Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Adventures in Christmas tree hunting


Every year we hear the same old debate about real Christmas trees vs. fake ones. My vote is a real one. I then starting thinking about the different ways one can acquire a “real” tree for Christmas and put the question out to my facebook friends. A debate about getting a real xmas tree at a U-Cut farm or plucking one from the wild? I was pleasantly surprised with the comments received.

I grew up in Northern Alberta with many family members owning farms. Our family tradition was to drive out to Grandpas farm and hand pick our tree. Then we watched Dad cut it down, drag it to the truck, and haul it back home. As soon as the tree was brought into the house, the Christmas season began for me. To this day I still get nostalgic at the scent of a pine tree.

This year I was all excited to go tree hunting in the wild. It was going to be a day of exploring the back country roads and recreating my childhood memories for my children. It all came to a crashing halt when the word permits popped up in my facebook debate. I do remember getting a permit for cutting firewood when we had a cabin in the foothills of Alberta. It was $10/year and that allowed us to cut trees for firewood on right of ways and under power lines. It also included Christmas trees. No problem, I thought a quick check online would point me in the permit direction for here on Vancouver Island. 
I found that in the Okanagan Region, one can print off a free permit online, already signed by an official, and then be allowed to cut 3 Christmas trees. Not so is the case in our region. The SIFD does not offer any public areas for Christmas tree cutting. There are numerous individuals in the South Island Forest District that manage areas of Crown Land under BC Hydro Transmission lines for Christmas Trees. These individuals plant, prune and harvest their trees each year as per their respective Christmas Tree Permit. Now that I knew this, no way could I in good conscience, head out and cut down a tree illegally. I’m sure many Islanders do but not this family.

U – Cut farm it was! This still allowed us to hunt down our perfect Christmas tree. The bonus was it had been pruned perfectly for years so there was no risk of dragging home a Charlie Brown Christmas tree. (I do love the Charlie Brown tree, mind you) It was not quite the adventure I had hoped for but we made up for that with a hike afterwards. 

Our pick, Douglas Fir
A Monkey Tree

It's Heavy

I have to share with you one of the comments I received on my Christmas Tree Facebook debate. This one comes from my friend Scott.
“Wild tree pluckers should be required to apply for a wild tree plucking permit by way of a lottery (i.e., not every plucker should be allowed to pluck). Fees could go toward the creation of tree sanctuaries or toward abused trees. Certain areas should be off-limits to tree plucking, like say ... school grounds and gov't parks. Pluckers should be required to use specific, government approved plucking devices. Petroleum-based plucking tools should require extra non-green plucking fees, for example. When pluckers pluck, a disk from the trunk should be sent to the gov't, so they can count the rings and keep statistics on the age of plucked trees. Mind you, planted trees should be differentiated from wild trees that were raised from seeds - a mark in the trunk maybe (which would create new tree-marking gov't jobs).” 
Too funny Scott!

Some other comments  I received were to decorate a real tree with the branches off a fake one. Has this seriously been done before? 
Another friend reminded me that we are fortunate to be going to the BC Forest Discovery Centre for a kids Christmas Party. A little knowledge on sustainable forests is not such a bad thing, especially since we are a “real” Christmas tree family. 
I never had a tree lot as part of the debate because I have never purchased one from a lot. After a comment about tree lot trees being dried out and dropping hundreds of needles was enough of a reason never to do so.  Yes, fresh trees drop fewer needles. 
One last comment suggested that a tree be planted for every tree cut down. I agree but where does this rule start and stop? Just Christmas Trees? What about the trees cleared for houses, used for houses or the paper we use? Is every tree cut replanted? Probably not but the forestry industry does replant after cut blocks are logged so at some level, this does happen. 
After reflecting on all the comments and my personal experiences, I have decided that cutting down a fresh tree from a U-Cut farm will become our family tradition. It will save me grief on permits and chopping a tree down illegally, supports a local business, gives us a bit of an adventure and for every tree cut at a farm, a seedling is planted in its place!

Some Vancouver Island U-Cut Farms (2011)

On Vancouver Island, The South Island Forest District has several U-Cut farms to choose from. Our choice in U-Cut farms this year was Yellow Point Propagation at 13735 Quennel Road.
Some others are:
Mica Verbugge on Melrose Road in Errington
Mike Gogo at 2625 Southfork Road in Nanaimo (we have gone here before too!)
Sannichton Christmas Tree and Ostrich Farm at 8231 East Saanich Road. I wonder if you get an Ostrich with your tree?
Sahtlam Tree Farm at 4901 Conifer Way in Duncan
Blue Mountain Tree Farm at 7050 Somenos Road in Duncan
Tom Verbrugge at the Port Alberni Airport
Woodstock Evergreens at 6999 West Sannich Road in Brentwood Bay
Jingle Bell Tree Farm at 7969 Wallace Drive in Saanichton
Saltspring Christmas Trees at 182 Beaver Point Road on Saltspring Island
Kirkpatrick Christmas Trees at the Alberni Valley Airport
Ingmar and Theresa Karlsson at 6672 Lakes Road in Duncan



  1. Glad to see you addressed the tradition, the environment, and the adventure in your choice. I bet that tree looks fabulous all Christmas-ied up :)

  2. Smiles all around for your choice of the Douglas Fir - enjoy it and the wonderful Christmas season!!