Thursday, January 7, 2010

Christmas Trees and Bonfires....

We got home last weekend from San Diego, where we spent a few great days at Campus Crusade's Winter Conference. It's a whole lot of fun for us all. Lots of students, time with dear staff friends, an adjacent amazing mall (complete with after-Christmas sales! Would you believe there's no mall in the entire county of San Luis Obispo? It's true), a pool and jacuzzi for all of the junior-high-aged boys, warm-water surf - oh, the endless delights!
The down side of going away for a week right after Christmas is losing all of that time to slowly put away the decorations at your leisure. Instead, we arrived home on the evening of January 1st to a crispy tree and some droopy red ribbons on the picket fence (it rained while we were gone). Every year it's the same dilemma - what to do with that tree? In the past, we've taken it in to be made into mulch (have I mentioned that our neighborhood is somewhat insanely environmentally conscious?), and the other option, of which I am a little bit ashamed, but not really: cutting it into bits and shoving it into the green waste garbage can (do NOT tell our neighbors!). This year, however, I discovered a fabulous option number three.
I happened to be standing looking out onto the street when I saw my neighbor's son drive past with a pickup truck full of old Christmas trees, which he took into his yard. Later that day (I'm not exaggerating here - it was the same day) I was driving past the back of their property, and saw the trunks and a few spindly branches left of those same trees. "Wow, that's fantastic!" I thought, and wondered what had stripped those trees so quickly? Turns out it was 6 goats having themselves a delicious post-holiday treat. So immediately we volunteered our tree to be goat chow, which made everyone happy.
Another neighbor of mine disposed of his tree in more dramatic fashion: with a burn pile to beat all burn piles. I'm not kidding when I say that many people around here look forward to burn days with a glee that makes me a little bit uncomfortable. Country boys like to play with fire, I suppose. It gets very dry here in the summer and fall, you see, so we must await the winter rains and the all-clear from the sheriff before we can light up those piles of trimmings, leaves and brush. Anyway, the smoke from this fire could be seen and smelled for miles (all the way up at the junior high downtown). On our way down the road, coming home from school, I wondered whose barn was on fire. But no worries - as we passed by (trying not to let the 20-foot flames blind me or melt the paint on the side of my truck) we could see a happy young boy standing beside his proud papa (complete with beer can in hand) watching the bonfire. This was right before I drove into the giant cloud of smoke. It was impressive - in fact (I'm not making this up), the pile was still smoldering and spewing out smoke at least 24 hours later. Now THAT'S a fire. We ourselves are a little more demure with our fires - we only have a burn barrel (yes, that's correct. In addition to a chicken coop, a trailer, and an old station wagon, there's also a barrel in my yard. Stop humming that Hank Williams Jr song). We only use it occasionally for excess cardboard, last year's schoolwork, and our Christmas wrapping paper (it's quite a show - foil wrap makes awesome colors). And possibly a very small amount of styrofoam and/or plastic packaging may or may not have been thrown in just to see what would NOT tell our neighbors!