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Oh, Christmas tree

You can pick a live tree at farm near Duncombe

-Messenger photo by Kriss Nelson
Aubrey Cordray, of Humboldt, takes a picture of her husband Kevin and son Hayes after chopping down their Christmas tree at Riverside Trees near Duncombe on Friday. The Cordray family has been cutting their own tree at the farm for four years.

DUNCOMBE — Kevin and Aubrey Cordray, of Humboldt, have hopes that choosing and harvesting their own Christmas tree will become a long time family tradition.

The Cordrays, along with their son Hayes, 3 and daughter Collins, 1, have been picking out their own Christmas tree, making it a family adventure at Riverside Trees near Duncombe for four years now.

Aubrey Cordray said growing up her family always had an artificial tree, while Kevin Cordray said his family had real Christmas trees.

“This is such a scenic place down here. It’s fun to come down here — it’s a very picturesque, scenic farm right along the riverbank. It is very beautiful,” said Kevin Cordray. “They make the house smell nice and it’s a tradition.”

“It’s about the experience, especially now that Hayes is old enough to appreciate it,” said Aubrey Cordray.

-Messenger photo by Kriss Nelson
Kelle Vanvacter, owner of Riverside Trees holds her granddaughter, Isla Gaillard. Vanvacter said they will be open today and Sunday and then by appointment depending on weather and their tree inventory after the busy Thanksgiving weekend.

Hayes Cordray during the tractor and trailer ride down to the tree farm expressed to his parents just the kind of tree he wanted.

“I want a green one,” he said.

After a short walk and some convincing from his parents, Hayes picked out the perfect tree.

Riverside Trees

According to the Iowa Christmas Tree Growers Association, there are approximately 100 choose and harvest Christmas tree farms in the Iowa.

-Messenger photo by Kriss Nelson
Kevin and Aubrey Cordray, of Humboldt, walk with their children Collins, being held by her mother, and Hayes, to find the perfect Christmas tree at Riverside Trees. Riverside Trees, located near Duncombe, is open today, Sunday and then by appointment.

Jerry and Kelle Vanvacter have owned Riverside Trees, located near Duncombe for over 20 years when they purchased the farm from Fran Long.

“We brought our kids to Fran’s and bought trees and then we ended up moving out here and then we bought the farm from Fran,” said Kelle Vanvacter.

The event of choosing and harvesting your own Christmas tree, Vanvacter said is a neat family tradition.

“It’s a good family time away from the T.V.,” she said, adding they have several repeat customers that have been choosing their tree from them for the entire 20 years they have owned the farm.

Riverside Trees is made up of 10 acres and is also home to thousands of trees — mainly Canaan Firs and White Pine trees.

Normally the Vanvacters will be open for a few weekends following Thanksgiving, but have decided to only be open for Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

“Our numbers are kind of down this year, so we are only going to be open one weekend,” she said.

The rotation of tree growth as well as the weather caused them to make that decision. Christmas tree growers have the same challenges as other growers. Vanvacter said this year they battled flooding and have also had issues with drought in the past.

The busy time for a Christmas tree farm isn’t just during the tree buying season. Vanvacter said they begin planting in the spring adding it takes about nine years to get a seven foot tree.

Come July they begin shearing the trees to shape them but the work doesn’t end there.

“We are always mowing,” she said. “It is work all year round.”

They will have wreaths available for the season and weather permitting they will be open by appointment for you to choose and harvest your Christmas tree.

Tips for keeping your Christmas tree fresh

Vanvacter advises if you are not going to put your Christmas tree up right away, to put a fresh cut on it and give it fresh water.

“They drink a lot of water the first couple of days,” she said.

Be careful of where you place the tree in your home as well.

“Don’t put it by a furnace vent or fireplace,” she said.

According to the Iowa Christmas Tree Growers Association, once your tree is home, clean it thoroughly from needles lodged among the branches, then care for it as you would cut flowers.

Keep the tree outdoors in a protected area until you are ready to decorate it. It is best to keep the trunk in water. Any large container will do. Simply make a fresh straight cut across the trunk about an inch up from the original cut. This opens the tree stem for water intake.

If you allow the water level to drop below the fresh cut, a seal will form, just as it does on cut flowers, and a new cut will be necessary. Use hot water the first time to dissolve pitch that may be clogging water conduction tissues.

Be sure to unplug the lights before retiring or leaving home. A Christmas tree has never started a fire, but the lights may overheat and start a fire among the paper gift wrapping or curtains.

There is no better family tradition than going to a tree farm and selecting and harvesting your own Iowa grown Christmas tree.