Heading out into the forest and harvesting a tree has become an annual tradition since we moved to the West Coast and this year was to be no different, despite our slightly tinier living situation. So how do you utilize a 14’-0” tree when you live in a house that is only 13’-4” tall? Well…
Every year, in November and December the forest service makes ‘tree cutting permits’ available for five dollars each. While it provides a great opportunity for friends and family to spend a memorable afternoon in the forest selecting the perfect tree, there are much more practical reasons for making such an opportunity available to us.
The forest service is essentially crowd sourcing (paying, not paid) labor to help thin underlying trees and therefore improve forest health. Thinning smaller and over crowded trees is considered one of the most important things you can do to help the growth and health of a forest and better prepare it for impending forest fires. By selectively removing certain trees you help reduce the over crowding of trees that can lead to a larger percentage of trees to become unhealthy and stressed. These trees then become more likely to blow over and/or become susceptible to disease and bug infestations, all of which lead to more low lying and fast burning fuel during forest fires.
A slew of rules and regulations are to be followed to ensure the act of removing a tree occurs in the proper area, and is of the proper size, including: Only removing a tree from the designated national forest. Not cutting a tree with-in 200 feet of road. Not cutting a tree within 150 of water (stream, pond, etc…). The tree must be under 15’-0 tall and be cut within 6” of the ground. Encouraging selection of a tree that is part of a group. etc…
So with three permits in hand, Samantha, myself and four friends headed off into the forest on a snowy Sunday afternoon with hot cocoa in hand and hopes of returning with the perfect tiny house tree. We initially assumed a small little shrub of a tree was our only option for inside the tiny house. While that is probably true, we decided that a large illuminated tree right outside our 24 square foot picture window would be a unique way of experiencing the nostalgic ambiance of the season while not compromising on size.
At 14’-0” tall, this was ironically the largest tree we have ever had and provided for a comical process as we dragged it out of the forest and lashed it onto the top of our Subaru, having to lift the hanging branches like curtains to get into and out of the vehicle. We got home and stood it up in its severely unsupportive tree stand only to find it laying on its side a few hours later. A dress of white lights and four supportive guy lines later and our tree stood tall and proud, framed like a festive portrait by our living room window.
To fully embrace the outdoor nature of this year’s tree Samantha had an idea that would bring it alive by providing a tasty treat for the local birds who would then act as a beautifully unique, unpredictable and always changing ‘decoration.’ To that goal we made our ‘ornaments’ out of pine cones that we covered in peanut butter and rolled in bird seed before hanging them from the tree branches.
For our cat, the excitement of knocking ornaments off the tree was replace by hours upon hours of bird watching. Our tree became an outdoor oasis for every feathered friend in the neighborhood, including the pudgy quails who traverse the spindly branches with much less grace and eventually find themselves mostly scraping around the bottom, salvaging the seed knocked off by the more nimble bird varieties above (see video below!).
It is with boundless elation that we gratefully await the beginning of our next adventure of being first time parents! We are overwhelmed with love and at a loss for words; when they come, we will write them. Stay tuned!