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Pick Your Tree

Forget the plastic - this year, vow to go natural with your Christmas tree

RODNEY WILSON | CIN WEEKLY CONTRIBUTOR

A confession: In terms of Christmas trees, I am an artificial man. I was raised on plastic branches, and in the past, I carried the tradition over to my own family's holiday celebration.

However, upon setting foot on the soil at Meinhardt's Burlington Tree Farm, I found myself longing for less artifice in my holiday. In a season filled with faux greenery, electric candles and glued-on Santa beards, the smell of a fresh-cut Scotch pine is all the more rapturous for its authenticiTY.

OUT ON THE FARM
Meinhardt's, like most tree farms, is off the beaten path - it's a six-mile drive from downtown Burlington, which itself is four miles from Florence's Mall Road. The roads wind through the countryside of Boone County, digging into the heart of farm country. It's Christmas-y, in a Burl-Ives-on-the-car-stereo kind of way.

 
The tree farm is off a one-lane side road, with pavementng way to gravel on the Meinhardt's property. The landscape is all very rustic - weathered barns, worn tractors. And then you round a bend and your eyes behold Christmas trees - lots of Christmas trees ... rows and rows of evergreens on your left and wrapping down the hillside on your right.

HOMEMADE GOODNESS
"There are children who are growing up coming here, and it's very interesting to see them come back year after year," says Jennifer Meinhardt, who, along with her husband Mike, has run the tree farm since 1994. "They're excited, and they stick their heads in and say, 'Do you have cookies this year? OK, we'll be back.' "

The homemade cookies - as well as hot chocolate - are available in the Christmas House, a white brick building that offers a warm spot to sit down, as well as enjoy the treats. My family stopped in out of the cold and saw the decorated Christmas tree and perused the goodies. My daughter tried one of the famous cookies, but she was distracted from the sweets by the Meinhardt's dog, Max, who was curled up beneath the boughs, kindly ignoring her excited appreciation of his existence.

ALL ABOUT THE GREENS
Though the sweets are nice, Meinhardt's is all about the trees, whether you want to cut your own or choose a pre-cut one. The trees that grow on the farm are Scotch pines. People wanting to cut their own tree will be given a hand saw and directed to the hillside filled with these fragrant conifers. "It's not too complicated a process - pretty simple," says Meinhardt, adding that the farm's staff will happily aid customers with everything from cutting the tree to loading it on a vehicle. Pricing ranges from $35 to $75 and is based on quality, not size.

In addition to the Scotch pines, the farm sells pre-cut Fraser firs, white pines and blue spruce trees. "The Frasers come from a farm in North Carolina, and the white pines and blue spruce come from a farm up in Ohio," Meinhardt says. "If people want to choose pre-cut, we'll guide them over there and explain the pluses and minuses."

TREE TRADITION
For Meinhardt, the beauty of live Christmas trees comes down to the kids who stick their heads in the door, asking for cookies.

"There's something nice about the tradition of coming and choosing a tree and everybody getting together to do that - the time that people spend together, and the pleasure of going home and decorating it," she says. "It's kind of a family project, and we hear people saying, 'Oh, we're going to go home and do this, then we're going to do that, then we'll put up the tree.' They have a whole little ritual that they go through, and that's nice."

A SAMPLING OF OTHER AREA TREE FARMS
Big Tree Plantation
2544 S. Waynesville Road,
Morrow (513) 899-4624 or
www.bigtreeplantation.com
Hours: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Friday and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday-Sunday
Types: Scotch and white pine, blue spruce, Canaan fir and pre-cut Fraser firs
Extras: Live reindeer as well as a life-size Nativity scene, free wagon rides and free hot chocolate

Whitetail Acres
9127 Cooley Road, Brookville
(765) 647-6812 or
www.whitetailacrestreefarm.com
Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday-Sunday and
9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Dec. 24
Types: Scotch pine, white pine and Fraser fir
Extras: Bonfire, ice skating (weather permitting), hayrides, reindeer and free refreshments

Dirr Nurseries
6066 Goshen Road, Goshen
(513) 625-2000 or www.dirrnurseries.com
Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily through Dec. 24
Types: Scotch and white pine
Extras: Nativity scene, farm animals for petting, and a free mug with each Christmas tree purchase

Nieman Nursery
3881 Cincinnati-Brookville Road, Ross
(513) 738-1332
Hours: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Dec. 10-11 and 17-18
Types: Scotch and white pine; Fraser and Canaan firs; and Norway and blue spruce
Extras: Free hot chocolate and cookies

Wednesday, December 7, 2005 | CiN Weekly
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