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O Christmas Tree

Whether families are searching for a modest Christmas tree (a la Charlie Brown), or a ginormous show tree (to the liking of the National Lampoon’s Griswold family) they should be able to find what they need in or near Austin.

Several nurseries in town offer a wide selection of fresh cut trees, and various retailers sell the faux variety for those opting for something that can be used year after year.

There are even a few tree farms not too far away for families who want to choose and cut their own, such as Budd’s Christmas Tree Farm in Clarks Grove, 75668 270th St.

Budd’s Farm 40-acre farm grows Scotch Pine, White Pine, Norway Pine, Blue Spruce, Balsam Fir, Fraser Fir, and Concolor or White Fir.

Customers can cut down their own tree, or request that it be cut down for them.

Budd’s Christmas Tree Farm is open 9 a.m. to dark every day except Sunday’s, when it is open noon to dark.

Berg’s Nursery, 904 First Ave. SW, caters to customers wishing to forego the axing and hauling. The nursery sells a fresh variety of ready-to-go Scotch Pine, Balsam Fir, Fraser Fir and White Pine trees.

Owner Debbie Berg said their busiest week for tree sales is the week of Thanksgiving and the first week of December.

“Fraser Fir is definitely the most popular. It is fragrant, soft to the touch and it has the greatest sustainability in your home,” Berg said.

Aimee Whiteaker, manager of Dolan’s Landscape Center, 3108 Fourth St. NW, sells the same types of trees and said Fraser Firs are her best-seller too. And, Balsam Fir is a close second.

The quality of the Fraser Fir shows in its price, Berg said. Fraser Firs are her most expensive variety.

Christmas trees range at most nurseries from $20 to more than $100, depending on type and size.

Other varieties have their perks too. Berg said White Pines have soft, long needles and lend themselves to hold more ornaments.

“It’s a matter of not only the cost, but also of personal preference,” Berg said.

The most important part of tree care is keeping them watered, Whiteaker said.

“Do not let it dry out. When it is thawing, water it twice a day for the first week, and at least once a day in the following weeks,” she continued.

Whiteaker said preservatives can also be purchased to help prolong a tree’s life, and help it hold water.

Both Dolan’s and Berg’s are open through Christmas Eve, and Berg and Whiteaker said they do see some families each year who keep a tradition of putting up the tree the night before Christmas.

Of course, they also see some who just have not yet gotten around to picking up a tree.

Trees for a cause

Austin’s Boy Scout Troop 109 is busy selling trees as well to raise money for their various camping trips.

They sell Fraser, Balsam and White Pine varieties in Ed’s South Main Auto Lot, 109 Main Street South.

Frances Michel is a mom of three scouts, and she heads the sales.

“These fundraisers are very important because they teach the scouts how to work for money, and how to earn these camping trips… The fundraisers also relieve families from any financial burden of sending scouts to camp,” Michel said.

Michel said their prices are competitive and range from $35 to $95.

The sale funds a spring, winter and summer camp for all 22 scouts in the troop.

“We’re on track to do well. We were busy during the warm weather, and now I think the snow is making some people nostalgic and so they are coming out too,” she said.

The Boy Scouts sell trees in the Ed’s South Main Auto lot Monday through Friday from 4 to 7 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 7 p.m. Sales will continue while supplies last.

Austin Fire Chief Dan Wilson said that he cannot remember a Christmas tree fire in Austin, but that doesn’t mean that people should put up trees without taking precautions.

Chief Wilson directs residents toward a couple of Web sites for safety tips.

The State Fire Marshal’s Web site, www.dps.state.mn.us/fmarshal/fmarshal.html, and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) site, www.nfpa.org, offer holiday safety toolkits, he said.

Electrical problems, candles, decorative lights and tree placement near a heat source are all risks of tree fires, according to the NFPA.

The NFPA states that holiday tree fires are uncommon, but when they do occur, they are likely to be serious.

U.S. fire departments responded to about 250 home fires that started with Christmas trees each year between 2003 and 2007. One of 18 fires resulted in a death.

But, the NFPA states that carefully choosing, placing and lighting a tree will keep the home safe and thus the holidays can be more worry-free.

A sidebar offers a complete list of NFPA safety tips.

Now all that anyone needs to worry about around the tree is holding their pitch — while paying their respects with the classic carol, “O Christmas Tree.”

Christmas Tree Safety Tips

From www.nfpa.org

Artificial trees must be labeled, certified, or identified by the manufacturer as fire retardant.

Choose a tree with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched.

Before placing the tree in the stand, cut 1 to 2 inches from the base of the trunk.

The tree must be three feet away from any heat source, like fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents or lights.

Make sure the tree is not blocking an exit.

Be sure to add water to the stand daily.

Use lights that have the label of an independent testing lab. Some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use, but not both.

Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Connect no more than three strands of mini string sets and a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs.

Never use lit candles to decorate the tree.

Always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to bed.

Get rid of the tree when it begins dropping needles.

Dried-out trees are a fire danger and should not be left in the home or garage, or placed outside against the home.

Check with your recycling program to see if they take trees.

Bring outdoor electrical lights inside after the holidays to prevent hazards and make them last longer.