NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - While the rest of East Texas was preparing their Thanksgiving meals this week, Christmas tree handlers were shearing, cutting and trimming their trees for opening day and for most Christmas tree farm owners finding the perfect tree is more of a science than a hobby.
"I get a real kick out of listening to the kids run up and down the rows and mom and dad are looking for the right tree and hear the kids say 'I found it!'," said Dale Allred, the owner of Classic Christmas Trees in Nacogdoches.
Allred says he has been shearing and raising his classic Christmas trees for the past 32 years.
"It's a renewable resource. You plant them, you grow them. I enjoy them out here. Folks enjoy walking around the farm and of course you can see it's a nature typesetting and it's a real fun, family tradition to be able to come out," Allred said.
Allred says his customers come looking for all different types of trees, but the perfect Christmas tree is one that takes years to craft.
"The perfect Christmas tree is one that has a deep green color. It's fresh and it's preferably cut from a farm locally. There's several of them in the East Texas area and once you've cut the tree and if it's been more than two or three hours since it's been cut and when you get home you can get a hose and wash it off and that way any dust or accumulation from the road can be washed off. Give it a good vigorous shake and in an hour it will be dry," Allred said.
Allred says the trees he raises are Virginia Pines, and when they aren't sheared they look bushy. He says he will cut the trees down that he is unable to shear and once he does he will plant a new baby pine into the ground. He says it takes a lot to raise those trees and they won't be ready to be sold for at least five years.
"When you put them in the ground they are about the size of a pencil and about eight to ten inches tall and you leave them alone for the first year or so and on the second year you'll give them a little shearing once. As a tree gets established you may find yourself having to shear the trees as many as two to three times a season," said Allred.
But one of the most important things is making sure the trees have enough water once they are cut and brought home.
"You just need to check you water levels daily. Make sure you have plenty of water…your tree stand has a line on it that tells you how much you keep in it at all times," said Ashley White, the owner of Kendrick Farms in Lufkin.
Allred says it's important you cut off a half inch of the trunk because once a pine tree is cut it will become sappy.
"Well, in a two to three hour period that will seal off so if you make a nice, fresh cut within an inch and you put it in water then the trunk won't be sealed off and it will absorb water from your stand," Allred said.
He says that it's also important to keep the tree away from a heat source.
"Put it up on the shady side of the house, put it down in some water and then before you put it in your stand and give it a fresh cut, put it in the water and then don't let the water dry up because the sap will seal off again if you let it go dry," Allred said.
Also, a tip to remember is to bring measuring tape.
"When you shop for a tree out at a farm, they don't look real big, but when you get that in your house, if you have an eight foot ceiling…eight foot comes quick and you may find yourself trimming the bottom of your tree so it will fit in your house," Allred said.
White says that they provide measuring sticks for their customers just in case.
"It goes up to ten feet for you and we provide that for you so you can go around and pick whatever tree you would like," White said.
The trees can only be used once, but Allred says every customer has a different tradition in getting rid of the beloved tree.
"They'll take it to the yard and they'll allow all the birds to use it for awhile. Some folks will cut a Yule log off of it, which is a tradition for some of the folks that I say, that they'll take last year's tree and they'll cut a section of the trunk out and they'll put that in the fireplace the next season," Allred said.
But the most important thing, they say, is to have fun.