Friday, December 28, 2012

What Happens to all the Leftover Christmas Trees?

30.8 million live Christmas trees were purchased in the United States in 2011, with a real market value of $1.07 billion.


Can you spot the three boys in their "forts" ?
Did you ever wonder what happens to all the leftover Christmas trees from tree lots? I had no concept of how massive the leftover volume can be until I responded to a craigslist ad offering free trees. I spoke with a man on the other side of town who had a lot with some leftovers. He was admittedly too far from me to drive to but he knew another man, Jose, who runs five tree lots in Tucson and had some leftovers too. He passed my information to Jose who then called me and said he'd be able to deliver a load of leftover trees to me. I asked how many trees and he said, "Oh, about a hundred or so."

Mind you I was thinking a hundred small maybe 6 foot trees. Easy to handle. Not a big deal.


His 20 foot tall truck arrived in the dark of early evening on Christmas. It was so tall that it could not safely drive beneath our low hanging mesquite trees at the front of the property. Not to worry. Jose pulled out, turned around and backed in as much as he could to a cleared area. He and his son rolled open the back of the truck and the tree tossing began.

Most of the trees were still bundled with twine. Most of the trees wel well over 6 feet tall, some even in the range of 15 feet with massive 6-8 inch thick trunks. They tossed and tossed and tossed some more. I tried to pull the trees back to allow them more room but there was no way I could keep up, and my kids were no use as they were too busy climbing and rolling on the trees like crazed puppies.

Jose also brought me 10 bales of straw that he had no use for. Wow. Just wow. Free goat snacks for a year and free animal bedding. Last year I had cruised my neighborhood alleys for tossed trees, but this year I have to say I doubt I'll be doing that. Only two landfills in Tucson accept leftover trees from the sale lots and they charge for them to be dumped. No wonder Jose was so anxious for me to receive his. He asked if he could bring me more. I hated to say no, but this many trees is more than enough so I suggested he contact Shelby who runs HoofsnHorns Farm, the farm animal rescue we had visited when we first were interested in getting a milk cow.

I did find out that Shelby received a massive load of trees too, and she was (like me) amazed and overwhelmed at the quantity.

I told Jose to keep my number and call me next year if he needed a place to drop a load.

I liken Christmas trees to the bison the American Indians subsisted on. I use every part of the trees. The needles are fed to the goats and they munch some of the branches off. When they're done, I pull out the trees, lop off all the remaining branches and pile them to dry as kindling. The trunks I use to line garden beds, but this year... I have ideas. Little goat, sheep and child size wood cabins. Pine fence posts. Goodness knows what else I can make them into. It's nice wood. It smells fresh and clean, and it will not go to waste here. 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

New Baby Ram

Brave Sheep's Baby: Mark
Brave Sheep had a baby ram sometime this morning before we came to do chores. He's healthy and sweet, but by tomorrow will likely be a wild thing that wants nothing to do with human contact. So, this morning I seized the moment to hold and pet him while his mom was busy eating. He took a little nap. I had to give him back when Brave Sheep came looking for him.

Yesterday we had a lot of steady rain which we really needed. It's good in that it gets rid of the dust, bad in that all the pens turn into mud messes churned up regularly by sharp hooves. We need real pastures. It's the only way I can think of that would prevent the dust or mud issue, but pastures take time to grow. Someday... Hopefully the rains will be steady and all those seeds I spread will dig in and flourish.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Cookie the Cow

I have been remiss in posting lately because life has really become crazy. It's the most wonderful time of the year for stress. Can I fast forward to January, please?

Anyways, we purchased a little heifer calf at the Marana Stockyard auction November 29, 2012. She is listed on her paperwork as a red and white heifer. She was sold as "60 days weaned" and her previous owner has no phone number so we can't find out more. That's what happens when you buy at an auction. It's a gamble in that you don't know a whole lot about what you're getting other than what she looks like. You can't go right up and pet the animals although you can stare at them for quite a while from outside the pens. You can look for problems. You can make guesses. Like...oh I think that one is a Hereford.

This little calf was one on a list of calves we wanted to bid on. We wanted a female, maybe two if the price was good. Things moved very fast at the auction and we only got one little one. During the long wait to bid on the calves I enjoyed a gigantic chocolate chip cookie from the Cattleman's Cafe. So, we named our new calf Cookie. We loaded her up no problem and brought her home.

She has turned out to be a sweetheart. She likes attention, likes to be scratched and petted and offers licks with her sandpaper tongue in return. She did develop a cold after we got her which the vet said she likely picked up at the auction. Our (fantastic, wonderful, helpful) vet taught me how to give neck shots and I administered them for three days to Cookie. But before I left my shot lesson, I showed her a picture of the calf and the vet said, "That's not a Hereford. That's a dairy cow."

This was interesting news which led to more questions.

"I wonder why someone would sell a heifer dairy cow at auction," the vet said. "Unless she's a freemartin."

"A what?" I asked.

"Twin to a bull calf. That means she's likely sterile."

A freemartin heifer takes on the testosterone of her brother in utero and it renders them infertile 90% of the time. Sometimes there are no outward signs but occasionally the cow's vulva is a little freaky looking. Yes, I could be caught staring at my calf's vulva, trying to decide if she was...different. Still not sure. It looks different than Karma's, but well, you know those things all have their own sort of uniqueness.

The vet is to come out January 12th and administer Brucellosis shots to both calves and she said she'd check around in Cookie's back end to see if she could tell what was going on in there.

Seriously, farming gets weird at times.

Karma is checking it out too.

Life as Usual

Well, not for T-Bone-Mr.Sandwich-Texas-Baby-Cow. He had grown increasingly assertive about who was allowed to eat and who was allowed to be in the cow pen. In other words, he was beating up Karma and eating all the food and then he took to beating on me when it was time to do clean up in the pen. I can't say he was a mean cow. Just turning dominant. He'd come up for his scratches and pets and then take to whacking me with his big, heavy, hard head. He knocked me down once and was very excited at his newfound power. After that I wouldn't go in there unless I had a big stick to hold out in front of me in warning. I never hit him, but it was there in case he came at me. I didn't trust him anymore.

Nevertheless it was still sad to see him go and I walked him through the chutes at the U of A Meat Science Department to the holding pen where he awaited his doom the following day.

We did get a replacement cow so Karma won't be alone. She's a bit of an anomolay. Read more about her HERE.