“Ohhh, it smells so good in here.” This is what just about everyone says when they come into my store. The subtle fragrances from soaps, candles, and lavender pillows provide a nice complement to the prevailing forest-fresh scent of balsam fir. Few people can resist the urge to pick up one of the dozens of balsam-filled pillows  on display and inhale that pleasing, invigorating, evergreen aroma.
Customers are always surprised to learn a few things about the balsam fir merchandise that I carry from the folks at Paine Products, a family-owned business since 1931. The first thing is that these items will retain their piney fragrance for a very long time. I’ve had customers report that their aromatic pillows and door draft stops still give off a balsam bouquet after 20 years.
This is because the folks at Paine Products generously stuff each item with nothing but freshly cut tips from the branches of balsam fir trees. Unlike some companies, they never blend in low-cost fillers such as Styrofoam pellets, sawdust, or ground paper. You can tell that Paine pillows and draft stops  are packed with the real thing not just by their heavenly scent, but also by their heft—they’re heavy!
Another attribute that makes these products so wonderful is that all of the balsam used is sustainably harvested from northern New England forests. There the trees grow naturally, without the fertilizers, herbicides, and/or pesticides that are often used by large farms that produce Christmas trees and greenery for wreaths and holiday decorating. (Some people who think that they are allergic to balsam fir may actually be reacting to gases released from the chemicals inherent in most commercially grown trees.)
Although balsam fir undoubtedly “smells like Christmas,” its fresh, outdoorsy fragrance is pleasant throughout the year. It’s no wonder that Paine Products’ entire line is a top-selling category in my store during November and December; however, it’s popular all the time. After all, balsam fir is known and loved as “The Friendship Herb.”
It’s not just the marvelous aroma that makes the pillows and draft stops so attractive. The high-quality fabrics and the exceptional workmanship on these textile treasures make them a welcome addition in any setting. This might explain why people who buy balsam items often come back to get more for themselves—and for everlasting gifts.
Founder and Proprietor, New England Everyday Goods & Farm Market , Jaffrey, NH.
Just a stone’s throw down the road from The Old Farmer’s Almanac headquarters, Jim and his wife Susan operate a sprawling retail store that specializes in useful and unusual products with interesting stories behind them.