The Outdoor Christmas Tree

In two earlier posts I shared the contrast between the his and her family tree traditions.

http://pepperconnection.com/348/decorating-the-tree-his-way/

http://pepperconnection.com/356/decorating-the-tree-her-way/

My siblings quickly piled on about my lack of attention given to our outside tree.

Christmas decorations at the farm were plentiful. Wreaths, garlands, lights, sprays, and the living room tree all brightened the inside. Visitors could not escape the pungent odor of pine. At least during December we had pine to offset the barnyard smell of our sweatshirts, jackets, and work boots as we entered through the mud room.

If you read my earlier post, Decorating the Tree-His Way, you experienced our struggle in making the chosen tree fit in the living room well enough to receive decorations. Some years, that indoor tree was the second trip to the woods. The first one was usually too large or lopsided to have any chance of indoor success.

Perhaps it suffered during the long drag home through cow patties on the lane. Or maybe it held live animals that hid in terror the whole time we chopped it down, dragged it home, and stood it up outside the back door. The critters were often revealed by the dog’s constant barking or several cats showing persistent interest that made us suspicious and look deeper.

Whatever the reason, the doomed tree failed even our pathetic criteria for inside use. It was granted prominent status on the front lawn and adorned with strings of colored lights in an attempt to give it the illusion of a conical shape. In daylight it fooled no one. At night, with an absence of other illumination, the colored lights pulled off a passable job.

Another benefit was that it provided a lit marker of our front lawn. The farmhouse sat on a roadside curve. The long straightaway that approached from uphill made it appear the house sat in the center of the road. Tire tracks on our lawn and a few busted mailbox posts attested to the several errors drivers made on the turn. During December, we had the added safety buffer of a lit tree in the yard that stood farther in front of the house that helped indicate drivers should turn sooner.

O Christmas Tree, we thank thee for being our roadside marker.

Lights in the Corn Field

The car slowed. We watched from the dark upstairs windows. This was the fourth one tonight. All the cars approaching from up the road acted the same way at the same spot.

Most nights, cars cruised the straight stretch at a smooth clip. Cars driving up from below still maintained their speed. Only those approaching downhill were slowing to a crawl at that same place. We knew what caused it. We had done it that afternoon.

Each summer garden reached a battleground stage as the plants ripened. Cows would breach fences and trample more than they ate. Raccoons were worse. They would destroy large amounts just to take a nibble of a single item. Corn was a big draw. Coons would knock down a dozen stalks and only bite into a few of the topmost ears.

We checked fences as the garden matured. Strong fence posts, heavy-gauge wire were the starting point. Raccoon minds worked through weaknesses and the arms race escalated. We added barbed wire at the top for the cows. Electric fence lines at the top and bottom levels bolstered defenses.

Coons climbed the shed and jumped over the electric top wire to get in. They rushed out and took their shocks as they left. It did little to deter their return.

Today we added lights. Not spotlights or general illumination. We added Christmas lights. Colored bulbs surrounded the lower level of the fence and blinked at random intervals. The hope was to confuse or at least disorient the coons enough to keep them out.

A humorous side benefit was the reaction of drivers passing by the field. As they cleared the top of the hill and approached the farm house, they could see the lights blinking in the field off to their right. The spot where they slowed matched the lowest portion of the stone wall and provided the clearest view. Cars travelling up the road did not have the field in view long enough to spot the lights and drove on normally.

We speculated how many would report the strange lights in the field. Would the news have an announcement of possible alien visitors? Should we build a crop circle to go with the lights?