Another holiday season has come and ere long will pass. The yule log will burn low, the carols will quiet, and the hangover will eventually fade. Soon it will be time to pack up the ornaments, dump the rancid eggnog, and try to remember which projects you left uncompleted at work.
Also, you have to figure out what to do with your Christmas tree now that the season is coming to an end. If you’re like most Christmas tree-having Americans, your approach is likely to haul the old evergreen outside (shedding countless needles you’ll be finding well into the summer) and unceremoniously toss the thing — that same tree you festooned with tinsel, lights, and love — down onto the cold, hard curb to wait for its final destination … a municipal pile of trash. Sigh.
Instead of callously discarding your old Christmas tree, why not re-purpose that old, dead hulk you once loved instead? It’s time you start thinking of clever uses for an old Christmas tree. Or even better, just keep reading; I already took care of the clever thinking part for you. An evergreen tree offers myriad opportunities for new uses, and many of these projects are not only easy but fun too!
Charming Rustic Coasters That Are Comically Easy to Make
Everyone likes rugged, rustic wooden coasters, right? Well, most people. Many, at any rate. Some people like them. I like them, dammit! Provided you had a Christmas tree with a decently hearty trunk, all you need is a good miter saw and some lacquer to make multiple sets of charming coasters. You simply cut the thickest few inches of the trunk into discs. I recommend slicing them into sections about a half-inch thick, and you might want to let the discs sit for a week or two after cutting them to let any residual sap bleed out. Next tap a brad nail or even just a thumbtack into the edge of each pine disc and tie a string around it. Cover the discs in a thick, generous layer of store-bought lacquer, then suspend them (over cardboard, plastic, or an old newspaper) and let the excess lacquer drip off. Give them a couple days to dry fully. There, you just made awesome coasters from your old tree’s trunk. Homemade coasters make great gifts because they are oh-so-unique and thoughtful and because they cost you all of one can of lacquer.
Pine Needle Fire Starters
The thousands of dried pine needles your old Christmas tree sheds can be a serious headache to clean up, but they can also be a great source of fire. (Or a fabulously dangerous fire hazard when said needles are still attached to the tree and said tree is still inside your home.) This is simple stuff here, people; all you need to gather are:
- Lots of dried pine needles
- Some empty egg cartons
- A bunch of wax
The type of wax does not matter; use old candles, order a bag of paraffin, use beeswax from your own hive, whatever. The egg cartons need to be cardboard, not Styrofoam. Cool? Cool. Break the pine needles up into smallish pieces and then fill the cups of the egg carton(s), packing the needles down gently. Now melt the wax and fill each cup of needles up to just below its brim. You will be surprised by how much wax is needed, FYI, and the cups should be filled to the brim for these things to work well. (A tip on melting the wax is to use an old soup can or to cut the top off of a beer or soda can filled with wax and placed on a hot grill. Another tip? Use a thick work glove when you pick up the can.) Let the wax cool for a few hours, and then there you go: great, slow-burning fire starters that create a Christmas-y smell.
Make Mulch/Compost Aplenty
If you have a wood chipper, a ground-up Christmas tree makes amazing mulch. Once it’s fully dried, just chop that ol’ tree into pieces and spread it about wherever you need some ground cover. And even if you don’t have a chipper, the needles and smaller branches can still be added to a batch of compost. They are a rich source of all-important carbon, which a compost pile requires in much greater volume than nitrogen. Don’t put the whole trunk in there, though — that just won’t help.
Brewing With Pine
You can brew all sorts of great stuff using pine needles! Actually, just tea and beer, really. But, hey, tea and beer! Those are great! For a batch of pine needle tea, you can just toss a handful of needles (provided they are still green) into a cup or two of boiling water, cut the heat, add some lemon slices, and let everything steep for about five minutes. But a tastier idea is to mix about one part pine needle with five parts black tea and then steep as normal. (Great source of Vitamin C, by the way, those pine needles!) As for brewing beer with pine, consider adding needles with each hop addition for an IPA or steeping your grains with a handful of pine when making an ale or a robust lager.
Ever notice how trees are made of wood? Well wood makes the best firewood, so use that wood from this year’s Christmas tree for next winter’s fires. Removing all the branches from the tree can be a bit annoying, but with a good, sharp hatchet the limbing won’t take long. And the trunk of a hearty Christmas tree should yield enough wood for at least one great fire, or maybe two depending on the duration and size of your fires. Also, the lower foot or so of the tree can be split into great fire starting kindling thanks to the sap content.
And there you have it. Five easy ways to rid yourself of that old Christmas Tree, needles and all.
Article originally published on December 26, 2016.