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Saturday, December 23, 1995 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Solving The Christmas Tree Puzzle

Where do Christmas trees come from? What happens to trees that no one buys? Will we run out of Christmas trees someday?

A visit to a Christmas tree farm will help answer these questions.

Hunter Farms in Union, Mason County, on Hood Canal is a family farm. The Hunters have been farming since 1880 and growing Christmas trees since the 1940s.

Growing Christmas trees takes year-round work. In February the Hunters buy 2-year-old seedlings from tree nurseries.

The seedlings are planted in February and March. Every year a new field is planted. It takes six to 15 years before a tree is ready to cut. On the Hunters' farm there are trees of all ages and sizes growing. That way there will always be Christmas trees.

During spring and summer, trees are fed plant food to help them get a nice green color. Everything on the Hunter farm is done by hand. Larger farms feed trees from a helicopter.

In summer, the trees are trimmed and sheared into a perfect Christmas tree shape.

When autumn comes it's time to cut the trees. This is called harvesting. The Hunters harvest about 20,000 trees a year. Some big farms do as many as a million.

The trees are cut down with chain saws. Then they are wrapped tight with twine to keep them from getting damaged. This is called bailing.

Chase Hunter, 7, is the sixth generation of Hunters to grow up on the farm.

"It's fun living on a farm. There is lots and lots of open space to play," says Chase. He works with his dad and helps with every step of raising Christmas trees. His favorite thing is getting them ready to ship.

"The most fun part is bailing, dragging the trees and loading them on the trucks," says Chase.

Big trucks take the trees to lots all around the area. Some trees stay at the farm and are sold there.

Leftover trees are brought back to the farm and composted. The compost is used to make the soil fertile to help future crops of Christmas trees.

What did you learn? 1. What do the Hunters buy from nurseries? 2. How long does it take to grow Christmas trees? 3. When are Christmas trees harvested?

Hey kids! You can recycle your tree too. For information on where to take trees after the holidays, call the King County Solid Waste Division at 296-4466. ----------------------------------------------------------------- Did you hear the one: Q. What's white and floats up? A. A confused snowflake.

Wordy's Advice: Don't Panic!: So, you haven't quite finished your Christmas shopping! Not to worry, help is here! Nothing brings more joy than a homemade gift. Here is a last-minute idea:

Star or Snowflake Ornaments What you'll need: White glue Waxed paper Pencil Glitter Plain white paper Fishing line or thread

What to do: 1. Draw a star or snowflake on white paper. 2. Place waxed paper over drawing and trace the design using glue. 3. Sprinkle glitter over glue. Let it dry for two days. (You have just enough time!) 4. Carefully peel waxed paper away from ornament. Tie on fishing line so the ornament can be hung from a window or tree.

Your Words: We asked readers to tell us what their favorite holiday activity is. Here is what some of them had to say:

"My favorite holiday activity is decorating our tree. Decorating the tree is special because it gets everyone into the holiday spirit." Tracy Lyons, 12, Woodinville.

"I like to decorate the Christmas tree because I like the colored balls and the golden star on top." James Allen, 7, Seattle. "My favorite holiday activity is seeing my grandma and grandpa and my aunts, uncles and cousins. I also get to see my other grandpa who lives far away." Arthur Hine, 12, Mukilteo.

Copyright (c) 1995 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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