christmas tree–a Lego tree 33 feet high that was installed in London.  Jeremy’s dream come true, for certain. (The bacon tree in this article is really creepy.)

4. Gold Christmas Tree?  This one is in Tokyo, created by a jewelry store.  It’s worth $4.2 million.  I can just picture Eartha Kitt purring over this one!

5.  Don’t even get me started on Pinterest.  Everything is Christmas–idea after beautiful idea.  I created a Yule Log 365 Pinterest page today.  I’ll be loading it with this and that from today forward.

Speaking of shiny objects, that’s just what’s wrong with me.  Christmas is distracting me–everywhere!


Book Christmas Tree and More Unusual Evergreens

My sister Susan posted this great photo of this book Christmas tree, first built by employees at the Richard A. Gleeson library in California in 2009.  Obviously, it made such a great impression that it’s been Tweeted, Facebooked, Pinned, and more for the past three years.

This got me started thinking about unusual trees.  This summer, I saw a great one made out of wine bottles, and there’s another one made with bottles of Mountain Dew (appropriate because they’re green).

Still, what trees would make you stop in your tracks?

One of my co-workers has promised a visit to her friend who has several Christmas trees each year, including an upside down tree.  I went on line, and these are out of my price range $250+), but look amazing.

I’m not ready to say, though, that the upside down tree is the “ultimate” in unusual.

The bicycle Christmas tree is a great outdoor display.  I’ve included a link to a website that celebrates several trees from around the world.  I encourage you to check out a few more links–like the Pinterest of Christmas Trees.

Unusual Christmas Trees

Top Ten Christmas Trees

Usually, I don’t care about having a bigger house, but if I did, it would have a tree in every room!

The best recycled Christmas card ornament

My mom responded to my call for Christmas cards, and tonight, she presented me with a box of them that most likely represents her entire mailing list from the past five years.  Armed with fresh cards, I’m ready to construct.

I tried a paper ball ornament that I found on a blog, “More Time Moms Musings.”  The ball is made out of strips of Christmas cards fastened together with a paper fastener at each end.  I was skeptical about the simplicity of it until I unfurled the fan of strips.  Voila!  I had a beautiful little ornament. What I like most is that the strips make the same picture that was on the card, except now it is in the round.  The photo here is from the blog site I found, but my ornament was equally pretty, with a blue-green forest of Christmas trees.

I demonstrated my craft to a co-worker, and when I fanned out the strips, I felt like a magician.  She was appropriately impressed.

After this post, I’m going to get down to business making a dozen or so.

More on Trees!

As I shared on Tuesday, I have become more interested in knowing about the business of Christmas trees in the US.  I have started doing more research into the subject and I am hooked on the specifics!  On Monday during our interview at Gaver Farm Laura shared a little about the differences between firs and pines.  Blue Spruce, White Pine, Douglas Fir, Scotch Pine.  If you’ve shopped for a real Christmas Tree you’ve heard or seen these names.  I wanted to know what all my options were for trees so I turned to the web.  Some of the best information I found came on the website Christmas Trees and More created by the University of Illinois Extension office.  Guess how many types of Christmas Trees are grown in the United States- 8? 10?  There are more than 20 varieties produced here in the US.  I’ll share just a little about that with you now.

The first group includes Deodara Cedar, Eastern Red Dear and Leyland Cypress.  These are more popular in the Southeast and the Cypress is a really good choice for those with allergies.  Next up are the Pines.  Afghan Pine (big in Texas), Austrian Pine, Red Pine (it’s actually green and bushy), Ponderosa Pine (may have 10″ needles!), Virginia Pine (strong aroma), and White Pine (largest pine in the US and state tree of Michigan and Maine).  The Scotch Pine rounds out this group and is the most popular tree in the states.  The Spruces are a third group to consider and include Black Hills Spruce (stiff needles), Norway Spruce (watch out for falling needles), White Spruce (state tree of South Dakota), and the Blue Spruce (state tree of Utah and Colorado and might live to be 600 years old!!).  The final group is the firs made up of Grand Fir, Fraser Fir, Nordmann Fir (very popular in the UK), Concolor Fir (strong citrus scent), Balsam Fir (this tree’s resin was used to treat Civil War wounds), Noble Fir (sturdy and used for wreaths, swags, and garland), and the popular Douglas Fir (great scent and can live to be over 1,000 years old!).


So Many Christmas Trees!

Yesterday we visited a local tree farm and discussed many parts of the Christmas Tree industry.  The discussion we had with Laura really got my interests going.  I wanted to know more about the Christmas Tree business in the US, so I did a little reading to find out more.  It is quite interesting stuff!  Here’s some of what I learned:

The first commercially sold Christmas Trees were purchased in 1850 and the first Christmas Tree lot was set-up in New York in 1851.  Today in the US trees are grown in all 50 states, even Hawaii.  Oregon sells the most trees with over 6.5 million trees going out each year.  There are over 21,000 tree growers in the US and over 12,000 cut-your-own farms operating.  These growers have over 1/2 billion trees growing on their farms and will plant over 70 million new trees in a year.  The Christmas Tree industry employees over 100,000 people.  About 25% of homes in the US are expected to have a real Christmas Tree in 2012.  These trees are purchased from retail stores, tree lots, and the actual farms.  I was surprised to find that last year around 150,000 people ordered real Christmas Trees online and had them shipped- sight unseen!  I love having a real tree in my house but not too sure I would trust a site to just bale it up and ship it to me.  I’d be really interested to hear from anyone who has purchased a tree this way.  Was it a good experience?  I will be sharing more that I learned about trees later this week.  Did you know there are 21 varieties of Christmas Trees grown in the United States?  More on that later!

Podcast #32- 125 Days to Go!

Podcast #32- Click here to listen to this week’s podcast- A Visit to the Tree Farm!

This week we sit down for a talk with Laura Gaver House.  Laura is a member of the Gaver Family that owns Gaver Farms.  One of the many facets of their farm operation is the Christmas Tree business.  Natalie has been dreaming of visiting with Laura since we started the Yule Log.  We caught up with Laura at the farm during a particularly sever thunderstorm.  Laura talks about the planting and care of the trees and the excitement of running a large Christmas Tree farm.  Find out about the types of trees and so much more.  The tree farm is open for business starting November 23, 2012.  Check out the website for all the details on how you can get your very own fresh-cut 2012 Christmas tree at the Gaver Farm.

Laura preps to drop a new tree into the trench made by the tractor.

Laura gets one of the saplings ready for planting.

Poison Christmas Trees?

How could a Christmas Tree be poison you ask? It happens, and perhaps more often than you might guess.  I am currently battling a horrible case of poison ivy on my arms and face- it’s pretty miserable.  I did a quick search of poison ivy and christmas.  I was surprised how many hits came up.  Seems that many people contract poison ivy as a result of Christmas trees or the tree hunt.  Weeds like poison ivy, brambles, shrubs, and even tree sprouts are particularly challenging to Christmas tree growers.  Since the trees are cultivated over a number of years the pesticides and treatments used traditionally at the beginning or end of a season won’t do.  There are pages of guides on how to combat the pesky vine from your tree harvest.  Obviously most people would not choose or cut a tree with visible vines growing through it.  The vine could be hidden on the inside branches of a thick and dense tree.  You could mistake the vine for a harmless climber.  In the fall and winter months the poison ivy vine loses it leaves (which most are trained to notice) and looks just like a green vine.  But the challenge comes with the oil that the vine secretes.  That oil is the trouble maker.  The oil could be on the branches of a tree that no longer has the vine.  It only takes 1 nano-gram of the oil (that’s 1 billionth of a gram) of the oil to cause a reaction.  The average person reacts at 100 nano-grams.  Interesting, and scary, factoid- 1/4 ounce of the oil is enough to give a rash to every person on the planet!  Put this fact in the back of your mind and remember come December to watch for the vines.  Make sure that the cut-your-own tree is clear of growth and vines and always wear gloves when handling the tree.  Wear gloves even when handling trees on a lot.  It is far better to be safe than covered in an oozing rash, especially at the holidays.  (Wish me luck that this steroid kicks this round of poison ivy quickly!)

Christmas at the Del!

Thanks to my good friend Sandra for tagging me in this photo on Facebook!  It got me going to find out more about the claim on the historical marker.  Where was the first electrically lighted outdoor Christmas tree?  The claim reads that it was there in San Diego at the Hotel Coronado in 1904.  As we’ve learned with all claims for the “first” or “birthplace of” for any Christmas related items, there is ALWAYS a debate about the facts and someone or someplace else asserting the same claim.  The tree at the Coronado was first lit in 1904, but historical evidence has uncovered that the Edison Electric Light Company lit an outdoor tree with electric lights in 1882.  But that was a cut tree!  The Coronado was a living tree, and thus is the first electrically lighted outdoor LIVING Christmas tree.  The Norfolk Island Pine was planted in 1888 when the hotel was constructed.  In 1904 the 50 foot tree was lit with 250 white lights (that was a lot back then- even though I have over 500 on my 7 foot tree now).  To put the draw of a tree like this in perspective remember that only about 1 in 5 American families even had a Christmas tree in 1900, so a brightly lit outdoor tree would be quite amazing!

The tree changed to colored lights in 1914. A bright white star was also added to the top that year.  The Coronado tree was lit every year until World War II when black out regulations prevented the lighting of the tree for safety.  Today the tree is 140 feet tall.  The tree was lit regularly after the war until the energy crisis in the 1970s.  After that an indoor tree in the lobby became the new tradition at the Coronado.  Beyond this Christmas point of distinction, the Hotel del Coronado is pretty remarkable.  It was built in 1888 in San Diego.  It is a wooden Victorian Beach Resort and was the largest resort hotel in the world at its completion.    Today it is one of the oldest and largest all wooden buildings in California.  The “Del” is world-renowned as a retreat for the wealthy and famous including royals, presidents, and the Hollywood elite.  Guests of note include Wizard of Oz author Frank Baum, Thomas Edison, Charlie Chaplin, Vincent Price, Babe Ruth, and Edward Prince of Wales.  Sixteen presidents have stayed at the resort, including every head of state since Eisenhower.  The imagineers at Walt Disney World patterned the Grand Floridian on the Del.  Looking at the website for the hotel I see the allure.  Who wouldn’t want to stay there, especially at Christmas?