AT THE HOMESTEAD: FOUR CHRISTMAS TREES

FOUR CHRISTMAS TREES at $28 EACH and FREE LANDSCAPING!

That’s right. Four Christmas trees…three for my living room, and one for my bedroom. And they are all alive. That’s where the free landscaping comes in. After Christmas, they get to live in my yard!

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Pine trees do very well in the hi-desert. Check out the one I’ve got gracing my front yard. It’s tall and stately and healthy and strong, and I love looking out my window at it every morning.

Then there’s my feeling about Christmas trees. Artificial trees?  Made to look real? Something you can pack away in your garage each year and then reassemble every December? You’ve got to be kidding me…

I like my holiday and my tree to be more organic. Natural. Real as in “real” not “made to look real.” Because all that means is “fake.”

Years past I’ve always relied on a cut live tree. I’ve enjoyed every aspect of it – the texture, the fragrance, the interaction involved between me and the tree when I get on my knees every couple of days to replenish it with water. I even like the way it gets dry over time and then sheds needles all over the floor. Yes, it’s tough to clean up, but it’s a reminder of the passing of time. Jesus spent his first night in a room with a floor covered in hay. Why complain about a little blanket of pine needles?

Still, there is something about a cut tree that was once alive that offends my environmentally-friendly ethic. How can I live a “second chance” life, when I don’t even allow my Christmas tree to have a reprieve? So this year I decided to do something different. I figured,  “why nurse a dying tree when you can have a  LIVING tree that grows old with you year after year?”

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The living Christmas tree that brings holiday cheer to my bedroom. Sure it’s a little bit like that Charlie Brown tree, but give it time. This time next year it’ll be looking great!

And so I went to my local Home Depot and bought four live trees. They are SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA RAISED (from Escondido, less than 200 miles from my home and an example of buying local and supporting regional business). They tolerate heat, drough and cold to –10 degrees Fahrenheit. And with care they will be around next year, and for many years after that.

These four aren’t as large as the trees I’ve had in years past, but I just have to be patient. It’s okay to start small. This year I can go with MORE trees instead of one bigger tree slowly dying in the living room. I’ve placed two of the larger ones on platforms in the living room to give the illusion of height and being in a forest. I get to interact with them (they need water and sunlight). I’ve got the feel and fragrance that comes with a living, breathing, thriving pine. And with each year my trees will get taller and fuller, until they finally reach to the ceiling.

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The beginnings of my living room Christmas tree forest. Soon to be decorated with lights and ornaments. Glad to be alive and able to thrive!

When the holidays are over its time to talk landscaping. Two pines will go straight into the ground and be given liberty to grow and thrive in all directions. The remaining two, however, are getting placed in special pots.

The two potted trees are going to be watched over carefully this coming year. They will be pruned to keep the shape of a Christmas tree, and fed and watered and nurtured for the next eleven months. And then they will be asked to do their duty as Christmas trees inside the house next December. And for many Decembers after. That’s why I got trees of different sizes. I’m thinking many Christmas holidays ahead. These trees are part of my family now.

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My bedroom Christmas tree topper, a ceramic bear bought at Angel View Thrift Mart for under a buck.

There is something beautiful in knowing that these trees will be nurtured and loved and cared for all year long. It will be like having a bit of Christmas every single day. And bringing the tree into my house next December with it’s embedded memories of Christmases past provides a sense of continuity that you just can’t get from a plastic tree, or a dead one. My Christmas trees will experience growth and change, just as I will. We’re in this together. We’re survivors, getting fuller, taller, stronger day by day.

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MONEY BACK GUARANTEE: The trees from Home Depot came with a money-back guarantee. If any of them die in the year after being purchased, I can have my money back. Where else can you get that kind of assurance on a Christmas tree?

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EXTRA SAVINGS: Did I tell you that I won’t have to buy any trees next year or the years after that? That’s some big time savings over time.

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LATER ‘GATOR: MAKE YOUR OWN ‘ADE (Save Plastic and Money)

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DROWNING IN SPORTS DRINKS

I’m taking a number of medications right now that require me to drink enormous amounts of liquid every day. Though I’m not usually one to consume drinks like Gatorade, ever since starting my cancer treatment I’ve been drinking liters of the stuff. When you are taking in that much water you need it to have a little punch (no pun intended).

THE PROBLEM WITH PLASTIC (including credit card plastic to pay for the drinks)

What has been troubling me tho’ is all the plastic. I know these bottles are recyclable but the gas I use getting them to the recycling center isn’t, and a lot of energy goes into getting all of the plastic from the recycling collection site to the Recycling Factory where it takes more energy to sort and convert it all into new and exciting products. Has anyone done a cost/benefits analysis of the recycling of a Gatorade bottle? I betcha the numbers work out that we’d be better off if the bottle just never existed.

And then there’s the price. That involves a whole other kind of plastic: my debit card.  I can usually find these”sports drinks” at around $1.00 each, but when I’m drinking three a day that’s almost $100 a month I’m spending on colored sugar water wrapped in a plastic receptacle. One hundred smackers on punch. But what’s a poor boy to do?

THE GREAT EPIPHANY

MAKE MY OWN ‘ADE. The idea came to me like a stroke of genius. I was at a local supermarket and had already placed a bunch of Powerade bottles into my cart when I found myself passing the Kool-Aid section. I experienced a quick dose of childhood nostalgia followed by the realization of how cheap it was: just fifteen cents for a packet of unsweetened generic Kool-Aid by Kroger.

  WHAT? You mean I could just MAKE my own ‘ADE at home with a little sweetener and water? For fifteen cents?!? And aren’t Gatorade and Powerade and Vitamin Water and all those other H20 drinks really just tricked out Kool Aid in disguise?   I grabbed a packet of every flavor I could find and threw those Powerade bottles back on the shelf.

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GLASS SAVES YOUR ASS

Once I was at home I started to brainstorm my little ‘ADE factory. I knew I didn’t want to reuse empty plastic bottles to store my finished product. The ethos at Second Chance Homestead is to phase out as much plastic as possible, so I decided to go with glass. Healthwise you can never be too sure when you re-use plastic. If you wash it with a particularly strong detergent, or leave it in the sun for even a short period of time it starts to break down and the chemical components of the plastic begin to leach into whatever liquid you place in it. And if you put a hot liquid into it you’re just accelerating the process. Remember that the next time you rinse out and refill that plastic water bottle of yours.

THE FACTORY

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I regularly buy Mexican cola and soda because the bottles they come in are made of glass in a sleek and sexy design. But I don’t just like the packaging.  You can’t beat the FLAVOR —  because these drinks are sweetened with REAL SUGAR – not High Fructose Corn Syrup. The Mexicans have got it sooooo right. So I always have a few bottles around. And they are usually empty. They would work perfectly for my ‘ADE.

I gathered a few more things I knew I would need: A measuring cup (for water and sweetener) and a funnel to help get the finished product into the bottles. Some waxed paper (more on that later), a sweetener, and…

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RUBBER BANDS! These are the rubber bands my newspaper comes in every morning and I’ve been holding on to them, not just because they are a beautiful green, but also because you can never go wrong with a rubber band, even if it is just to pull it back and send it flying across the room towards a cat. Paired with waxed paper, they would provide the necessary seal my bottles would need.

LITTLE BLACK RAINCLOUD

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For sweetener I chose honey, not only because I thought it would go nicely with the Strawberry flavor, but because I’m also a Pooh Bear at heart. This honey is raw and pure, harvested by local beekeepers whose bees have probably visited a flower or two on my property. It could make anyone impersonate a little black round rain cloud just to get a taste. Sure, it cost almost $17, but that’s 3 lbs of honey. And with all the money I’ll be saving on sports drinks…

THE MEASURE OF A SECOND CHANCE MAN

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A typical Kool-Aid unsweetened packet makes two quarts of finished product after you combine it with water and ONE cup of sugar. Honey can be pretty sweet, so I used just a half cup to make my two quarts. It was more than enough.

To get the honey to blend, I melted it down in the glass measuring cup — putting it into the microwave for exactly one minute. Then I stirred it slowly into the water. Finally, when the water and honey were perfectly blended, I stirred in the Kool-Aid packet and watched with delight as the whole thing turned bright red. I was a kid again. And suddenly very thirsty.

STOPPERS THAT WAX POETIC

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You can just pour the finished product into a pitcher and call it a day, but the whole thing with products like Gatorade is that most people drink them on the go. I’m no different, which means I need a STOPPER to keep the liquid from going stale and/or spilling all over the place. I thought about corks, but since I don’t drink I just haven’t got any lying around. I thought about these plastic cap things my mom used to have for glass bottles but plastic is on the way out at SCH. And where would I find them? I decided to experiment with one of my favorite things: WAXED PAPER.

Two small squares of waxed paper placed over the mouth and secured with a rubber band do the trick as well as anything else you could try. And they have that funky “made on the homestead” type look. I guarantee you they DO NOT LEAK (see photo below). Image

WHAT’S IN THIS STUFF, ANYWAY?

I decided to take a look at the ingredients in my final mix versus the ingredients in a typical SPORTS DRINK. After all, I’m not just interested in the health of the planet, I’m interested in the health of ME. Oh, and of course…you, my readers. Yes. You. I haven’t forgotten.

TIM’S ADE

Below is the list of ingredients in TIM’S ‘ADE. There are just seven, and I recognize each one. Artificial flavoring and food coloring aren’t the greatest but I can live with them, given what I’ve been drinking up til now.

INGREDIENTS:

WATER, HONEY, CITRIC ACID, ARTIFICIAL FRUIT FLAVORING (in this case Strawberry), MALTODEXTRIN, ASCORBIC ACID, RED 40

TYPICAL SPORTS DRINK

NOW – Here is the list of ingredients in a typical Sports Drink.  I recently drank this stuff (I won’t tell you the NAME of this product, but it’s manufactured by Coca-Cola and it’s makeup is very similar to all the alternative brands out there):

INGREDIENTS:

WATER, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, CITRIC ACID, SALT, MONO-POTASSIUM PHOSPHATE, MAGNESIUM CHLORIDE, CALCIUM CHLORIDE, GUM ACACIA, NATURAL FLAVORS, GLYCEROL ESTER OF ROSIN, VITAMIN B3, YELLOW 5, VITAMIN B12, VITAMIN B12, ASCORBIC ACID, CALCIUM DISODIUM EDTA

Sixteen ingredients, but the ugliest one is the High Fructose Corn Syrup. It’s nice that they have the B vitamins, but I can just take a B supplement alongside my own ‘ADE. And I can avoid the plastic, the cost, and the HFCS. And I get to have the fun of MAKING MY OWN ‘ADE IN MY OWN LITTLE FACTORY. For me it’s a no brainer. I’ll be making my ‘ADE from now on.

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