Holiday decorating: fresh air, fresh trees, and eco-friendly finds
Every year, my family, like many, spends time together around the holidays. For us, this means being in nature, supporting local farms, and doing our best to avoid excess. Luckily, here in Litchfield County we have ample opportunities for being outdoors and creating more environmentally friendly traditions that harken back to days of old when life moved a bit slower for all of us. Bringing awareness to the holiday provides for a richer enjoyment to fill the house with festive cheer.
One way to get out and about in the revitalizing winter air is to harvest your own holiday tree. Nothing compares to the aroma of fresh-cut pine, and many treasure this tradition. And, there are a number of Christmas-tree farms that are trying to do right by their local ecosystems through more thoughtful agricultural growing methods. “If you buy a locally grown tree from a responsible farm, that’s often a great choice,” notes Brian Clark Howard, environmentalist and author of the eco-guide, Green Living. “It’s definitely better than having a tree shipped from far away. You are also helping to support local farmers and local green space.” If you do go for fresh-cut, be sure to compost or mulch your tree when you are done with it.
Maple Hollow Farm in New Hartford has been family-run for 40 years and Jesse Steadman says that her family does what they can to protect the environment. One of the ways the Steadmans uphold this commitment is by avoiding the use of insecticides on their trees. “Our farm depends on the local community, and we owe our customers the peace of mind that comes with a naturally grown product,” says Steadman. “We feel an increasing responsibility to give our customers a product free of any chemical residues, no matter how small, especially when that product is brought into the home. The only unexpected thing you might find in one of our trees is a bird’s nest.”
Tim Angevine, of Angevine Farm in Warren also feels strongly about his family’s products. “We are not just selling trees at box stores. We are sharing an experience, here, on our land. Being a family-run, fourth-generation farm is no simple feat, especially in today’s industry. Here, people get the whole family together to ‘make a memory.’” Angevine Farm, nestled into a small valley off of Route 341, is a bucolic setting. The seasonal Christmas Barn at Angevine’s offers ornaments and gifts and also houses a vintage-theater pipe organ that entertains visitors when Angevine’s father takes to the keys at holiday time to belt out holiday tunes.
For those who feel that a more eco-conscious decision is to avoid cutting down a tree at all, many garden centers offer potted evergreen trees that can be cared for and planted in the spring. There are many varieties, though often these plants can’t spend too much time indoors; so the key is to make sure the plant is one you can sustain inside or transplant to the yard.
There are several ways to find sustainable holiday décor in Litchfield. Depending on how you celebrate the season, you can visit one of the cut-your-own tree farms that also offer fresh wreath materials; or simply forage for sprigs of fresh plants to accent your table. For decorating centerpieces, carefully harvest native species such as winterberry, mountain laurel, Eastern hemlock, Christmas fern, or evergreen wood fern. Bill Moorhead, a field botanist in Litchfield, advises “collecting the above-mentioned native species if you harvest only from your own property or another’s, with permission, and if you only gather enough for your family’s use and not quantities for sale or wide distribution.” It is always important to be mindful of clipping appropriately and on a small-scale to ensure species preservation.