During the holidays, when schedules get thrown overboard and food and drink flow and emotions run high and the year changes, a certain cleansing takes place without us even knowing it.
By the time we realize it’s January and we’ve slowed down and a bit of routine sets in again, we are ready for it, along with a purging and a recommitment to clean living.
Of course, we have to clean up Christmas first. I don’t take my tree down before the 12 days of Christmas are up (Christmas Day is only the first day; you can imagine my disappointment when I go to the grocery store Dec. 28 and the red of Valentine’s boxes fills the shelves, while the obnoxious pedestrian music of the rest of the year fills the air).
I like this idea from a Washington Post story about breaking up the task of taking down the tree: A few days after Christmas, take off the ornaments and store them. One idea for storing them is to group them according to style, size and materials: soft ornaments together, small ornaments together, etc. Then leave the tree up with the lights only through New Year’s, and beyond if you like.
Of course, if the tree is a real one, and it gets crispy, that dictates when the tree comes down (or at least when you stop turning on the lights). When you’re done with your real tree, there’s no reason to put it on the curb, when you can use it around the yard or take it to one of the county’s recycling locations.
You can “plant” your tree in a pot on the front porch or back deck, or prop it in a corner of the yard, or tie it up to a fence or a post. It can serve as a tree in the landscape, and as a cover and perch for birds. You can place it near a birdfeeder, or spread birdseed at the base of the old Christmas tree, extension forester Charlie Barden writes in K-State’s Horticulture newsletter.
“The birds benefit from having escape cover nearby when hawks or cats threaten, and the dense boughs reduce the windchill on a cold night,” Barden writes.
You also can clip off the branches, using the boughs to add insulation around semi-hardy perennials or recently planted trees or shrubs, Barden says. The trunk can be used as a garden stake in the spring, he says.
“Or cut and let it dry for a few weeks, and you will have some easy lighting firewood. Just beware that most conifer species tend to spark and pop more than hardwoods, as resin pockets in the wood make tiny explosions. This can delight the youngsters, but for safety’s sake, keep an eye on the fire when burning Christmas tree logs!” Barden writes.
If you decide to take the tree to a recycling site, be sure to remove all decorations first. Here are the locations:
• In Wichita: Boston Park, 6655 E. Zimmerly; Buffalo Park, 10209 Hardtner; College Hill United Methodist Church, First and Erie; Earhart Environmental Magnet School, 4401 N. Arkansas; Edgemoor Park, 5815 E. Ninth St.; Extension Education Center, 7001 W. 21st St.; Great Plains Nature Center, 6232 E. 29th St. North; Old Cowtown Museum, 1865 Museum Blvd.; Osage Park, 2121 W. 31st St. South; and South Linwood Park, Hydraulic and Mount Vernon.
• Outside Wichita: Cheney, East South Avenue and Garfield; Clearwater, Aquatic Center parking lot; Colwich, 115 N. Third St.; Derby, 2700 E. Madison; Garden Plain, at the water tower; Kechi, 107 Sioux; Maize, 201 S. Park; Mount Hope, 400 S. Thomas; Mulvane, 117 E. Main; Park City, 6801 N. Hydraulic; Valley Center, Veterans Park.
Whether you recycle a tree or not, you can pick up free mulch made from the chipping of the trees at the same sites. This mulch should be used on top of soil, not worked into it. You can tuck it around plants for insulation, or use it for paths. The mulch is available on a first-come, first-served basis each time crews come around to chip trees.
I find needles from my Christmas tree months and even years later as I vacuum. Here’s another tip from the Washington Post story:
“Begin by sweeping up as many of the needles as you can, then use either a sticky adhesive lint roller or a piece of duct tape wrapped around your hand to pick up the rest.”
And if you’ve been fortunate to have fires in the fireplace, a tip for removing ashes: “Dump wet coffee grounds on top of the ashes. The wet coffee grounds moisten the ashes so they don’t fly all over the place when you go to sweep them up. Use a small shovel to remove the dampened mixture.”
Happy fresh new year!