In the boreal forest, rumours of a Christmas tree shortage
In a Yellowknife parking lot, alone and separated from the herd, the last real Christmas trees tremble and await their fate.
Or so the helpers manning the tree sale, a fundraiser for the Yellowknife Scouts, would have you believe. And the rumours are growing.
Amid reports of Christmas tree shortages across the continent, Yellowknife – parked among millions of trees in the boreal forest – may now be suffering too.
Cabin Radio has received several reports of a shortage in recent days, brought on by a lack of suppliers in the city this year.
The Yellowknife Scouts helpers believe theirs is the only operation selling "real Christmas trees" – imported from Saskatchewan – in the city this winter.
The uptown Independent appeared to be stocking a selection of snow-covered seasonal shrubs when we visited, but no direct equivalent to the scouts' trees. The Arctic Farmer nursery announced in November it would not sell trees this year, urging customers to visit the scouts instead.
"We've been selling like 20, 25 trees per shift ... and they're going fast," said Julie Plourde, one of three adults and a handful of children manning the scouts' sale on Wednesday evening outside the Co-op grocery store.
Chantele Fage, also helping, added: "I know that no-one else is selling them. The scouts are the only ones that have brought trees, specially groomed, for Christmas."
Trees till Sunday
By one count, there were 135 trees remaining at the scouts' lot at the close of sales on Tuesday.
Plourde and Fage believe there may be enough trees to last until Sunday, December 9.
"And then good luck finding a good tree here in Yellowknife," exclaimed Plourde, delivering the hard sell.
"You can go out there and cut your own tree," she added, "but you need a permit and you need to pay for your permit. And then you won't ever find a nice tree like these ones."
"I think it's a $2 permit. But you get $2-worth of tree," said Fage. (Depending on what you plan to do with any given piece of timber, there are a variety of permits available – many of them free. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources lists them all. Check with your local ENR office for advice.)
Reports of Christmas tree shortages in the past week span the breadth of North America.
In Nova Scotia, a late spring freeze is being blamed for hampering tree growth at local lots. Everywhere from Toronto to Los Angeles, there's a similar scramble for festive foliage – with the recession of 2008 and 2009 apparently at least partly to blame.
Fage, at least, has picked up a Saskatchewan tree from the scouts' lot in the course of helping out.
"I've got a beautiful tree in the back of my truck. It's ready to go. I'm very excited," she said.
Plourde, however, had an awkward confession to make.
"No. I'm sorry, I have a fake tree," she whispered. "Because we travel over Christmas ... and they need to be watered every day."
The Yellowknife Scouts say they'll stay open until there are no trees left. Prices range from $85 to $350.
Or you can get a permit and go rummaging in the great outdoors.
With files from Sarah Pruys