Posts Tagged ‘Santa’

Christmas tree trivia: who earns top star?

December 16, 2008
Santa knows the answer to the Christmas tree trivia question

Santa knows the answer to the Christmas-tree trivia question

So which US state do you think grows the most Christmas trees? That would be Oregon. But the red-ribbon winner might surprise you — my home state of North Carolina. Oregon harvests 7.5 million trees to our 5.5 million. Santa told me that while Oregon outsells North Carolina, we get a much higher return on investment, making us the top Christmas tree earner. I have yet to verify this, but Santa doesn’t lie, right?

You may wonder why Santa cares. Because his day job is with the NC state agriculture department. He was hanging out last weekend at Pop-n-Son Christmas Trees in Garner, NC, one of the 30 Christmas tree farms I visited this month while compiling research for my book “Farm Fresh North Carolina.”

Diane next to a Eastern red cedar that reminds her of her childhood

Diane soaks up the smells of Christmas past from this Eastern red cedar

Here’s what else I learned. A good 90 to 95 percent of all NC tree sold are Fraser firs. They’re shipped all over the country, including to the White House on many years, including this one. Apparently many Americans consider frasers to be the authentic Christmas tree. I beg to differ. I’m a fan of the lacey and softer Eastern red cedar. That’s because when I was growing up in these parts, my parents and I would tromp through the woods behind our house and cut one down at nature’s very own “choose-and-cut” farm. Getting permission from Mrs. Layton up the street was essential too, as it was her land. Now, some 35 years later, the woods and Mrs. Layton are gone, but, as they say, the memories linger.

A good 90 to 95 percent of all NC tree sold are fraser firs

Some 90 to 95 percent of all Christmas trees sold in North Carolina are Fraser firs

Frasers need about 2,500 feet of altitude to grow, so all the fraser farms are in the western NC mountains, while the cedars, pines, and other species are grown in other parts of the state. The mountains are home to about 200 (!) choose-and-cut farms, where customers pick their still-planted tree and the farm cuts it down for them. (Hundreds more fraser farms are wholesale only.) Many farms nowadays use a “shaker,” a vibrating contraption to shake the dead needles out and a “baler” to wrap up the tree in mesh for easy car carrying. What ever did we do back in the old days?

Man secures Christmas tree on car in western part of NC

A fraser fir gets ready for the ride of its life, and a decorated future

I visited 30 choose-and-cut farms, and didn’t even buy a tree. But I did take a lot of notes, get lost on mountain roads, and drink a lot of really bad instant apple cider. (Farmers, consider springing for the real stuff.) From late November through mid-December, about every other car in the mountains has a Christmas tree on the roof and a load of kids inside, dreaming of what Santa will bring. It’s a sweet sight.

Christmas gifts from St. Lucia

June 2, 2008

“Where they Went” by Diane Daniel
(Published  May 11, 2008, in the Boston Globe)

From Di’s eyes: After 30 years together, this was one of Gene and Carla’s most romantic trips. That is too sweet!

WHO: Gene Hunt, 52, and Carla Ramos, 51, of North Andover, Mass.

WHERE: St. Lucia.

WHEN: 10 days in December and January.

WHY: “We’d never gone away as a couple for the holidays and this year we thought we’d be a little selfish, as our children are grown,” Ramos said. “Being away New Year’s was a highlight because you could be outside and enjoy it.”

NAME GAME: “We’ve traveled extensively but this was our first trip to the Caribbean,” Hunt said. “I just got out a map, and we starting naming the islands. St. Lucia just kind of resonated. We liked that it was formerly British and that Creole was spoken there, as we like languages. A lot of my information came from TripAdvisor.” As it turned out, most of their fellow tourists were British.

Gene Hunt and Carla Ramos, in Rodney Bay, St. LuciaMILESTONE INCLUDED: The couple, also celebrating the 30th anniversary of their meeting, stayed at the Rendezvous Resort in Castries, the capital. “We’d never done an all-inclusive trip, but we both really wanted to relax and not have to deal with anything. This was all-adult and geared toward couples,” Ramos said. “It was one of the most romantic trips we’ve had,” Hunt added.

Carla Ramos with Petit Piton peak in the backgroundACID AND AZURE: “The water was so beautiful – clean and clear and that color you see on a commercial,” Ramos said. They snorkeled at a marine park and Hunt took photos galore using a waterproof case for his point-and-shoot digital camera. An excursion through the resort took them to the island’s twin peaks, called the Pitons, and nearby Sulphur Springs, site of the world’s only drive-in volcano. “There are bubbles and all this gas escapes,” Ramos said. “It’s got a really horrible smell.” They stopped at Fond Doux Estate, a working cocoa, banana, and citrus plantation.

OUT AND ABOUT: The couple enjoyed the large marketplace at Castries, which was crowded with tourists. “It’s the big port of call for cruise lines,” Hunt said. They mingled with locals later in the week at the regular Friday night Jump Up street party in Gros Islet.

Carla Ramos, with Santa (who just waterskiied into shore), Rendezvous Resort, St. LuciaSPECIAL DELIVERY: As for Christmas in the Caribbean, “I can tell you it’s the only time Santa has visited me on water skis,” Ramos said. “In the afternoon they told everyone to go to the beach and sure enough he skied in and right onto the beach on his skis with gifts for everyone.” In the background were Christmas carols performed by a steel-drum band. “Around 10 we all went out and sat on the beach and watched fire eaters and performers doing the limbo under bars on fire,” Hunt said. “At midnight it seemed like every resort was shooting off fireworks. They kept trying to outdo each other.”