Brad Harvey: Stretching your Christmas

December 31, 2012 

As I’ve aged, Christmas seems to get here faster each year. In my youth, however, it always took an eternity for this date to arrive.

I can remember how the anticipation would increase with every event that led up to the big day. It usually started with the airing of the Charlie Brown Christmas program right after Thanksgiving.

The build-up continued with other classics, such as Rudolph, and continued right through the decorating of our tree and a family ritual that involved a whole lot of people at our house on Christmas Eve.

When morning finally arrived, our house would already be full again. My parents, grandparents, aunt and uncle would be downstairs in the den prepping for our arrival onto the scene.

Protocol required that we yell down to let them know that we were up and getting ready to make our grand appearance.

At the end of the day, after all of the gifts were unwrapped and the turkey devoured, I would always feel a bit of a letdown. This deflated feeling came from the realization that this meant the next one was 12 whole months away.

As I would return my thoroughly worn out body to bed on that Christmas night, I never failed to make a little wish that Christmas could last all year.

Well, in a sense, it can.

What do you do with your Christmas tree after the holidays? It seems that most folks never put much thought into that. They simply toss it out or send it to be filler at the landfill.

Doesn’t exactly seem appropriate for something that once held a position of high honor within the house and served as the central backdrop for such a memorable family event does it? This is the one thing from Christmas that can carry on throughout the entire calendar year and many more.

Most fishermen will tell you that an old discarded Christmas tree makes for some super fishing. Once tossed into the appropriate site, the sunken trees become great fish attractors.

On the bottom, they provide the perfect habitat for aquatic insects to live and grow. In turn, these attract small baitfish which, of course, attracts the larger fish which feed upon them. The criss-cross of branches under the surface also provides a safe haven for the fish and tends to keep them there all of the time.

Discarded Christmas trees have a number of uses outside of the water as well. Brush piles formed from them benefit small game such as rabbits and quail by providing a resting place or escape from predators.

Even though the needles of old Christmas trees will brown and fall off in two or three months, if you get enough trees piled up, they will make pretty good cover.

Properly placed Christmas trees can serve as useful erosion control or be ground into rich mulch, also.

Another great alternative is to plan ahead next Christmas and purchase a live tree that can be planted after the holidays. By doing so, it will provide good evergreen cover for wildlife for many years to come. DNR reminds us, however, that many of the popular species will not survive our hot humid summers.

Among those that do well are Virginia pine, Scotch pine, sand pine, spruce pine, Eastern red cedar, white cedar, Leyland cypress and white pine. There are even two varieties of cypress that were developed right here – Clemson Greenspire and Carolina Sapphire.

Jocassee Gorges recognized

Have a little extra time over the holiday? You might find it worth it to take a little road trip down around Pickens and Oconee counties to the Jocassee Gorges area.

Believe it or not, this beautiful part of our state has just been named by National Geographic as one of “50 of the world’s last great places.”

According to the magazine’s four-page spread dedicated to the area, “Thanks to the second highest rainfall in the continental United States, the Jocassee Gorges area of North and South Carolina supports rare plants and one of the highest concentrations of waterfalls in the eastern United States.

The area was given added protection by the purchase of 40,000 acres by both states and several nongovernmental organizations, which connected some 200,000 acres and guarantees that plant and animal species would not be isolated.

Living here are black bear, bobcats, wild turkeys, and the highest number of salamanders found anywhere in the world. Included among some 60 species of rare plants are 90 percent of the world’s Oconee bells, whose nearest relatives are in China and Japan.”

“National Geographic’s special recognition of Jocassee Gorges is quite an honor,” stated Mark Hall, Jocassee Gorges land manager for DNR. “We have one of the greatest wild places on our planet. It’s an exciting place to be, with the peregrine falcons appearing, more bald eagles showing up, Audubon designating Jocassee as an internationally important bird area and now we’re working to place an observation tower on the highest mountain in the state. Who knows what’s next?”

Maybe my New Year’s resolution will need to be to get out and enjoy our own state a bit more!

Brad Harvey is a freelance writer in Clover. Visit his web site at www.bradharveyoutdoors.com or follow on Twitter- @BHarveyOutdoors

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