Tuesday, December 23, 2014

From our farm to your home ~ Happy Holidays from The Rocks Estate

After this year’s annual flurry of festive fun at The Rocks Estate, we trust our friends and customers are nestled in with beautifully trimmed Christmas trees and visions of sugarplums and other holiday delights dancing through their heads.

In this holiday season, we are honored that so many of you spent part of your Christmastime with us at The Rocks. Whether you ordered a tree through our online shop or walked the fields at the farm to find and cut the perfect one, selected a wreath or a unique gift from our shops, visited with Green Father Christmas, or rode through the Estate in a horse-drawn wagon – we hope your Rocks experience added a bit of magic to your holidays.

Things will be quieter at The Rocks in the days following Christmas, but there is always something happening at the farm. Our trail system is open daily from dawn ‘til dusk (leashed pets are always welcome!).

As the North Country Conservation & Education center for the Forest Society, we also offer interactive educational programs throughout the year, including our Bretzfelder Park Family Educational Series, which returns in February. For these programs and others offered at The Rocks in the coming year, please visit our online calendar.

And don’t forget the New Hampshire Maple Experience returns in March!

For now, from our farm to your home, all of us at The Rocks wish you a very Merry Christmas and the happiest of New Years!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Christmas Tree Trivia from The Rocks Estate

Chances are you have your Christmas tree up and decorated now (if not, no worries, The Rocks is open right through Christmas Eve), so we thought we’d share some fun facts about Christmas trees for you to ponder as you enjoy your tree’s twinkling lights and holiday ambiance.

2014 National Christmas tree on the Ellipse (nationalparks.org)
֎ Christmas trees are grown in every state of the U.S. – including Alaska and Hawaii. That adds up to about 350 million real Christmas trees growing right now! Christmas tree farmers sell about 30 million farm fresh trees each year. Source: National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA) 

֎ The evergreen branch has been an important decoration during winter months for centuries, with cultures from the ancient Romans to the Celtic Druids to the Vikings of Scandinavia using evergreen boughs to symbolize everlasting life during the darkest time of the year. Source: History.com 

֎ The modern Christmas tree movement began in 16th Century Germany, when devout Christians decorated evergreen trees in their homes. Source: History.com 

֎ The tradition of decorating Christmas trees was introduced to the United States in the 1800s by German emigrants. By the mid-1800s, trees cut from forests were sold commercially. This practice led some conservations to decry the practice – including President Theodore Roosevelt. Source: NCTA

֎ The first Christmas tree farm was started in New Jersey in 1901, the same year Roosevelt’s sons persuaded the president that, if done properly, growing and cutting Christmas trees did not harm forests. In the 1930s the other presidential Roosevelt – Franklin D. Roosevelt – started a Christmas tree farm on his Hyde Park estate in New York. Source: NCTA 

֎ Christmas tree growers typically plant up to three seedlings for every tree harvested each year. The roughly 15,000 Christmas tree farms in the United States cover some 350,000 acres, helping to preserve green space – and employ over 100,000 people. Source: NCTA

֎ The average length of time for growing a Christmas tree from seedling to a height of 6 to 7 feet is seven years, but it can take as long as fifteen years! Source: NCTA
֎ President Benjamin Harrison was the first to have a White House Christmas tree, in 1889. The White House tree was first brightened by electric lights in 1894, during Grover Cleveland’s presidency. In 1921, First Lady Lou Henry Hoover established the custom of decorating an official White House tree, and first ladies have overseen the trimming of the White House tree ever since. Source: White House Historical Association  (Some sources note the first tree in the White House came in 1853, during Franklin Pierce’s presidency.)
֎ In 1966, the National Christmas Tree Association began an annual tradition of presenting a tree to the First Lady to display in the Blue Room of the White House. The White House tree that year came from grower Howard Pierce of Black River Falls, Wisconsin, and was given to First Lady Lady Bird Johnson. Source: NCTA 

֎ This year’s White House tree – an 18 ½-foot Douglas Fir from Spring Tree Farm in Pennsylvania – arrived via horse-drawn carriage the day after Thanksgiving and was unveiled in the Blue Room December 3. Source: White House blog 

֎ In 1923, President Calvin Coolidge presided over the first public celebration of lighting the National Christmas tree. This event has been an annual tradition on the Ellipse since 1954, as part of the Christmas Pageant of Peace, which pays homage to holiday worship of all faiths. Source: White House Historical Association 

֎ During the 1970s, a live tree was planted on the Ellipse to serve as the National Christmas Tree. The first two trees died, and in 1978 a third was planted – a 30-foot Colorado blue spruce moved from the York, Pennsylvania, front yard of Mr. and Mrs. William Myers. Source: TheNationalTree.org

֎ The most expensively-trimmed Christmas tree to date was the 43-foot tree displayed in the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi in December 2010. Decorated with more than 180 items of jewelry, the tree was valued at more than $11 million. Source: Guinness Book of World Records 

From its humble beginnings when evergreen boughs were brought inside in winter to the treasured tradition of bringing home and decorating the tree today, Christmas trees are at the center of many holiday celebrations. Whether you trim your tree with jewels or homemade ornaments, silver garland or strings of popcorn, we hope your Christmas tree adds lots of light to your holiday season!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Governor, Students Join Trees for Troops Effort at The Rocks Estate

Gov. Hassan at The Rocks with the family of Kyle Ferland.
Governor Maggie Hassan and students from Bethlehem Elementary School helped spread some holiday magic this week, as they joined the annual Trees for Troops effort at The Rocks Estate.

As proud and happy purveyors of holiday cheer, The Rocks has actively supported the Trees for Troops program since its inception a decade ago. Founded in 2005, Trees for Troops works with farmers all over the country to deliver farm-grown Christmas trees to U.S. military personnel and their families throughout the United States and abroad.

Each year, students from Bethlehem Elementary School, just down the road from The Rocks, help raise money to purchase Christmas trees for the Trees for Troops effort and spend a morning at the farm loading trees. This week they set to work tagging 450 trees from farms in New Hampshire and Vermont with holiday messages and loading them onto a FedEx truck bound for a military base in Fort Knox, Kentucky.

Governor Hassan arrived at The Rocks later to select a tree to cut and send to Kyle Ferland of Sugar Hill, who is serving aboard a Navy aircraft carrier currently stationed in the Middle East. Hassan’s task underlined the importance of the Trees for Troops mission to share a bit of the joy of the season with military men and women who are often away from their families during the holidays – as well as the families at home missing their loved ones.

Since its inception, Trees for Troops has delivered more than 139,000 farm-grown Christmas trees to military personnel and their families on dozens of military bases throughout the United States and abroad. FedEx has donated more than 493,000 miles of shipping to Trees for Troops in that time.

Amid the hard work and heavy lifting during the Trees for Troops effort at The Rocks each year, the children’s laughter rises through the frosty air, spontaneous caroling sometimes breaks out, and the joy of the holidays is carried with the trees to servicemen and women far from home.

To find out more about this effort, including how you may contribute to it, please visit the Trees for Troops website.

For a video of this year’s effort at The Rocks, check out this production by the Littleton Record.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Oh, Christmas Tree, how lovely are your branches: Tree-Trimming Tips from The Rocks Estate

The Glessner House (Chicago) tree, from The Rocks.
Since the first Christmas trees were decorated in 16th-Centrury northern Europe with fruits, candles and paper flowers, people have been coming up with new and creative ideas for trimming the tree. There are formal Christmas trees of delicate silver and gold ornaments, bright trees bursting with colorful baubles, and homey trees trimmed with homemade decorations and treasured family ornaments.

The most important part of decorating a Christmas tree is letting your own personality and holiday traditions shine through. In a tree-trimming rut? Well, here are some ideas from The Rocks Estate to spice things up a bit:

* String a wide ribbon with festive colors through your tree’s branches as a garland.

* If you normally use small, white tree lights, switch things up with colored bulbs. Christmas lights are even available in efficient LED varieties now, so check out your options and see what you like.

Family tree in Franconia, NH
* Pick a theme that suits your family’s style or that is reminiscent of the year just past. Love the beach? Trim your tree with shells and seashore colors. Excited for winter? Make paper snowflakes to adorn the tree. Nature lover? Figurines of birds and other animals make great tree decorations!

* Get creative and craft some new ornaments. Tissue paper flowers held by pipe cleaners are easy to make and add a pop of color to the tree.

* Bring a bit of nature inside by hanging pinecones or dried flowers on your tree.

* Spice it up with sticks of cinnamon wrapped with ribbon. Or hang candy canes from the boughs.

Of course, if you’re a traditionalist, you may cherish pulling out those old ornaments collected over a lifetime each holiday season. Some families purchase a new ornament each year to add to the collection.

If you’re looking for inspiration, or would like a special ornament to add to your tree trimming repertoire, be sure to stop by the Rocks Marketplace and our Farm Store when you visit The Rocks this season. Our shops are brimming with ornaments and other fantastic holiday decorations – plus plenty of good holiday cheer!

Happy holidays… we hope to see you soon at The Rocks!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Horse-drawn wagon rides at The Rocks: A conversation with guide Nancy Czarny

One of the most-loved Christmastime activities at The Rocks Estate is the horse-drawn wagon rides through the farm. Teams of huge draft horses pull the wagons, visitors nestle under warm blankets, and a Rocks guide shares stories about the Estate's history, the Forest Society’s mission, and the work that goes into growing those neat rows of perfect Christmas trees.

Nancy Czarny has been volunteering as a Rocks guide for 19 years. Here’s her take on what makes The Rocks a magical place, and why she keeps coming back year after year…

How did you get started volunteering at The Rocks?
I had moved up from Connecticut and was looking for an outreach program of some sort. I saw an ad in the paper looking for people who wanted to go through volunteer training. I signed up, and it was great. I met a lot of new people. And working at The Rocks, with its conservation mission and education work, was a cause that I could really put my heart behind.

Nancy leads a tour with Sen. Jeanne Shaheen aboard.
Have you always been a wagon guide, or have you done other volunteer work, too?
When I started, we were doing lots of educational programs about Christmas trees with the local school kids, and I was involved in that. The children were so responsive, and I just loved the programs we were teaching. I’ve also done the educational piece of the Maple Experience program we do in the spring.

But my favorite thing to do at The Rocks is to be on the wagons during the holiday season. At first, I was a little shy about doing the tours, but once I got started, it was just really fun.

Do you have a script to follow, or does each guide have his or her own routine?
I think we all go off on our own little tangents. I have my own routine I’ve developed over the years.

I have people who have been on my wagon every Christmas season for years and years. So sometimes I ask them questions to see if they can remember the spiel. Or I ask if they’d rather sing Christmas carols, since they’ve heard it all before. But they always want to hear the wagon dialogue again.

One of the things I tell people, beyond the history of the Estate and how Christmas trees are grown, is how The Rocks ships mail order Christmas trees. Each tree is shipped in a seemingly ordinary cardboard box, but it’s lined to keep the tree fresh, and then you open the box and – spring! – there’s your Christmas tree. I send my sister in Florida a Rocks tree each year, and it’s like a little bit of Christmas magic.

What is the question you get asked most often by wagon riders?
Mostly, it’s the children who want to ask the teamsters questions about the horses. The teamsters are fabulous, and the horses are amazing!

Any wagon rides that stand out after 19 years of guiding?
Once I had a very small group, just two or three couples. We usually don’t let people off the wagon during the ride, but I’d been clued in ahead of time that something special was in the works. One couple asked if they could get down at the Sawmill/Pigpen building, which now houses the Maple Experience. They got down, and the man asked his girlfriend to marry him. She said yes. The other couples were their family and friends, so they popped out the champagne. And on the way back, the script went out the window!

I found out later the couple ended up getting married at The Rocks.

What keeps you coming back each year as a guide at The Rocks?
I think it’s just the happiness on the wagons. It gets me in the Christmas spirit. People are there to get the tree. It’s a happy family experience. It’s a time that they just enjoy. Along the way, they learn something about the Forest Society, about how Christmas trees are grown, what life was like back at the turn of the last century.

People are just happy on those wagons!

To find out more about what's happening at The Rocks this season, please visit us online, and stay tuned to our Blog... Our shops are now open daily, and the farm opens for cut-your-own and retail Christmas tree sales THIS weekend, Nov. 22!