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HAPPINESS IS … Putting up a Christmas Tree.

One of the most important symbols of Christmas and a center piece in many homes throughout the holiday season, the mighty Christmas Tree. Here are some tips and tricks to keep your Christmas tree healthy, so your tree won't needle a week before Christmas, your ornaments won't hang on bare branches and your presents won't be covered with dried up greens.

What To Buy: Top Selling Christmas Trees are the Fraser Fir, Douglas Fir, Balsam Fir, Colorado Blue Spruce, Scotch Pine, Eastern Red Cedar, White Spruce and Eastern White Pine. These Christmas trees are specifically farmed for that purpose and support local agriculture. According to the National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA), 56 million trees are planted each year.

Where To Buy: If you are not cutting down your own tree, make sure you buy it from a reputable nursery or directly from a quality Christmas tree grower that has cut it’s trees at the last possible moment and assures the trees freshness.

How Fresh: To check a tree’s freshness, the needles should be resilient. Take hold of a branch and pull your hand toward you, allowing the needles to slip through your fingers. Most, if not all, of the needles should stay on the Christmas tree.

Needless To Say: If there are lots of needles on the ground around the trees, find a better nursery or place to purchase your Christmas tree.

Cut Off Base: Once you arrived home and before setting your tree into its stand and water, saw a couple inches off the bottom of the trunk first. When trees are cut, pitch oozes out and seals the pores and by sawing off a couple of inches, you will open up the pores, and the tree will be able to absorb water.
Watering Is Critical: A freshly-cut tree can consume a gallon of water in 24 hours! Fill the tree stand with water, keep it filled and never let the water level go below the tree’s base.

What Kind Of Water: Most experts insist that plain old water is all you need to keep your Christmas tree fresh through Christmas. It doesn't have to be distilled water or mineral water or anything like that and the next time someone tells you to add ketchup, an aspirin or something more bizarre to your tree water, don't believe a word of it.
Best Temperature:
For best placement, keep the Christmas tree away from heating ducts or other heat sources. In fact, the lower the temperature, the better your tree will do.

Create a Bird Feeder: After Christmas, string your tree with orange slices, bread, cranberry, and other bird-friendly goodies, and put it in a sheltered location.
Aromatic Yule Fire: Trim the branches from the tree, and saw the trunk into several pieces. Tie the pieces together and store the bundle in the cellar. This will make an aromatic Yule fire in your fireplace next Christmas Eve.

How to Dispose Of It: Use dried-out sprigs to ignite kindling in your fireplace or remove the branches and run the tree through a wood-chipper, then use them as mulch in your garden.



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"November's sky is chill and drear, November's leaf is red and sear." - Sir Walter Scott

Here are some Tricks to help you conquer this vast amount of falling leaves:

Rake When It's Dry: Wet leaves are heavier than dry ones, so try to do your raking during a dry stretch of weather.

Work With The Wind: Try to pick a calm day but if you have no choice and the one day of the week you have to rake, happens to be windy, rake your leaves in the same direction that the wind is blowing.

Practice Patience: You can spot rake certain areas but why work harder than necessary, simply don't bother raking your whole yard until all the leaves are down.

Use The Right Tools: That rusty metal fan rake in your shed might not be the best choice for the job anymore, some great new raking tools are out there, such as the Lee Valley Power Rake, work easier and faster.

Use Proper Technique: Raking is a real workout and you should warm up your body by stretching before you start. Be sure to keep a good posture and stand upright. Switch your main (bottom) hand on a regular basis, and always bend at the knees (not the back) when you stoop to pick up a pile.

Work Smart: You don’t have to do all at once. Divide your yard into sections and work on them over a period of days. bRake your leaves into small piles on top of a tarp or a piece of plastic, then drag that pile to your main pile or compost.

Try A Mulching Mower: An effective way to clean up your leaves is by turning them into mulch that's bagged by the mower. If you don't like the environmental impact of gas mowers, there are some great electric mowers out there that have mulching capability.

Create Valuable Compost: A green alternative to burning leafs is shredding them with a mulching mower and will not only reduce their volume but also speed up decomposition time. You can add shredded leaves to your compost pile, and use the compost in the spring.

Use Leaves as Mulch: Shredded leaves make good mulch for garden beds and are less likely to blow around. The leaves will gradually turn into compost and enriching your soil. If you like the look of bark mulch better, cover bare soil with shredded leaves first, then apply a top layer of bark mulch but keep total mulch depth to three inches or less and don't let mulch touch tree trunks or the base of shrubs as this can encourage pests and disease.

Burning is Not an Option: It is illegal to burn leaves anywhere in New York State. The smoke from burning leaves contains dangerous compounds and it is especially harmful to children, the elderly and anyone with respiratory or cardiovascular disease. Not to forget that any outdoor fire can spark an accidental brush, forest or house fire.