• terry-lynn hemmerling

No tree harmed, at No Harm Farm

Last year on the first day my daughter finished her exams, we went to purchase our Christmas tree. I have debated over the years around what is the more sustainable choice - an artificial tree that can be used year after year - or one that can be composted and re-grown. Fresh, I decided was best. I wanted to support local and so researched businesses in our valley that offered fresh Christmas trees. I found a family operated you-cut Christmas tree farm that held strong values around sustainability and the holiday season. With a borrowed truck, off we went in search of the perfect tree.

We arrived at the farm and were instructed to walk around until we found “the one” and then the farmer would come by to help us. Sticker shock at the price this would cost set in until I was informed that to grow this particular tree again would take 16 years! That seemed such a long time and the money paled in comparison to the work of growing a tree into this size. The farmer took out his saw and began to cut. My daughter and I locked eyes and there was a visceral response in my gut as this tree was sacrificed for our holiday celebrations which would last about two weeks. Sixteen years for two weeks. I will compost it in my garden I consoled myself on the way home… It will become part of our soil and not be wasted at all. These consolations did little to ease the unease I was feeling about the whole endeavour. My daughter echoed my own heart as we drove away, confirming that it wasn’t just me being overly sensitive.

The tree was driven home, given a big drink of warm water and brought inside. It was a beautiful sight, all decorated and twinkling with lights. The whole family agreed it was lovely to sit by and get that Christmasy feeling. Still. Every once in a while (daily) I would remember the farmer pulling his saw back and forth cutting down sixteen years of growing. I would tell myself to get over it - this is a ritual, a tradition and we don’t have many of those in our culture and so I am certainly not going to forgo this one…

Flash forward to this year. I had the very good fortune of visiting beautiful Salt Spring Island TWICE this year. On my second visit, I picked up this book written by a local author which has now become my favourite book of 2018 but that is another story. Intrigued by her beautiful and important thoughts and ideas, I checked out her website. It was there that I came across an old post about how to make a Yule tree whereby no tree is cut down. Branches are lovingly placed on a homemade teepee structure. My heart swelled. Here it is. Here is the answer to my dilemma. I can engage in the holiday tree ritual, I can bring the outside in to mark the season. I can fully engage in the Christmas ritual bringing light and beauty to the darkest days of the year. I can have that lovely evergreen smell throughout my house. And best of all NO TREE is harmed in the process. And so here is our first go: 

With branches gathered from our yard and trimmed to size, we built a teepee structure with natural twine...

We made sure the twine was not plastic and fully compostable...

We continued to add branches from the bottom up. The more variety the more interest and beauty IMHO... Pro-tip: get out your broom!

TA DA! Need to add the decorations and we are done!

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