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Southeastern students regift Christmas trees to wetlands – WAFB.com

AKERS, LA (WAFB) –

A group of researchers at Southeastern Louisiana University is doing a pilot study to determine whether recycled Christmas trees can be used to restore Louisiana’s wetlands.

The Environmental Science students are giving hundreds of old, dried up Christmas trees new life. The shrubs are part of a study to see if the trees can be used to fill in ditches created by cypress loggers more than a century ago. Professor Rob Moreau pointed to the countless trenches scattered about 10,000 miles of marsh in the Manchac Wildlife Management Area.

“These little lines in the marsh. Those are all logging ditches that are still open,” Moreau said.

To get a better understanding of what they are and how they impact the environment, Dr. Moreau has made his students a part of the restoration process.

A handful of his best and brightest students loaded a pontoon boat with Christmas trees before they headed down the Galva Canal.

During their five mile cruise on Pass Manchac, Dr. Moreau pointed out what was once a viable cypress swamp turned marsh. Salt water has moved into the wetlands, which has caused erosion.

“It’s still a very productive system too. There’s a lot of wildlife that inhabit this land and water,” Moreau said.

Dr. Moreau and a team of ecologists believe the trees will help fill in the holes in the environment. Once the boat docks at the Turtle Cove Environmental Research Station, the crew drags the trees onto a boardwalk down a winding trail through the marsh to a staging area. The view disturbed one of the students, Madison Lindsay.

“A lot of our stuff is degrading out here and we didn’t even know about it,” Lindsay said.

Another research team will randomly place the trees in the ditches. To date, Dr. Moreau said 35,000 trees have been deployed in the marsh.

“If those trees capture sediment they should serve as a marsh base for plants to start growing in,” Moreau said.

He took a short walk to a nearby logging ditch to check the progress on the trees dumped last year. So far, it appears, the project is working.

“This is three corner grass growing up in the Christmas tree batches,” Moreau said.

It has taken several months, but Dr. Moreau and his students note, it is progress.

“Obviously it’s helping. It’s really great research that has helped so much, and the more (trees) we have the more it can help with our future,” Lindsay said.

Not just the marsh, but eventually to help restore Louisiana’s battered coast.

If researchers find the five year study is successful, Dr. Moreau said he will take the results to Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries to see if it is interested in expanding the research to other marshes.

The pilot study is currently in its second year.

Copyright 2015 WAFB. All rights reserved.

A new Christmas tree for Manette – Kitsap Sun

MEEGAN M. REID/KITSAP SUN Pablo Garcia (left) and Antonio Martinez (obscured by tree), of Big Trees, move a Fraser fir into position for planting Monday at the Whitey Domstad Viewscape in Manette.

MEEGAN M. REID

Steven Gerrard ‘to put up Christmas tree all year round in new mansion’ – Sports Mole

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard will reportedly have a Christmas tree outside of his new £3m mansion in Merseyside all year round.

By Danielle Joynson, Staff Reporter
Filed:

Last Updated: Friday, March 13, 2015 at 21:45 UK

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard is reportedly planning to have a Christmas tree displayed outside of his new mansion all year round.

The former England international, who will leave the Reds to join MLS side Los Angeles Galaxy in the summer, is believed to be having a new £3m home constructed in Merseyside for his return.

According to the Daily Star, part of the plans are to have a Christmas tree lit with fairy lights through all seasons on his driveway.

The five-bedroom property is also expected to include a fitness centre and tree houses for his three daughters Lilly-Ella, 11, Lexie, 8, and three-year-old Lourdes.

The St. Pat’s Christmas tree and other family oddities – Austin American-Statesman

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Christmas-tree farmers: the other 11 months – Agri-View

OREGON, Wisconsin — “What do Christmas-tree farmers do after the holidays?”

It’s a question tree growers often hear. The answer is they do a lot more than people think.

At Hann’s Christmas Farm of rural Oregon, Wisconsin, the work begins the week after Christmas. January is the time to take inventory and pack up gift items and ornaments in the Hann’s Christmas Store. Owner Greg Hann also gathers all his paperwork together to do his taxes.

In February, the grower is scheduling his advertising for the following November and December. Making advertising decisions at the last minute can sometimes be a costly endeavor.

“I like having the time to talk about advertising and make informed decisions with a clear head,” Hann said.

In February and March, Hann does most of his own machinery repairs and sometimes even fabricates his own equipment, depending on the farm’s unique needs. He has added wings to a conventional Bush Hog® mower, for example. This allows him to maintain clean alleys between rows of trees, but also to leave enough grass immediately around the tree trucks.

Also in March, one can find the Oregon tree grower cleaning fence rows. This is a good time to take early control of weeds, especially now when more weed species across the country are becoming increasingly resistant to herbicides such as glyphosate.

“I’m trying to be proactive,” Hann said. “It’s not a good idea to use the same herbicide year after year.”

April is a busy month, caring for new seedlings. Given the vagaries of April weather, the grower must capitalize on the best times to apply herbicides and spray for pests like balsam twig aphids. As row-crop producers well know, spring application windows can be narrow. Hann keeps a close eye on growing-degree-day ranges that correspond with particular tree pests, critical to effectively controlling them.

In mid June, Hann begins top work — trimming trees to help create that perfect structure to hold an angel or star on the treetop. He repeats this in August. July is spent shaping and tapering trees for the best appearance possible.

Throughout the summer, Hann mows the alleys between the trees and applies herbicides as needed. Summer work also involves irrigating the stands of Fraser firs with a hose-reel irrigation system. Fraser fir, native to the Appalachians of the Southeastern United States, needs extra attention and plenty of water to do well in Wisconsin. But the extra management is worth the extra price that consumers are willing to pay for this popular Christmas-tree species.

September is spent gearing up for the sales season. Hann determines how many trees will be harvested for pre-cut sales and also paints white pine trees to prepare them for sale. Christmas-tree growers generally paint white pines green to be more aesthetically pleasing, because the needles of this species tend to have a less-appealing yellowish cast.

Hann also spends September attaching price tags to trees that will be available for sale. Not all growers do this, but Hann said this enables him to lower the price of less densely needled trees — at least less dense compared to their denser counterparts. This provides more price points to accommodate different customers.

The grower features gifts, ornaments and artwork in Hann’s Christmas Store. The store has become a place for shoppers to enjoy hot cider and freshly popped popcorn while browsing. Much of October is devoted to preparing the shop for the busy selling season.

After a hard freeze, Hann begins cutting boughs, which will be fashioned into wreaths by as many as 45 part-time employees working two or three shifts a week. Many of the same part-time employees return year after year to earn extra income for the holidays.

The farm produces about 4,000 wreaths each year, most of which are sold through Boy Scout troops and sports groups within a 50-mile radius of the farm. To keep the boughs fresh, they are watered and placed under shade cloths at the farm.

The months of work lead up to the busy selling season of about three weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

“I earn about 85 percent of my income in just seven days,” Hann said. “After that, I need to understand how to best use the money over the rest of the year.”

With the retail shop and his farm planted to a few thousand Christmas trees, Hann has made his business a full-time job. But tree farming is not a job for everyone.

“This is a patient man’s industry,” Hann said.

He pointed out it takes from seven to 10 years before an average Christmas-tree crop is ready for market. He spent years building the business to the point where it is today. His parents, Al and Myra Hann, in 1968 started growing Christmas trees on 2 acres of land to earn supplementary income. They bought seven more acres in 1984, and then purchased another 40 acres of land adjacent to their previous parcel. These 40 acres came with a dairy barn, which enabled them to begin making wreaths that were sold through local Boy Scout troops. This part of the business continued to expand. The Hanns added the retail store in the barn in 1992, selling ornaments on consignment.

While in college in the late 1980s, Greg Hann would occasionally help trim trees during summers. He also would help on weekends during the brisk sales season. Partly as a quality-of-life decision, he eventually purchased the farm on a land contract from his parents in 2000.

At the time, the young producer knew he would need to reinvest in the farm to make it a full-time business, so he clear-cut many of the farm’s Scotch pines. He replanted the land to balsam and Fraser firs that would garner higher prices. He updated the farm’s equipment and leased an additional 10 acres from a neighbor, which was a 10-year lease with a three-year bonus. He also expanded the Christmas shop another 1,500 square feet.

Greg Hann’s wife, Therese, is a physical-education teacher. Her salary and insurance helped support the family as the farm grew.

Being a full-time Christmas-tree producer requires agronomic skills.

“After 14 years in the business, I still enjoy seeing the best trees I can produce and talking with customers who buy trees for such a special occasion,” Greg Hann said.

Christmas-tree growers face competition from the artificial-tree industry. But Greg Hann pointed out growing trees provide from seven to 10 years of habitat for wildlife, ranging from turkeys and fox to mice and snakes.

“We have five resident hawks on site,” he said.

Greg Hann belongs to both the Wisconsin Christmas Tree Producers Association and the American Christmas Tree Association. He said he encourage others, especially young people considering going into the business, to join such organizations.

“Even if you cannot attend all of the conferences, you have a chance to talk with other producers and gain knowledge,” Greg Hann said.

He said he encourages other Christmas-tree producers, especially those just starting, to communicate with their local U.S. Department of Agriculture — Farm Service Agency offices. The Farm Service Agency administers a Tree Assistance Program to provide financial assistance to qualifying tree growers to replant or rehabilitate eligible trees damaged by severe weather.

Hanns Christmas Farm is located at 848 Tipperary Road, Oregon. Call 608-835-5464 or visit www.hannschristmasfarm.com for more information.

Christmas tree worms — Easily-spotted, tiny wonders of the ocean – Florida Keys Keynoter

She looks nervous, which makes sense because it is her first of four dives required to become certified as a scuba diver. 

She has completed her bookwork and practiced diving skills in a pool, but this is different. Having spent all of her 18 years inland, this is her first time in the ocean, let alone stepping off the back end of a boat to get there. 

We are finning along about 25 feet below the surface, and I decide to try one of my sneaky instructor tricks to calm her down by getting her to notice the amazing things to see on the reef. 

We swim up to a large brain coral. 

Next comes something that always works. I take hold of her right hand and bring it close to a colorful looking organism that resembles a tiny Christmas tree. When her hand gets a few inches away, the tiny Christmas tree quickly pops back into the coral. Her hand snaps back and she laughs into her regulator. Now we are in business, and she enjoys the remainder of the dive. 

As we depart, the worm very slowly re-emerges about a minute later, testing the water to make sure those strange bubble blowing monsters have left before fully extending its plumes.

We have just had an encounter with a Christmas tree worm, Spirobranchus giganteus, which are easily spotted because of their distinctive shapes, beauty and colors. Spirobranchus translates to “spiral gills,” referring to the worm’s unique crown.

Christmas tree worms come in a variety of red, orange, blue, green, white and other bright colors. Easy to spot, they are some of the most widely recognized polycheates, or marine burrowing and segmented worms. 

The worms are about 5 inches long, with the Christmas tree part about 1.5 inches in length.

Each worm has two brightly colored crowns, specialized mouth appendages, which protrude from its tube-like body. The crowns are composed of hair-like appendages radiating from the worm’s central spine. 

The rest of its body stays safely inside a calcium carbonate tube anchored in burrows bored into living coral. When sensing movement, it retracts its crowns and tightly shuts off the tube.

The worms have a complete digestive system, and well-developed circulatory and nervous systems. Because they do not move outside their tube, the worms do not have any specialized appendages for movement or swimming. 

The crowns are used for respiration and to catch food, which typically consists of microscopic plants, or phytoplankton, floating in the water. Christmas tree worms eat using a technique called filter feeding. They use their brightly colored crowns to filter microorganisms from the water.

Food is passed down from the crown by small hair-like projections and is deposited into a digestive tract. Large particles are discarded, and smaller grains of sand are stored for tube building.

Christmas tree worms live in corals that are between 10 and 100 feet deep. They range from South Florida, the Bahamas, the West Indies and the Caribbean.

They reproduce through open water spawning, when the males and females release sperm or eggs into the water. After being fertilized, the eggs develop into larvae that settle on and then burrow into coral to create a tube that becomes the worm’s home.  

It is estimated that Christmas tree worms live for up to 40 years.

Predators of Christmas tree worms include sea urchins, parrot fish, lobsters and stingrays. 

Most new divers visiting the Keys hope to see large marine life like nurse sharks, rays, moray eels and grouper. These sighting make great stories when back home. 

Many underwater photographers, however, eventually become interested in small subjects, like Christmas tree worms, that often are missed by new divers. 

Even if you aren’t an underwater photographer that takes macro-photography, close-up photography of very small subjects, try swimming slower and looking for the interesting tiny creatures that inhabit the waters near the Florida Keys. You will be surprised by all you have been missing. 

Many serious aquarists purposely include Christmas tree worms in their aquarium.

Back on the dive boat our new, very relaxed diver asks, “What was that pretty thing you put my hand near?” 

I tell her it was a Christmas tree worm. “Cool, I hope we see more stuff like that on the next dive,” she says. 

For more on Christmas tree worms see: http://www.thenakedscientists.com/HTML/content/interviews/interview/1503/

Don Rhodes, in addition to a career in government affairs, has taught scuba for 28 years. He and his wife retired to Tavernier three years ago, where he works as an instructor for Conch Republic Divers.

National forest proposes increased fee for Christmas tree permits – KSL.com

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Walker’s Christmas Tree Budget – urbanmilwaukee

Scott Walker. Photo from the State of Wisconsin Blue Book 2011-12.

Scott Walker. Photo from the State of Wisconsin Blue Book 2011-12.

Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed 2015-17 state budget bill brims with the sort of “big, bold ideas” the likely presidential candidate says his Republican Party needs to embrace. Most of these, like cutting $300 million over two years from the University of Wisconsin System, are fundamentally fiscal in nature.

That makes sense, given that this is, after all, a budget bill.

But some of Walker’s proposals appear to be policy changes with little or no fiscal impact. Wisconsin governors and lawmakers from both parties have often injected these into the budget.

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau, a nonpartisan service agency, identified 58 items in Walker’s previous budget, in 2013-15, it deemed “primarily of a non-fiscal policy nature.” Fiscal Bureau Director Bob Lang says an accounting of non-fiscal items in Walker’s new budget is now being prepared.

As a candidate for governor in 2010, Walker made an unequivocal pledge to “strip policy and pork projects from the state budget.” Pork refers to expenditures or breaks with specific beneficiaries, a category the Fiscal Bureau also tracks. Soon after Walker submitted his first budget, in 2011, the truth-testers at PolitiFact Wisconsin pronounced his promise “broken.”

Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick sidestepped a question about non-fiscal items, instead making a general statement that the budget “is focused on providing better services at a better price to our citizens by streamlining government to make it more efficient, more effective, and more accountable.”

Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, says that because the biennial budget is the only bill the Legislature is required to pass, it tends to get “decorated up as a Christmas tree with everybody hanging ornaments on there.” She labels some of these a “sneak attack” to advance measures that should be vetted more openly.

Among the non-fiscal items flagged by Shilling and her staff are proposals to:

  • Change school report cards and testing.
  • Shift responsibility for property tax assessments from municipalities to counties.
  • Eliminate the rule- and policy-making powers of the state Natural Resources Board and Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Board, turning both into advisory councils.
  • Remove lawmakers — who provide what Shilling calls “taxpayer oversight from elected officials” — from the board of the state’s job creation agency, leaving only members of the private sector.
  • Require that all requests by county district attorneys for the appointment of special prosecutors be approved by the state Department of Justice.

“Many of these things are very contentious,” Shilling notes. One non-fiscal budget item — to strip language about “public service” and “the search for truth” from the UW’s mission statement — created such an uproar that the governor backed down, saying it was all a big mistake.

Walker also wants to create a new oversight board for charter schools, affirm that no school district must adopt Common Core educational standards, and bar the use of a national assessment test associated with these standards.

His budget would merge state agencies and create new divisions within existing ones. It would pry control of the worker’s compensation program from one agency and give it to two others.

To “decrease the regulatory and fiscal burden” on private, for-profit colleges, which have come under attack for hyped promises and poor graduation rates, Walker calls for eliminating the state board charged with overseeing them.

And Walker would shut down public access to records of university research, unless it is published or patented. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, who famously wise-cracked that he didn’t favor university research into “ancient mating habits of whatever,” could then be told that evidence of such research is none of his business.

Finally, the budget includes Walker’s call to drug test people receiving unemployment insurance and other assistance benefits. Critics say requiring people who are down on their luck to pee into cups will cost millions of dollars.

So perhaps that one belongs in the budget, after all.

Bill Lueders is the Money and Politics Project director at the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism (www.WisconsinWatch.org). The Center produces the project in partnership with MapLight.

The Center collaborates with Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television, other news media and the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication. All works created, published, posted or disseminated by the Center do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of UW-Madison or any of its affiliates.

Coach Staley focuses on successful season, still has Christmas tree up – The State

— As the Lady Gamecocks continue a very successful season, the team’s head coach has put a few things in her personal life on hold.

Dawn Staley has yet to take her Christmas tree down in the midst of a very busy and successful basketball season.

Staley tweeted a photo of her still decorated Christmas tree with the caption “Don’t judge me….I’ve been busy.”

In response to her tweet, several people have tweeted photos of their still decorated Christmas trees.

Christmas tree producers talk trends and more – Agri-View

The Wisconsin Christmas Tree Producers Association held its Winter Convention and Trade Show Jan. 24 at the Menominee Casino Resort in Keshena. The event drew 95 attendees, offering them opportunities to visit with vendors and to hear presentations on consumer trends, tree-root-rot survey results, crop protection and fertilization management. A grower panel discussed sales trends.

In general, Christmas-tree sales were good in 2014, with most farms selling about everything they offered, said Derek Ahl, Northern Family Farms or Merillan. The 2015 market might tighten up a bit, which can be attributed in part to more growers leaving the business through retirement or due to competition, Ahl said.

Tree inventories are declining. But demand is also not increasing. The industry continues to face competition from artificial trees that are becoming more lifelike. It’s difficult to compete with pre-lit artificial trees, Ahl said.

Bonnie Rosenthal, Rosenthal Trees of Almond, said an earlier oversupply in North Carolina had resulted in a glutted wholesale market for Christmas trees nationwide. That oversupply is now waning, which should improve prospects for Wisconsin growers next winter, she said.

Anette Phibbs, director of the Plant Industry Laboratory, Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, provided a summary of a four-year Christmas-tree root-rot survey. In declining trees the survey revealed six species of Phytophthora, soil-living fungus-like organisms that cause root rot under wet conditions. These species are P. cactorum, P. europaea, P. megasperma, P. plurivora, P. sansomeana, P. sp. ‘kelmania.’ The species in bold print are new to Wisconsin.

The discovery of Phytophthora sp. ‘kelmania’ in 2010 initiated the four-year project with the goal to identify Phytophthora species affecting tree production in the state. Phytophthora was found in 13 of 33 surveyed Wisconsin counties, causing total tree loss in some fields.

Over the four-year survey, 27 of 91 — 29.7 percent of — participating tree farms tested positive for Phytophthora — 47 of 187, or 25 percent of, collected tree samples.

The Wisconsin Christmas Tree Producers Association also held its annual wreath contest during the convention. This year the contest featured 20 wreaths from six farms. Among the entries were balsam fir, Fraser fir, spruce, pine, other species, mixed greens and decorated wreaths. McCluskey Tree Farm of Sturgeon Bay received the grand champion award for its decorated wreath, while Highland Tree Farm of Wausau received top honors for its un-decorated wreath.

The convention included a presentation by Kole Swanser of Custom Ag Solutions Inc., who reported results from a consumer study conducted on several retail tree lots, as well as choose-and-cut farms in Michigan and Wisconsin. Two-thirds of the customers responding to the survey said they visit Christmas tree farms for the family-outing experience rather than just purchasing the tree. Choose-and-cut farms along with retail lots that offer more services tend to attract more customers, and can help boost tree sales by offering families special attractions such as real reindeer on site or hayrides.

The survey indicated some consumers also had expected to pay more for their tree.

“This indicates an opportunity for growers to price their trees higher if they are of high quality,” Swanser said. “We learned that appearance matters more to customers than price.”