O Christmas Tree
O Christmas Tree
How lovely are thy branches.
Wait. Is it O Christmas Tree or Oak Christmas tree? You decide.
In recent years we have been a tree-optional holiday household. We settled into the sensible routine of waiting to shop for a tree until there was no point in getting one. Not that we have anything against the Christmas tradition, but it wasn’t hard for the tradition of simplicity to unseat it.
This year, though not wholly abandoned, simplicity was asked to sit in the corner and be quiet. It started when our kids said they would join us Christmas day and evolved into full-fledged (12-person) family farm Christmas. For that, we would need a tree, Kelly said.
We have lots of trees, I quipped, knowing that she was serious. Still clinging to the notion of simplicity, she offered to just buy an artificial tree. I balked, probably for the same reason I balk at red dye no. 3 in strawberry yogurt: enough of artificial already. Besides, we like stuff that fits the farm theme. A typical artificial tree isn’t very farmy.
Since I am in charge of perennial agriculture, it was my job to get a tree. As an aside, we do have live Christmas trees on the farm--about a hundred douglas firs sharing the same plastic container, each no taller than a small Christmas ornament. If they survive, it will be a few years before we can reasonably put any into holiday service.
I was prepared to go to the lot and buy a real (recently-dead) tree, but remembered we don’t even own a stand anymore. I would have to buy as stand. And carry the tree in. And level it. And water it. And sweep up the spilled pine needles. I could sense the complexity mounting.
Could I build one, I asked? Kelly was all for it. We found some innovative real artificial trees on Pinterest, and I was almost ready to copy one made of tree branches that we could easily, with a little work anyway, gather from our forest.
Something still wasn’t right though. Even latent artists aren’t much into copying. I wanted a design that was at least partly original. Anyone who has seen me wrap a Christmas present with materials not specifically intended for that purpose understands. The more I thought about it, the more clearly the blueprint came into focus.
While still tweaking the details, I sketched it out for Kelly. Perhaps her enthusiasm was feigned, but she approved with far less hesitation than I expected. She even suggested I use boards from our pile of leftover re-purposed oak floor boards, the ones milled from old barn beams. Yes! I loved the idea of a tree built from twice re-purposed natural materials.
I figured I could finish it in half a day and sure enough, it only took a day and a half to get it done. I managed the usual measurement miscalculations deftly with a minimum of profanity. The intelligent designer scripts out the build, meticulously generating an accurate plan. The artist ad libs, solving problems created by his creative inattention to detail. I don’t mind the latter. It’s good to hone one’s problem solving skills and problems often lead to innovation.
Using some of my favorite shop gadgets, I ripped the boards on my table saw, cut them to length on my chop saw and fastened them together with Kreg pocket screws.
All legitimate trees have stars, of course, and I knew just where to get one: from a galvanized-metal remnant of a windmill blade that once helped pull water from the old well. Several hard-earned snips with metal shears later, the star was born.
The massive oak tree towering over the old barnyard 200 feet from our house looked on--proudly, I imagined--as I carried a rare deciduous-based Christmas tree through the front door. A week later Oak Christmas Tree is holding up well, adorned with ornaments that hang from coffee hooks and a strand of LED lights that spiral up the trunk. Presents surround its base. Instead of watering it every day, we joke about watering it every day.
¾ oak floor boards, tongues and grooves trimmed off
Vertical pieces 2 ½ inches wide
Horizontal pieces 3 inches wide
Trunk 2 ½ by about 6 feet
7 x 1 ¼ Kreg fine-threaded pocket screws
Coffee hooks screwed under each horizontal branch
Material cost: under 10 bucks for screws and hooks
See all the pictures here.