Time to find a tree

IIn the time it took Steve Fetter to get his baby daughter out of her car seat, his two young sons had already found _The One.

Walking among the 14 rows of Christmas trees at Brookdale Fruit Farm in Hollis on Saturday morning, the two boys had selected a Fraser fir that was not too tall and not too short for the house it would be gracing.

Piles of Christmas trees were stacked high next to the rows. Delivered Wednesday, the trees released their freshly cut pine fragrance as a beckoning.

Rick Hardy, vice president of the family-held Brookdale Fruit Farm Corp., was on hand to explain the differences between the less expensive balsam fir and the more expensive Fraser fir.

“The balsam fir is the traditional New England Christmas tree,” Hardy said. “The Fraser fir is slower growing and more open.”

While a balsam fir of the same height would have cost Fetter almost half as much money, Fetter said, “This is a nice tree. I think we’ve made our decision.”

Fetter explained the tree would not be going to his home in Hollis. Instead, the family would be dropping the tree off at Place of Promise in Lowell, Mass., a transitional home for the chronically or terminally ill and those just out of prison. The family would donate the tree to Place of Promise after cooking a breakfast of sausage and pancakes for the residents.

Pleased with themselves, the boys helped their father strap the tree to the top of their minivan.

Hardy said most people coming to buy a tree from the farm want to know how fresh it is.

“If you ask somebody when their trees were cut and they say ‘yesterday,’ don’t believe them,” Hardy said with a laugh.

While the answer to the freshness question varies, Hardy said most trees are cut during November.

Hardy said most Christmas trees sold in New Hampshire were grown in the northern part of the state or Canada. Because some tree farms have crops that grow on mountainsides, Hardy said it’s important for them to be harvested before too much snow falls.Much of a tree’s quality depends on the weather conditions in which it grew up.

“The trees are really good this year because we had really good rain in the spring and early summer, which means they had ample growth,” Hardy said. “We had relatively good rain in fall, which means they weren’t dried out by the time they were being cut.

“Three or four years ago, the trees were dry and it didn’t matter when they were cut. They lost their needles.”

Keeping a Christmas tree fresh is a separate issue, Hardy said. He recommended shoppers buy their trees this week, when most places are receiving their first deliveries from up north. If a shopper doesn’t plan to display the tree anytime soon, Hardy said, “Put a fresh cut on the bottom (of the trunk) and put it in a pail of water.”

Check the water at least every other day and look into giving the tree food packets, which Hardy said are similar to the ones received with a bouquet of fresh flowers.

Hardy said one final consideration for keeping a tree fresh is how warm the family keeps the home. The higher the temperature, the more likely the tree is to dry out.

Two-year-old Jack Levesque was not nearly as selective in choosing his tree. Pointing to the first one he saw at Countrybrook Farms on Lowell Road in Hudson, he made his selection.

“It makes Christmas more fun now that Jack’s around,” said his mother, Christine Mathieu.

Jack, his mother and his father, Rich Levesque, just moved into their new home in Hudson in October. They were looking for a tree that would fit under the seven-and-a-half-foot ceilings. The tree would be on showcase for all to see in the front window.

The couple said they had contemplated whether any bells or whistles would accompany the tree-decorating festivities.

“This is really the first time we’re starting traditions,” Mathieu said.

“We’ll probably play some Christmas music and let Jack run in circles around the tree with the string of lights,” Levesque said.

The Weirs family of Nashua has two traditions: The Christmas tree has to be bushy and the mother, Dawn, gets to put the angel on top when they’re finished.

“Growing up, I always got to do the angel, so I still do the angel,” she said. “Ethan does all the unbreakable stuff.”

Five-year-old Ethan Weirs said, “Last year, we didn’t get the right one. It was too tall and we had to put the angel on the side.”

This year, the family carefully considered each tree’s bushy-ness, the spacing between the branches and the height of the tree.

The family ducked and dodged through some of the farm’s 600 trees, delivered at 7 a.m. Friday from Ontario. They held their arms above their heads to check the height – some of the trees appeared to be 15 feet tall – and stretched their arms out to their sides to see if a tree was wide.

Ethan tried to figure out the age of the trees by counting the rings from trunk cuttings. The family ultimately settled on a balsam fir only a smidge taller than the father, Greg Weirs, and bushy enough to meet their discerning eyes.

As the tree got a fresh cut to the trunk, the morning drizzle turned a bit colder and another Christmas season began.