An Ugly Christmas Tree

By , December 18, 2008 9:47 pm

I have been feeling very un-bloggy lately, hence my silence.  Do I really have anything interesting to say?  Does anyone care?  Is it worth my precious time writing?  Hmmm….  Big questions.

So please excuse my absence, but let me talk now about our Christmas tree.  It is ugly, yet beautiful.  Humble, yet profound.

First a bit of background on my eternal Christmas tree angst.  I have always hated the thought of cutting down a living tree to decorate my house for a few weeks and then toss out (even if recycled into mulch).  If I didn’t have kids, I wouldn’t have a tree at all.  But the tree, and all the ornaments that are rediscovered year after year, are so much a fun and memorable part of a child’s Christmas, that I hate to deny them that.

Yes, we could decorate a ficus, but the idea of singing carols and sipping cocoa around the Christmas Ficus just doesn’t have the same cozy appeal to it.  And since I am the kiss of death for houseplants, I’d simply be substituting a fir tree death sentence for that of a ficus.

I have done living trees before and then planted them in the yard (when I had a yard that was not packed full of pine trees already).  That was lovely, but they can only be inside for a few days, are heavy, and here – pine trees grow like weeds.  No room for more!

For the last 6 years I have had an artificial tree.  It was easy, three pieces to put together and lights already on it, but Christmas seems artificial enough to me in so many ways, without a fake tree too.  Plus, it always felt kind of nasty to touch and probably oozed all kinds of chemicals.  Not very Christmassy.

This year I came up with what I think is the perfect solution, for us anyway.  We have so many trees on our property and, as I said above, Ponderosa pines literally grow like weeds here.  After a good rain, hundreds of seedlings miraculously appear as you can see in this picture:

Despite my aversion to tree cutting, we are in desperate need of thinning a bit.  Fire safety is a HUGE issue here, especially after our close call in 2002.  Plus, the smaller trees sap the meager nutrients and scarce water from the more mature trees leaving them tall, but thin and sickly looking.

I don’t want to get into a forest management lecture or debate here, but the truth is that we really need to take out some of the smaller trees that are growing close to the larger ones before a fire does it for us.

So, with that in mind, I had the idea to cut a small one down and make it our Christmas tree.  It would eventually be cut anyhow, but at least this way it would go in a blaze of richly adorned glory and be much enjoyed and remembered.

We picked a thin one growing near a mature one and all went out to “help” my husband with the cutting. Despite a bad back and even worse weather that day, he got it done.

Then, “we,” as in my husband – under my direction – cut it in half.  The original tree was only about three inches in diameter but probably 16 feet tall with all the branches at the top.  We ended up with an 8 foot tall tree that fits nicely in our tall living room.

It was so thin and light that the kids were able to carry it into the house themselves.

The cats thought it was wonderful having their very own tree lying in the middle of the front entryway.

Here is the final result:

It is rather a spindly, thin, pathetic tree, but Ponderosas don’t have a very thick array of branches, especially when young.

However, as my daughter said:  “This is my favorite tree ever because you can see the ornaments!”  Yes, you can.

This is my favorite tree ever because, although it may not be perfect, we chose it and cut it ourselves, gave it a “new life,” and it cost no money!

I don’t want a perfect Christmas, I just want one the the children will remember fondly, and I hope that they might remember this.

(You can read more about Christmas tree options here: The Great Christmas Tree Dilemma)

20 Responses to “An Ugly Christmas Tree”

  1. Oh, I think it’s lovely! I have very fond memories of cutting down cedar trees off the fence row for our Christmas trees growing up. I had no idea we were actually cleaning the fence row!

    onemothersloves last blog post..Our angel isn’t on top of the tree…

  2. Christie says:

    Our trees here in Alaska often look the same unless you cut a really big one and use the top. (Which we have never done)
    I think any tree you love looks GREAT. We now have a nice looking artificial one. I love it because I leave it up until the end of January, at least. I like the light and since that is limited here in the winter…well it’s nice.

    Anyway, I just wanted to say that here in Alaska, we love keeping an eye on your blog. We haven’t had much time to blog about the things we’ve been doing but we have been doing a lot!

    You blogginess will come back around and you’ll be feeling lovely about it again soon. Hang in there. :)

    Christies last blog post..Snowmachine Sleepover

  3. Lorna says:

    I think it is lovely too. How wonderful to cut your own tree down from the back yard. I love the delicacy of it with the lights.

    Lornas last blog post..Ice Storm and Borax Snowflakes

  4. Dayna says:

    Hi and Merry Christmas! I just wanted to pop in and tell you that your blog does matter! My daughter and I love to pop in on Monday’s to see the theme of the week. She asks me all weekend what the theme is going to be. We have not participated in a couple weeks – because I too am feeling unbloggy…trying to dedicate our time to family and the holidays. trying to be restful and introspective. I do look forward to coming back after the holidays – and hopefully you will be in the mood to post then too!

    I also enjoy that your blog has so many great recources for unplugged living…we don’t always live up to it all – but it certainly helps us keep focus.

    All the best – happy hibernating.

  5. Schelle says:

    I think your tree looks great! For the past 15 years, I have been doing something similar – some years we have bought small, living trees, used them for a couple of christmases in a pot, then planted them out (one is taller than the house now)… and when money has been scarce I have ‘thinned out’ several young casuarinas (Australian she-oaks) which look ‘sort’ of Christmas tree-ish when arranged together in a pot of sand. Last year I used the prunings from our juniper – though that was a bit prickly for hanging ornaments. This year, however, I have finally given in and purchased an artificial tree. It is the first Christmas that Wombat is really able to participate in and I wanted to make it easy for him to help with the decorating. He had so much fun adorning the lower branches and it is sturdy enough not to worry about him knocking it over (my previous efforts have been a bit wonky.) We seem to have gotten a pretty good deal because although it wasn’t expensive, it looks and feels pretty good… the only thing missing is the smell! I think tomorrow I will go prune a few of our pine trees and thread the pieces into the tree so he gets the full experience :) Although I am quite fond of my new ‘perennial’, looking at your wispy tree makes me nostalgic for Christmases past!!!

    Schelles last blog post..Unplug your kids – curly

  6. Baba says:

    That is the best post on the Christmas Tree Dilema that I have read so far. I love your tree! And you are taking steps to protect your home and your family from fire. Good Job Mom!

    Babas last blog post..OMG I Won!

  7. KateinNJ says:

    Lovely! We have had an artificial (made from recycled soda bottles) tree for
    15 years, and it works for us..I love your option.
    We probably wouldn’t bother at all if not for P..but she loves it.

    KateinNJs last blog post..Deck the Halls

  8. JoAnn says:

    I have been enjoying your blog. Hopefuuly we will actually have something to post on Monday for the unplugged challenge. Our tree this year is spindly but I like it for the same reason as your daughter…I can see all of the ornaments. Your tree is beautiful and so are the memories now attatched to it. :)

    JoAnns last blog post..Tuesday, December 16, 2008

  9. Danielle says:

    I LOVE it. It reminds me of the Christmas tree Charlie Brown brings back in the Christmas special. :o)

  10. Dawn says:

    I love it. I think you came up with a great idea.

    Dawns last blog post..Our Local Science Museum…

  11. Marietta says:

    I’m here! I care! I LOVE your site!!!

    I was actually “Unplugged” before I found your site so when I found your site a couple of months ago, I was so excited!!!

    I even made a post to my homeschool group about your site and I recently added your site to my blogroll!

    So, please know that your site is AWESOME! It is extraordinary! YOU are doing a wonderful thing!!!


    Mariettas last blog post..A Perfect Snowman by Preston McDaniels

  12. We always enjoy your posts, please keep posting! However, I’m a firm believer in blogging without obligation, see this post for more information:

    Julie K in Taiwans last blog post..‘Tis the season…

  13. kedakeda says:

    I totally share your Christmas tree angst! We’ve done a Christmas stick ever since my little one was born. I like the fact that it’s so environmentally friendly, I’m happy that I can have it out of reach of my 2.5yr old and I kinda like the aesthetic. There are pictures on the blog if you are dubious:

    kedakedas last blog post..The Elephant in the Corner

  14. Alicia says:

    Now this is exactly why I adore you! :) The tree is lovely, your kids have a fabulous outlook and even the cats made me smile!

    What a perfect tree. :)

    Alicias last blog post..Winter Solstice

  15. Amy Jussel says:

    I keep trying to leave comments and am being rejected. Sniffle!
    Here’s the link I wanted to share from TerraPass on the Xmas tree fairy! ;-) (I love this post of yours…I wrote a long one in reply but it was devoured in cyberspace elsewhere, sigh.

  16. […] tree came yet again from our empty lot next door, and like last year, is a bit of a Charlie Brown tree.  A tree “only a mother could love, […]

  17. Tracy says:

    I have been hunting for something (a Christmas tree) of some sort, that could be used as our Christmas tree. I love unique looks and I am always trying to get “a new look.” After searching online for “thin tall Christmas trees” online, I ran into this picture. I LOVE this tree. Maybe I am super weird, but it looks fabulous! I NEED to find a tree like this this year! :)

  18. Mom Unplugged says:

    Hi Tracy, I am glad you like our “unique” tree! We did it again this year and it was again, a great success. In fact some friends who saw our first scrawny tree (the one in the picture), wanted one too so last year we had a tree cutting party on our lot and they got a scrawny tree too. Perhaps we are starting a local trend? Lol! Good luck with your search and thanks so much for your comment.

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