I am following in the ecologically sound footsteps of W's parents, and starting my very own Christmas tree graveyard today.
I visited their Christmas tree graveyard last Easter, as part of a property large Easter Egg hunt. Their land is vast and wooded, and far in the back, behind the fence that contains the pool and the yard's proper area, is a wealth of past years' Christmas trees. Each year, after the holiday has passed, and the Christmas tree's needles start to drop off in clumps, W's parents take their tree and drag it an acre or two out, to a spot where all the other previous trees have been laid to rest. The idea is that animals can use the remains for nests and houses.
Knowing that the tree won't be made into wood chips, or trashed, but instead will return to the woods gives me a peaceful feeling.
Last summer, after a particularly bad storm that caused trees to fall en mass, damaging and destroying houses and taking out power lines across the state, I decided to have some of my larger trees cleaned up. No trees were sacrificed entirely, but I did have some large, dying branches removed. Later that day, as W and I were barbecuing dinner for the kids (who were playing in the backyard), we saw a giant hawk swoop overhead and go to a nest in the tree. The nest was made entirely of large branches and old leaves. We thought that it was the hawk's nest, that the hawk lived in my very tree, and I got excited at the prospect and continued to watch.
The hawk perched gently on the nest, leaned it's head in, and pecked at something with it's beak. Was she feeding her baby? After a moment or two, we saw the hawk pick up a baby squirrel with it's talons, then swoop back overhead (about 15 feet above us) to a tree nearby on the other side of my yard.
I always wondered if things would have been different if I hadn't cut those branches. One was large and had served as visual protection for the squirrel. The removal of that branch allowed a clear (bird's eye) view of the nest, sealing the baby squirrel's fate.
Today, I will bring my Christmas tree back into the woods behind my house, to give back to nature. Perhaps it will serve as a nest for a different squirrel, or many a family of birds. It is the first of many to find its resting place in my backyard, the newest addition of Christmas tree graveyards.