By Sarah Schrock
Santa’s pancake breakfast at the Twisp Valley Grange filled bellies with holiday cheer on Saturday morning as dozens of adorable kids, dressed in velvet and gold, bow ties and Christmas jammies took to his chair to share their Christmas wish lists.
As customary, Santa gifted each child an orange and a warm warning to stay “nice, not naughty” to their moms and dads.
The warning was timely for my kids, who have already begun the holiday meltdown. Most notably, our tree trimming Friday night turned into tears over a broken ornament, fights over placement of shops in our porcelain Dickens village, and then Saturday morning on our way to see Santa, protests ensued.
“So, you are telling me you don’t want to see Santa and eat pancakes?” I wanted to say, “Look, in a couple years, the gig is up, and I won’t be taking you, so find some holiday spirit, OK!” How’s that for merry and bright?
Twisp, however, will be merry and bright on Thursday night (Dec. 8) at Gear Up for the Holidays at TwispWorks and downtown. This is the premier opportunity to support local businesses and artists as TwispWorks transforms into a wintry wonderland village with warming fires, horse-drawn carriage rides, caroling, music and warm drinks. Businesses throughout town will be open late, offering bites to eat and drinks along with deals to fill your stockings. The event runs 4-7 p.m., and did I mention horse-drawn carriage rides up and down Glover Street? Come out for an evening of cheer and goodwill to support our local economy and see the village Christmas tree light up.
Lack of snow this year has made wild Christmas tree cutting an almost effortless jaunt. In that vein, here are some observations about, you guessed it, trees! With both native and imported Christmas tree varieties to choose from, here’s some basic information about what you might bring home this season and how they compare.
The majority of farm-raised Christmas trees at tree lots come from three species: noble fir, balsam fir and grand fir. Sheared to make them busy and perfectly cylindrical, both noble fir and grand fir grow in Washington. But you are unlikely to find them outside the tree lots because grand fir is only found in a few drainages and nobles grow in mid-elevations on the western slopes of the Cascades in southwestern Washington.
Noble firs are popular for their bluish-green needles and strong branches for heavy ornaments. Balsam firs originate from Canada and are grown throughout the northern states in farms for superb Christmas trees with deep, dark foliage. Check out the Methow Valley Community Center Tree sale at Hank’s Harvest Foods for their varieties.
Wild tree hunters in the Methow have about three species they might consider for a Christmas tree: Douglas fir, Engelmann Spruce and sub-alpine fir. Douglas fir (which botanically is not a fir) is by the far the most common and makes a fine Christmas tree, though its branches are less rigid, can be a little spindly if they are grown in crowded or overly shaded areas, and the foliage color is yellowish green. You can identify a Douglas fir because the tips of their stems look like footballs. You will find it at low elevations upwards to nearly 5,000 feet. In general, any wild trees is going to have imperfections, but one grown in a more-open location will be uniform in shape with stronger branches.
Starting at around 2,500 feet you will begin to see Englemann spruce and sub-alpine firs. These are both popular trees because they take on a traditional upright, conical form with spaces between branches for hanging ornaments. The higher in elevation you go, the denser the branching and slenderer the tree. High-elevation trees are typically slow-growing, so if you harvest a spruce or fir, it will likely be older than 50 years to be of any significant size for a Christmas tree.
Now, I should add that you can take a pine tree. Here in the Northwest, pines are not popular for Christmas trees but are traditional in the South and Midwest. There are some nice-looking lodgepole pines out there that would make a decent holiday trees and bring your home a fresh a piney smell.
Whether it’s wild or farm grown, a fresh tree needs a fresh cut to adequately uptake water. You can drill holes around the base or cut one-half inch off the bottom to ensure it will drink. Once the tree is at room temperature, it needs a lot of water to stay plush and not drop needles. If you need help identifying your tree species, email me and I can help you out. If not, enjoy your tree and get out there before the snow makes it too difficult.