Time to Pitch the Pumpkins

We cut a Christmas Tree yesterday. We have done this for many years at the same place so I guess it is a family tradition at this point. The day after Thanksgiving we grab a saw and some gloves and something to tie the tree to the car and head to Menard’s Tree Farm. Some years it has been warm enough for shorts. Other years we track through snow. Yesterday was our first tree cutting in the rain.

That rain turned to snow late in the day. After we got home we propped the tree in the corner and, once it was dry enough, trimmed it with pewter snowflakes and glass snowmen and paper-framed photos of our kids made in elementary school. By the time we had that done, and other holiday decorating was underway, darkness was falling along with snow.

This year especially, like last year, we have been eager to spruce the place up, to put up lights and make the house festive. These are unusual times, filled with more than literal darkness. Putting up a Christmas tree, however, conflicts with the pumpkins. Those brought their own type of light but it is time for them to go.

On the far side of the field there is a compost pile, filled with gardening scraps–sunflower stalks and mint clippings and old squashes. We moved to this house just over a year ago and, before we had set up a household composting system nearby, I would trudge across the meadow to dump our apple peels and coffee grounds and egg shells. There was a lot piled on that pile.

This summer vines started to grow out of this pile. By fall we had pumpkins ripening. The last owners of the house had tossed their leftover gourds and the seeds sprouted. There were giant jack-o-lantern pumpkins and butternut squash. The butternut squash never really panned out, but we picked maybe twenty pumpkins and decorated the front porch and the back deck. Bonus agricultural products.

As we have been putting the house to bed–trimming the flower beds and the apple trees, turning in the vegetable garden–we have hauled organic material to the pile across the field. We have included some of those pumpkins in those visits. The small ones or the weak ones couldn’t handle a freeze and started to wilt. Right now we have half a dozen still at the house. This morning they are coated in ice and snow. Now that the Christmas season is fully here, it is time to pitch the pumpkins.

They do look pretty cool, so to speak, covered in white, but with even a minimal thaw, they will turn to mush. There are still a few flower vines and lily remnants to gather and haul away, so we will fill the cart and trudge through the inch and a half of snow and add the pumpkins to the pile. Next summer I am hoping they will begin the cycle again, vines stretching from the waste pile to grow some more orange and green globes to celebrate fall. For now, however, bring on the snow.

Christmas Tree in the Snow

One time we went to the Christmas tree farm up the road and wore boots, not for the snow, but for the mud. My son wore shorts. A coat was too much to wear. At least our hands didn’t get numb.

This year we had snow on the ground when we carried our saw out to select a tree. We wandered farther into the firs than we usually do. Typically we find one that is good enough before we get too far down the hill, and we could have this time, but we kept going to see what might be found.  

We might have gotten some snow in our boots, but that’s cool. My son did the cutting. Balsams are not tough when it comes to facing a saw so it was quick. Then we carried that baby over our shoulders and tied it to the car’s roof rack. 

The damage was $30. Not bad for a tree as fresh as can be. I bought a half gallon of maple syrup while I was at it–also a bargain at only 25 bucks. That was just in time as we had maybe a half cup of syrup left. And since we will have waffles on Christmas morning, it was fitting.

Now the tree is trimmed and glowing, ornaments dangling and lights a-twinkle. It is festive in here.  My wife is a decorator with no equal when it comes to making our house look cheery for the holidays.  I am lucky that way.  

It felt good to cut a tree in the snow. We still have snow on the ground now, days later.  Let’s hope it stays for several weeks. It would be nice to have snow on the ground for Christmas. Too often we don’t. I hoping this year will deliver. 

Poor Thing

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Ah, the end of the holidays, Always a bit of a letdown. Always a bit sad. The lights come down. The decorations get boxed. The colorful paper gets recycled. And the tree gets tossed out onto the lawn.

Usually we cut our own tree. The tradition, several years old now, has been to cut a tree from a nearby tree farm the Saturday after Thanksgiving. We have found a tree at more than one local tree farm and it has always been a memorable experience. A couple of years ago, for example, it was warm enough that my son wore shorts. To cut a Christmas tree. No one-horse open sleigh hauling the tree out of the woods for us. Memorable.

This year we went away right after Thanksgiving. To Florida of all places. Because we were spending several days in the Sunshine State we would be spending fewer days in front of the Christmas tree at home. My wife insisted that this meant we had fewer days to celebrate. So we got a tree before Thanksgiving. The tree farms were not ready for us that early, but they had them at the hardware store. We all hopped in the van and picked one out together. We did not need to bring a saw. The tree came from a local tree farm. We stuffed it into the back of the van and drove it home. Memorable.

Today the tree lies, still in its stand, on the frozen lawn. Now, typically it would find a home in the brush pile over in the strip of woods to the north of the house. And it will find a home there. Eventually. Needles were falling off it so readily, however, that my wife carried it as carefully as she could to the porch before giving it a heave. More needles fell off when it hit the frozen lawn. We have never had a tree shed needles like that. We filled a paper grocery bag with those needles. Dry summer I guess.

I know I should move the poor thing. There isn’t much dignity in bringing so much light and joy to a household and then lying naked in the cold, waiting for some decent soul to give you a purpose again, say, maybe, as a home for mice or chickadees. I will get to it. Honestly, I just don’t think of it. I go out to look at the moon and I think “I really need to haul that puppy off to the brush pile.” But it is cold and I need some gloves and then I go inside to drink tea and I forget about it again. Not very grateful, I know.

We have a long weekend coming up. Maybe I will get to it then. Unless I forget. Again. Maybe I just need to make a point to go out and look at the moon more often. That would do it. Win win as they say. Win win.