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Dec 25 2013

Wednesday Botanical: Destined for lumber

Of course the plant for today has to be a Christmas tree. A big dead tree.

rockefellertree2013

This one is going to be milled into lumber and donated to Habitat for Humanity, which is nice for humanity I guess. Not so cool for the tree.

23 comments

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  1. 1
    rturpin

    I might start to worry for the tree’s sake when a botanist discovers its neurological system.

  2. 2
    Nathair

    Not so cool for the tree.

    Careful PZed, you already gave up meat. Too much sympathy for the plants and you’re going to be in breatharianism territory.

  3. 3
    David Marjanović

    Oh, the tree is still alive. It’s just slowly drying to death.

  4. 4
    carlie

    John Denver taught me that trees like Christmas, at least the ones named Alfie do. Also that we can all be onmipotent. The 70s were a weird time.

  5. 5
    carlie

    (that should start at 3:28 in)

  6. 6
    Lynna, OM

    We don’t really have to worship trees by killing them. We can decorate living trees. Worship by climbing. Any way you do it, the whole pagan tree worship is kinda fun if not taken seriously.

  7. 7
    berylmaclachlan

    This tree, like the other Rockefeller Center trees I’ve read about, seems to be one that’s grown to big for someone’s yard. Spruces and firs do that. I have several blue spruces that are probably going to end up as mulch for want of a better use; the plantings are several decades past what they were designed to be.

  8. 8
    Artor

    My family always used live trees for X-mas, and we’d plant them in the yard when the ground thawed. I visited the old homestead last time I was in town, and the trees from my youth are 40′ tall now. There’s one missing though, because some asshole sawed it off at the ground and stole it for his own X-mas tree. Yes, really.

  9. 9
    corwyn

    *terrible* lumber. What makes a good christmas tree, makes knotty lumber. This is just a way of salving someone’s guilty conscience without making the slightest bit of difference.

  10. 10
    Paul

    Living in the midst of Douglas fir country (on five wooded acres), we have an appreciation for living trees. But the local economy also thrives partly on the construction industry, which still requires some decent timber (mostly “farmed” these days). Still, the good ol’ pre-lit artificial trees make pretty good decorations for the Solstice Celebration. When the celebration ends, unplug the lights and put the phony tree back in basement storage.

    Donating the “lumber” from a government-sponsored christmas tree is a lot like praying: makes someone feel good about doing nothing useful.

    All that said, we have a houseful of secular family, all swapping stories, snacking on once-a-year delicacies, breathing in the aromas of a festive dinner in the making, and feeling pity for all of the deluded xians wasting the better part of a perfectly good day in church.

  11. 11
    cosmoinsolocco

    What’s your house made of PZ? Has your hatred of religion extended to a hatred of humanity in general, or just everyone but you?

  12. 12
    lorn

    corwyn @9 has it right.

    Good lumber comes from a long, straight, tall, branchless trunk. Picture a 50′ bare trunk about 20″ in diameter with just the last ten feet with branches and green.

    A wildcat logger running a small portable mill might get a few knotty 2x4s out of that Christmas tree. Because of the many through-knots they wouldn’t be suitable for studs. Mostly useful for blocking, deadwood, stakes. It isn’t useless. Those bit and pieces are necessary and if they don’t come from this tree then another will have to serve.

    The contribution is mostly, but not entirely, a formality.

    I’ve never quite understood what Christmas trees are about. Yes, they look and smell good. But it is still a living thing that is mortally wounded, mounted in a prominent place, and decorated. The tree is dying, and we sing songs around it and make comments about how festive it looks.

    If Jesus is the reason for the season why don’t we stand a life-size crucifix in our houses, garland it in tinsel, hang decorations on it, and sing round it.

  13. 13
    Fionnabhair

    I don’t know how common wood stoves are in that area, but I imagine a tree like this could be useful for heating someone’s home, or made into wood pellets for the same purpose. Wood pellets also make for pretty good kitty litter; it’s far better at neutralizing smell than anything else I’ve used, and just breaks down into sawdust. I’ve been using it for a month or so now for the kittens I’m fostering since it’s cheap and made locally, and I quite like it.

    Also, know who doesn’t get a great, big, destined-for-lumber Christmas tree this year? Santa, that’s who. And not just because he doesn’t exist; trees can’t grow at the North Pole. I pointed this out on Facebook last night, and was told I’m over-thinking it.

  14. 14
    Paul

    If Jesus is the reason for the season why don’t we stand a life-size crucifix in our houses, garland it in tinsel, hang decorations on it, and sing round it.

    Wrong end of the story. The cross would be displayed at “good” friday, or easter (the first sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox–a great pagan way of picking a date BTW).

    The “babe in the manger” is appropriate to the xmas season; still no way to relate to the pagan tree, however.

  15. 15
    Hank_Says

    What’s the old chestnut? “Live fast, die young and leave a good-looking corpse”?

    Accomplished.

  16. 16
    Inaji

    lorn:

    The tree is dying, and we sing songs around it and make comments about how festive it looks.

    Leave me out of your we, please. I have two small fake trees. Depending on just how much snow is piled up on my front deck, I have been known to place decorations on one of the 60 foot + trees bordering it. They aren’t harmed in the least.

  17. 17
    Alethea Kuiper-Belt

    It’s just a pine tree. If you were talking endangered species, I would care.

    I love the smell of the real tree, so that’s what we have. Most trees are pine plantation thinnings here. It will eventually go to green waste for mulch, and the other trees that are left to grow taller will one day become timber and paper.

  18. 18
    John Rove

    Growing up i always thought the day after Christmas is really depressing, an empty tree sitting there losing all it’s needles was big part of that. And while I am not in the Christmas mood, habitat for humanity seems like a waste, they give a poorly built house to a “deserving” family and allow people to feel like they are helping the homeless, while ignoring most if not all homeless people

  19. 19
    yubal

    The yubal family utilizes the same tree for five years now. When it will be too big for its pot it will be replaced by a younger tree and set free to grow on a nice spot in an remote area.

    Damn, we all love this tree.

  20. 20
    gussnarp

    I like to think of it as a carbon sink. Given a plot of land if our choices are industrial agriculture that uses massive diesel powered equipment to mow down the entire crop every year or a tree farm where evergreens absorb carbon through their fastest growth phase and are then removed, later to be used as any kind of lumber or mulched, surely the tree farm is the more environmentally benign use of that plot of land? Old growth forest might be a better use from the sum total ecosystem view, but from a climate change view, the tree farm still might be superior. If the alternative is an artificial tree using mined metals and petroleum derived plastics, I’m still going with a real tree every time. Of course, if I got a live tree and planted it, that might be the best, but I’m not one of those suburban mcmansion dwellers, my yard can support at most one evergreen tree, and then where would I plant my trees after that?

    I’m beginning to think the Pabst can Festivus pole is actually the best solution, ecologically. Using newly milled aluminum has atrocious energy costs, but reusing cans? Perfect.

  21. 21
    David Wilford

    Thanks for the mention of the PBR Festivus pole, gussnarp. As a resident of Wisconsin, I approve:

    http://www.npr.org/2013/12/11/250200281/florida-man-airs-grievances-with-festivus-pole-in-capitol

    It’s like a Charlie Brown Christmas tree for atheists. How cool is that?

  22. 22
    Lynna, OM

    cross-posted from the Lounge:

    It’s not a war on christmas, it’s a war on christmas trees:
    http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/the-return-old-christmas-tree-fight

  23. 23
    twincats

    gussnarp@20:

    If the alternative is an artificial tree using mined metals and petroleum derived plastics, I’m still going with a real tree every time.

    Yeah, me too*. Besides, I’ve got a borderline hoarder thing going on at my house and don’t need anything else to store for 334 or so days before I ‘need’ it again. Sheesh, I have a hard enough time locating my cookie cutters!

    The vast majority of xmas trees are farmed**. They are a crop. Most of the municipalities in my area even have a special pickup for discarded real trees (that have to be completely un-decorated) so that they can be made into garden mulch. I don’t see why this is worse than having a plastic one if that’s what you prefer.

    *Full disclosure: I haven’t had a tree of any kind in over ten years but I do get a fresh wreath for above my fireplace.

    **Obviously, probably not the 30′ + tall ones…

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