Why a post about Christmas Trees in mid-January? Because it has become one of my favorite activities to troll around the city collecting discarded trees for firewood.
I think I get it from my dad. As a kid I remember he would sometimes come home from work and announce, "Firewood in the trunk." We kids would groan about it, but dutifully truck outside to stack it where he told us to somewhere around the perimeter of the house (but never touching the walls, because that scratches the paint).
I only started doing this two years ago. It all began when a neighbor down the street threw their tree out to the curb shortly after Christmas. By late January, it was still there. It clearly states in our utility bills that trees must be cut into four-foot lengths to be picked up by the weekly trash pick-up routes. It was an eyesore, and it was getting on my nerves because I drove past it everyday exiting and entering my block. So on January 22, 2010, after looking at it for at least three weeks, I drove one-and-a-half blocks down with my pruning shears, chopped off all the branches, left them in the curb, stuffed the tree trunk in my car trunk, putting down the backseat to fit it in, and drove it back home. Some may laugh that I drove, but I challenge any person of average fitness to carry a Christmas Tree trunk one and a half blocks. You may be able to do it, but you'll wish you had driven.
I realized I could keep doing this and get more firewood--for free! So that January (and even partway into February), whenever I'd see a tree out on the curb, I'd stop, chop it up, and haul the trunk away. I ended up getting 14 tree trunks that winter. I borrowed a chainsaw from my friend Garry and got 42 decent pieces of firewood (okay, 28 pieces, and 14 sticks of kindling).
Last January, I got started early. I was motivated this time. I carried pruning shears and gloves in my trunk all month long. I put a post on Facebook. Friends would tell me what neighborhoods they saw them in. I was driving all over the city for them. I even spent third week of January in Modesto for work and came home with 12 tree trunks. I learned the hard way that if a tree is in a tree bag and sprayed with fake snow, it's not worth it. I got my average down to 10 minutes per 6/7-foot tree, an important calculation to know at midnight outside an apartment complex with seven trees in front of it. I just left the branches (or Christmas carnage as I called it) in the curb, figuring I was doing all these people a service since the city won't take the full trees (although one guy asked me to put the branches in his green bin, which I happily did). I got 44 trees that year. I was worried that my roommate was going to have me committed. Or by my coworkers in Modesto when I stopped being able to drive the carpool mid-week because of all the trees pushing into my backseat.
I texted my dad at some point about what I was doing and he wrote back, "There's always something appealing about free."
But this year, I haven't gotten a single tree yet. I have pruning shears and gloves at the ready in the back of my car, but I just have not been motivated this year. I had my tonsils out, which still has me worn out. And Fresno has not had a day where we're allowed to use our fireplaces since December 17th (yes, I've been checking every day and keeping track), and I still have so much firewood that I really don't need more (not that I even needed the 44 last year).
I miss enjoying this hobby. Maybe as my recovery from surgery continues, I'll feel in the mood to go collecting. But until then, I really do have plenty of firewood.