It’s time for that annual – Christmas Recycling :)

27 Dec

It’s that time again

Okay, so you didn’t burn your house down as you lit up that tree in the corner of your living room until it resembled a nuclear reactor.

But, now that St. Nick has come and gone (thank the heaven’s… I’m not sure we could have survived one more day of that), it’s time to start thinking about WHO you’re gonna talk into hauling the evidence out and cleaning up the mess…

Now here at RR, we’re all about “recycling, repurposing and reusing”…

While many of us sprung for that “plant it somewhere in the yard later” version of the Yuletide lumber yard…

Statistically, most of us bought “farmed trees”… (enterprising souls among us filled that empty cavity in our celebration by obtaining trees that we bought a “self-harvest permit” for, usually from some secluded spot just out of the sight line in the nosy neighbor next door’s yard)…

Wait! That’s not it… 🙂

We drove way out into the forest, through the snow and mud and potholes…  and then argued, negotiated and listened somewhat attentively as some whined… until just the right tree was selected, inspected and then… hacked free from Mother Earth…

(Okay, around here, we just tuned out the wailing and then murdered the closest tree to the truck…)

This usually involves one person finger-pointing, changing their minds 862 times and then… someone else doing some finger-pointing of their own (usually with their middle finger) and then doing all the heavy lifting and chainsaw juggling…

However it happens, most of you get an organic (REAL) tree stuffed through your front door and then onto a prominent place in your living room, so that you can decorate it and shame the neighbors with your “Christmas Celebration Creation”.

And then. it happens…

Someone decides that they need that corner of the room back and that darned tree has to go…

And guess who gets stuck with that task? Yep. The same sorry SOB that was forced to give up a day in his warm, insulated garage blissfully  organizing tools or playing with a new Harley part or tinkering happily away at the workbench as Joe Walsh tortures a piece of ash in the background… only to find himself spending the entire day listening to his “alleged better half” recant stories of how “the tree we got last year was better…” while you contemplate pulling over and freeing up space in the interior of your truck by tossing a certain someone into a snowbank…

But, I’m not bitter… 😉

So, once you get tired of listening to all the nagging, you’re faced with two tasks.

The first task is stripping the trees of all the flotsam and jetsam the kid carefully threw onto it, WHILE the kid is howling like a scalded cat because you’ve dared touch “His Tree”.

Eventually, you give in, stop threatening him and put him now for a nap, lulled into slumber with tales of little kids waking up stone cold dead in the morning if they don’t stop causing trouble for their parents… 😉

The second task, once the kid is in bed and out from under the tree, doing everything but chaining himself to it so that you can’t remove it… is figuring out what you’re  going to do with the dead, tormented, relic of Mother nature’s beauty and grace that you’ve turned into a quickly browning, needle shedding, “Master of disaster”…

It’s at this point that you need to start thinking about those “next” steps.

I mean, the poor thing gave up it’s life to give you a small (and I’m talking about a 5 year old sized) package of joy. The least you can do is honor it’s sacrifice by doing something with the tree that is “useful”… in the grand scheme of things.

When I was a kid… we gathered up every tree in the neighborhood and then carted them down to the local lake. There, they were twined together and thrown haphazardly onto floating barges, so we could tow them out into the lake and “bury them at sea” complete with fifes and salutes… so that they could become shelter for the fish. This insured that (a) they were “out of sight and out of mind, and (b) that come summer, we’d have plenty of new fish to catch, all the while insuring that our parents got some much needed peace and quiet by “allowing us to go fishing…” some place beyond their hearing. 🙂

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The Forestry guys do it now…

When we got a little bit older, we realized that we lived in a land surrounded by golf courses, HOAs and old folks that used their front yards to generate status.

Ka-freakin-ching!

We started collecting those trees so that we could stuff them into a chipper that my Dad “borrowed” from the Marine Base (usually during a period of darkness) and we caught the “output” in “SuperSacks” for resale to the locals who had provided us with the mulching material in the first place.

Okay, we charged them $2 for “tree removal” by hauling the trees off… usually by dragging them down the street behind our Sting-Ray bicycles.

Then, we ground them up into mulch and piled the “organic mulch” into wagons (again dragged down the street via left-over candy cane fueled kid power ala Sting-Ray… to sell the “mulching material back to neighbors, for $2 a wagon load.

For another $2, we’d scatter it willy-nilly into their shrubs, to “beautify and protect their landscaping. We reminded them along the way that mulching was not only good for the plants, it helped conserve water. And since we were in a drought period where watering your lawn was a big “no-no”… the pitch ran rather well…

By the end of the first week of New Years, we had cold hard cash… which we planned to use for Rock’N’Roll music albums (which we would hide from the discerning eyes and ears of our parents) , guitar picks, bicycle upgrades and candy…

It never worked out that way. What happened is that mom reminded us that if we wanted to continue doing things like “eating”… we all had to pitch in.  (sigh!)

So, the realities of being a “military family” ground their jackboots into our entrepreneurial dreams… but we sure ate good for a few weeks after that. 🙂

Okay, fast forward 40 years…

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Local landscaping companies now drive up and down the block, collecting “dead trees” in big stakebed trailers, so that they can crush the dreams of enterprising kids… um… er…. grind them into mulch themselves, thus getting “Free” mulch to flagrantly resale to all their clients as “Organic goodness”.

This while kids everywhere line the streets in sadness, saluting those trees as they are carted down the street… like John Kennedy’s riderless horse during that hallowed funeral procession.

A word of warning;

Pine needles are acidic. That means that if you mulch them onto the wrong plants, you’re going to harm your shrubbery. Around here, we use pine needle mulch at the base of blueberries. The neighbor ladies who have been here for generations use them to perk up and protect their gardenias and periwinkles.

This “tree mulch” also works great as “winter cover” for areas where you get snow. Around here (there are several feet of snow on the ground as I type this) a thick coating of “Christmas Tree Mulch” is just the ticket to protect your plants  and shrubs from the cruel bite of winter. And as that mulch breaks down and turns into compost, it’s going to add some tasty soil improvement goodness to that soil!

But, you don’t have to have a chipper to get some benefit from those trees in the “snow zones”.

Here in Montana, we sometimes use those dead Christmas trees (left intact) to create “snow drift hedges”… big berms created to keep snow from blowing into the front yard.

After winter passes, we simply retrieve those tree carcasses and then use them for bonfire firewood.

But wait… there’s more;

Nowadays, there are a minions among us that use these “Christmas Corpses” for “Frankenstein” inspired purposes.

“It’s alive… It’s alive! Wait… not it’s not! We need to harvest it’s organs! Quick, get me my sap extractor!”

Pine sap (that stuff that bled out of the trunk all over the top of your truck and then again all over your carpet) has medicinal properties. In fact, it’s anti-bacterial. You can use the stuff just like honey (the Greeks and Romans had this down to an artform), to close up wounds. You know… wounds like chainsaw “slip-ups” and twine abrasions… or the ones you get above your eye after ignoring the wife’s ranting for a while… ranting usually targeted at chores you were supposed to do before Christmas but never got around to…  Talk about heated encounters…

Speaking of “things incendiary” – pine sap also makes a great firestarter.

But, you don’t need to “harvest sap” to get the benefits of the pine…

You know, I remember the days when we talked lovingly about the “benefits of the pine”…

It used to have a direct connection to baseball and Spring… Now… it’s found it’s evil way into conversations about sap. Can you imagine that next beer fueled discourse at the local Sports Pub?

“What did you do this weekend?”

“Well, I harvested some sap…”

“Whaaaaaa? Is that what they’re calling it nowadays?” 🙂

No. Not going there. Not gonna do it.

Did you know that if you bundle pine tree branches together, they make dandy torches? I mean, if they were good enough for unruly mobs brandishing fire and pitchforks, they ought to be good enough for you!  We bundle them together tightly using baling wire. Then, you  shove the “bitter end” into the ground and set them ablaze… to make some “pine powered tiki lamps” for those backyard parties…

Around here, the locals use those pine needles to make a concoction that they call “Christmas Cider”… using the pine needles to make “tea”. We’ve already established that pine needles are “anti-bacterial”. So, using that logic, thee are those who take that Olympian leap… and then consume it.

Now, chewing pine needles is a task best left to beavers and ground squirrels, if you ask me. But fear not… you can indeed get the benefits by drinking the stuff.

Grab an old cup (one that you won’t mind hurling away in disgust later….) and then grab about a dozen green pine needles. Combine needles in the cup. Add about 1 and a half cups of boiling water and then steep the needles for about 10 minutes.

In my experience (we field test everything around here) if you’re a “smart pig” you’ll add a significant amount of honey to the brew about halfway through. Trust me, this “tea” is an acquired taste.

After about ten minutes, extract the needles and then drink away…

The claims are that this brew rivals good Single Malt Scotch for soothing the ravages of cold air and sore throats…

… but frankly, I’m thinking that anyone who compares “pine needle tea” to good Scotch must be buying their Scotch at a steep discount from non-English speaking liquidators out of the back of a battered old van at the flea market.

The abuse of  pine needles continues.

Some miscreants among us actually grind up the wood and pine cones to use as thickeners for cooking. They liken this to other store-bought thickeners used in flour and corn starch concoctions. They’ll tell you that the inner bark of pine trees is nutritious, tasty and chock full of vitamins, especially Vitamin C. They’ll also tell you that their ancestors, sailing the plains in Conestoga wagons, relied on this as emergency and survival resources.

Us? Well, frankly, we’re not really interested in sorting trees into piles labeled “Pine” Spruce” or “Fir” in order to determine which ones can be mulched, burned (we prefer bonfires to using them in wood stoves or fireplaces), eaten (gasp!) or turned into a toasty warm concoction that tastes like gasoline (grimace!)…

… we have a wood chipper and we ain’t scared of it.

We’ll chop up those trees until they resemble the output of one of those late night infomercial Ronco Chop-O-Matics… and then we’ll let the kids toss them under the trees and shrubs.

And if your kids can beat the landscapers to the neighbors houses…. they can turn those trees into cash… or even forts… many a kid has ‘nearly lost an eye” in pine cone wars while “hunkered down behind all those dead soldiers”…

We used to shoot ’em out of slingshots made from surgical tubing and the bottoms of old bleach containers.

Remember that the ammo contains the cure… you can close the war wounds with the sap…

Now that is some “Christmas Goodness”, there, boy… 🙂

The Renaissance Ronin

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