When my boys were preschoolers, we used to trim a real tree. We procured our live boughs from both tree lots and tree farms during those years. But as the boys grew and circumstances changed, a factory-made, environment-wrecking artificial tree was purchased.

The artificial tree was small and after over a decade of use at two houses, it finally fell apart. Since it disintegrated on the day we were decorating for Christmas, we panicked and headed out to find another artificial tree.

The new faux fir was of the pre-lit variety. It seemed big in our old house. But two years later we moved again. In our new house, the replacement tree seemed lost. We’ve become accustomed to pointing it out to visitors so they notice it like a mustard stain on a silk blouse.

After setting it up and decorating it a couple of weeks ago, my son and I had a heart to heart.

"Mom, when are we going to get a real tree? A big tree? One that makes the whole house smell like Christmas?"

His argument was punctuated with big eyes and sad, pursed lips.

I did like the idea of finding a bigger, fuller tree, and I have missed the smell of pine in the house during the holidays. So, we decided to plan a trip during which we could select the perfect live tree for us and have it freshly cut.

Last weekend, we piled into the van and made our way to the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains where we stopped at a Frazier fir farm. We walked through the rows of trees and carefully selected a seven-foot beauty. Then we sipped fresh cider while the owners prepared our tree for the ride home.

For those of you upset that we killed a tree, my argument back includes the fact that Christmas trees are grown specifically for the purpose of harvesting for use as home décor, much like wood for furniture. They are a crop, just like corn and wheat. And, the production of real Christmas trees is healthy and safe for the environment. They are 100 percent biodegradable and won’t taint ground soil or water upon decomposition.

Now, as I gingerly step down from my soapbox, I’d like to discuss the trimmings. When you purchase a real tree, you have to trim some of the lower branches so the tree will fit securely in a tree stand.

Don’t forget to do this outside, before you take the rope off the tree. Otherwise, you’ll become frustratingly sidetracked for several hours as you scrub sap and sweep thousands of pine needles off your floor. Then again, such a situation could also inspire creative writing.

Once the tree has been pruned appropriately, you will have a few nice boughs of fragrant evergreen to do with as you please. You could simply toss them in your compost heap. But before you do, I’d like to make a few suggestions.

Classically, folks will use the trimmings to make a wreath. I’ve done this in the past. Combined with some holly branches, the cuttings can be transformed into a simple, yet beautiful decoration for the front door.

The scraps can also be placed in vases around the house. Not only are the arrangements festive, they also ensure full aroma disbursement around your home. Holly also complements these arrangements, as do candy canes. But then, I love putting candy canes on our tree, too.

And while both wreaths and arrangements are super ideas for making use of your bottom branches, I’d like to move away from the tried and true decorating ideas. There are also unconventional uses that should not be overlooked.

Remember that sock you’ve been keeping in hopes of finding its mate? A good way to find the mate is to use the sock in such a manner that it will never be suitable to wear on a foot again.

Get that sock out and place some Christmas tree clippings inside it. Then secure the end with a rubber band. Throw the sock under your son’s bed. Don’t worry about your son discovering it when his phone falls off the bed and slides under, as boys are incapable of removing dirty socks from beneath their beds.

As the sock sits under the bed, it will freshen the child’s room with a fresh, piney scent. This scent is so powerfully associated with Christmas, good times, good food and presents, it might also help to freshen the child’s dreary teenager mood.

I also like to use a branch to clear the cobwebs from the corners of my porches and deck. The sappy needles clear out all the webs as well as spread that delicious scent. However tempting it may be, do not use the branches for interior cobwebs. Unless, of course, you need more writing inspiration or a reason to scrub, sweep and vacuum.


Micki Bare is a columnist for the Arkansas News Bureau and the Courier-Tribune in Asheboro, N.C., and author of "Thurston T. Turtle Moves to Hubbleville." She lives in Asheboro with her husband, three children and mother. Her e-mail address is mickibare@inspiredscribe.com