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The Grand Bird-apest Hotel

By: Jamie Seitz
Jamie doesn't throw away her Christmas tree anymore. She invites birds into its branches.

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The most wonderful time of the year

My family has been getting our Christmas tree from the same family-owned tree farm for 20 years. It’s one of my favorite holiday traditions. Each year, at the beginning of December, we drive out to the country to find that extra special Seitz family tree, just like Clark W. Griswold. The fresh pine smell. Yes, please. The green of the tree against white twinkly lights on a December evening. You can picture it, right?

Piles of pine needles to be swept up after December 25. Well, it’s all part of the experience.

But dragging the tree to the curb after Christmas is always a little anticlimactic and makes me feel blue. This beautiful tree still has a little more life to live even if it's missing a few hundred needles, doesn’t it? Several years ago, I came across an article (in this very magazine!) about ways to repurpose your Christmas tree. I was intrigued and quickly zeroed on the first suggestion: Prop it up in your yard and let the birds use it as a winter shelter.

So we're bird people now

Have I mentioned that my husband and I became bird people in the last few years? We’ve always enjoyed our backyard birds and have had a bird feeder, but if we went long stretches of time without filling it, we didn’t worry too much about it. However, with all the extra time at home during the early days of the pandemic, we became OBSESSED. Now we are the kind of people who stand in front of the bird food shelf at the store for 20 minutes and debate which kind our birds like best. We’re the people who have a bird encyclopedia in our sunroom so we can quickly identify any newcomers, and we keep a fancy bird notebook to track the dates they visit. Also, I would be lying if I said we did not have multiple pet pillows in front of the window that look out over the bird bath and feeders so our cats and dogs can enjoy the birds with us.

That feels normal, right?

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Here come the birds

Within hours of propping the tree up in the yard, our first guests checked in. A flock of sparrows. I decided it was probably a family reunion or an insurance convention based on sheer numbers. None of the birds bothered with the string of popcorn and cranberries I draped across the branches (disappointing for sure), but they did stop for a bite to eat at the bird feeder cafe and took a brisk skate on the frozen bird bath before settling down on their branches for a rest. As a light snow began to fall that afternoon, we watched from inside as the sparrows, jays, cardinals and our two favorite red-bellied woodpeckers took turns inspecting every inch of this new hot spot. We were positively giddy about the popularity of Opening Day at our Bird Hotel. And so were our mesmerized pets.

I love how our Christmas tree has a longer lifespan than just the month of December in our living room. I love that we have a front row seat to our backyard birds’ winter activities. I also love that when spring comes, the dried tree branches make excellent campfire starter and compost.


After the gardening season, you can find Jamie tapping away on her laptop, working on a new book or Googling “simple greenhouse plans” so she and Scott can really can grow peppers all year long.


You Might Also Like:
Read More In the Weeds
3 Ways to Repurpose a Christmas Tree in the Garden
DIY Bird-Feeding Obelisk Garden Project
Live Christmas Tree Tips

Published: Dec. 12, 2022
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