In Readiness

We won’t bring our tree home until Sunday–an excursion in which our Australian shepherd, Bonnie, is an invaluable member, and which generally includes the once-a-year fuel-up at Waffle House (followed by a gingerbread latte from Starbucks for me). But that doesn’t mean that the holiday spirit isn’t already stirring in Ruff House. I’ve been bustling about today, stowing bits and bobs in preparation for cherished decorations to take their places. I put away the dishes from our Thanksgiving feast, and cleared the withered piles of hickory and maple that graced our tables with such brave little standards of autumn color. Yesterday I loved the sight of all that gold and fiery orange, mellow in the blessing of candlelight and late afternoon sun, but today I swept it all away without a second thought. The only remnant of yesterday’s long and lovely celebration is the dear old cornucopia on the dining room table, stuffed with apples and oranges, dried wheat, and sprays of rainbow-hued wild pear branches–still so pretty I couldn’t bear to dismantle it.


Next, I gave the feed room a good, old fashioned spit and polish, making dust and cobwebs fly before draping the rafters with paper chains and hanging little boxwood wreaths in the windows. Tonight we’ll swag the hallway with fir garland–the barn is the one place I tolerate “permanent” greenery, seeing as there’s no treat my goats and sheep love better than Christmas greens. (Don’t worry–they get their hearts’ desire come Christmas, but more on that in a later post!)


How I love these breathless almost-Advent days! The clearing and polishing, of both home and ideals, are traditions in themselves. Of course, I’m never as ready as I want to be (who is?), but doesn’t it all seem endless and brimming with possibility at this point?

One thing I always have in readiness, however, is the ingredients for my famous “Tree Brew”–the corn-syrupy goodness with which I feed my Christmas tree, from the first Sunday in Advent through the waning hours of Epiphany (and, occasionally, a few days beyond). It’s a nearly no-fail* bet on a fresh-smelling, needle-holding fir, for much longer than you’d think a tree cut in October could survive. I’ll admit, it’s a bit of a hassle. But the benefit of keeping my tree up for the duration of the season more than compensates for the trouble. The recipe is so second-nature to me now I whip it up without even thinking about it, and the only ingredient that needs to be replenished throughout the season is the corn syrup.

And so, without further ado:

Lanier’s Nearly No-Fail Tree Brew

Two cups Karo syrup
1/4 cup liquid chlorine bleach
Three pinches Epsom salts
One-half teaspoon Borax
One teaspoon chelated iron (you can purchase chelated iron at your local plant nursery)
Hot water to fill two-gallon bucket

Fill a two-gallon bucket with hot water to within one inch of the top and add the remaining ingredients. Stir thoroughly to dissolve. Set aside.

With a saw, cut an inch off the bottom of the trunk of your recently purchased tree. This is really important–even if you had it cut at the tree lot, CUT IT AGAIN. Try to make a level cut.

Immediately stand the trunk of the tree in the solution and leave for 24 hours.

Keep the remaining solution. Place your tree in a tree stand that contains a well for liquid.

When the tree is in place, use a glass measuring cup to pour solution from the bucket into the tree well. Fill the well.

Every day WITHOUT EXCEPTION, “top up” the well of the tree with the solution from the two-gallon bucket. I usually go through three to four buckets during the season, so keep the Karo on hand.

Note 1: We cover the well of our tree stand with a screen of hardware cloth, just to keep any curious kitties from sampling the brew–they’ve never tried to taste it, but I can’t think it would be good for them.

Note 2: I am NOT posting this recipe as ‘fire-retardant.’ I’m only sharing it as a preservative and fragrance-enhancer.

*It’s been a brutal autumn here in the South, what with drought and wildfire. I’m hoping the Christmas trees don’t suffer too much.

Happy Tree-Fetching, friends!

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  1. I have been using the tree brew since you first published it. My trees have been in excellent condition. I highly recommend the concoction.

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