Friday, December 21, 2007

Upcoming Event: Bird Tree Day

Bird Tree Day, 2-4 p.m., Sunday, December 30

Here's how we keep the spirit of a Christmas Tree without spending money and energy on a disposable, plantation-grown dead tree covered with electric lights, non-recyclable tinsel, and decorations made in China! A longstanding winter tradition at the farm is to gather kids of all ages to help make edible decorations for the birds and decorate the locally-grown fir tree we planted a number of years ago. Take home a few decorations to start your own tradition! Materials provided. Fueled by locally-grown popcorn (what doesn't get strung) and hot chocolate with marshmallows.

Please RSVP if possible for planning purposes, and bring your own cup for refreshments!

Our primary goal in offering these events is to provide opportunities for people to participate in activities in sustainability-focused settings, to gain ideas and skills for making their own lives more sustainable. These events are free of charge to keep them accessible to everyone. Voluntary cash or in-kind contributions are always appreciated as tokens of your recognition of the effort it takes to build and sustain Pinwheel Farm as a community teaching and gathering place.

For detailed directions, more information, or to RSVP, contact Natalya at or 785-979-6786.

A brief history of Bird Tree Day:

A number of years ago, a friend gave us a small live Christmas tree--a little Douglas Fir--that he had grown. It has thrived in our front yard, now reaching perhaps 12-15 feet tall.

I've never been a big fan of Christmas lights, so we never did conventional decorations on it even though we thought of it as our "permanent" Christmas tree. Christmas lights cost money (remember how hard we scrimped back in those days to come up with the down payment for the farm?); tended to come from overheated, overcrowded noisy stores full of rude harried customers and grouchy exhasuted clerks; were annoying to string, keep working, unstring, store, untangle, etc.; used electricity for no practical purpose (I was raised in a family WAY ahead of its time in energy conservation and environmentalism)--what's the point? I'd rather enjoy the sparkling night stars for FREE...reflect on the splendor of the universe that they evidence...and then of course there's other people's Christmas lights to enjoy. Let them have the fuss, bother and expense!

But we wanted to somehow mark it as our Christmas Tree each year.

One year a friend and kids stopped by on a "snow day" from school. We got out the hot chocolate and circled around the wood stove...but after awhile that was a bit boring. I didn't have many supplies for entertaining kids at that time. I racked my brain. Then I got the idea of making decorations for the little tree. I had peanut butter...soda crackers that the moths had gotten into...various other odds and ends in the kitchen that birds might eat. We popped corn to cranberries (they cost money, too good for the birds anyhow--and this was before cranberries had become quite so popular and were more seasonal in the stores)...but wait, we're munching on oranges, we could use bits of peel to add color to our popcorn strings! And I'll donate a few raisins to the wildlife feast we're creating.

I strung cotton sewing thread through corner holes on the crackers, and the kids spread them with peanut butter. Then they sprinkled dry Cream of Wheat on them, dyed with food coloring, to make little diamond ornaments to hang on the tree.

When we got bored with making decorations, we hung them on the tree, which didn't take long--it was only a couple feet tall. It looked pretty good. We went in for another cup of cocoa.

After awhile we went to the window to see if the birds had found it yet...just in time to see the dog making her next selection of holiday snack from the tree! We rushed out and crafted a "guard" for it out of a scrap of welded wire fencing.

Since then, it's been a tradition to decorate the Bird Tree each year. Sometimes it's on a Sunday afternoon, sometimes on a snow day from school, sometimes we do it several times by popular request from the kids (friends', and my grandchildren). It's a relaxing social gathering that takes virtually no shopping or other preparation, and that everyone enjoys.

We hope you'll join us this year, or maybe next year. Or stay home and make decorations for one of your own trees (it doesn't have to be an evergreen), and begin your family's walk away from the stress and waste of frustrating, expensive, energy-consuming, imported "conventional" decorations.

The best part is, there's no worry about undecorating the Bird Tree!

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