I'm a man, and I like to make Christmas wreaths. You got a problem with that?

Department of complaints.
Dec. 20 2006 12:33 PM

Me and My Big Wimpy Hobby

I make Christmas wreaths for the ladies in my life. You got a problem with that?

(Continued from Page 1)
The author's wreath. Click image to expand.
The author's wreath

Wreathmaking relies on similar magic—although, obviously, you use a round wire frame as your foundation. After years of trial and error, I've amassed a Faustian knowledge about which materials work well in wreaths and which don't. My favorite evergreens are ponderosa pine and the often-overlooked white fir, with its beautiful, curvy, blue-green needles. My least favorite is any kind of spruce, that harsh, evil jabber of fingers. And don't get me started on the magical—but maddening!—array of pine-cone choices. (OK, get me started: White fir cones are resiny cylinders that can create a sticky mess. Ponderosa pine cones are just right—open, dry, rounded, and nicely proportioned. Most spruce cones are too small for anything other than tabletop centerpieces. Not that I've ever made one of those.)

My other gripe is that it's become way too hard to get my hands on the necessary boughs, and for this I blame the U.S. government. For years, I assumed that buying a Christmas tree permit—in New Mexico, for $10, the Forest Service will let you cut down one small evergreen in a designated patch of public woods—also entitled me to pick up a few branches that had been knocked to the ground by wind. It made sense, since one reason they allow tree-cutting is to clear the forest of "ladder fuels" like white fir, which help create explosive conflagrations when forest fires break out.

Advertisement

But no. Three years ago, I was exiting the Santa Fe National Forest with my tree and a small collection of windfall cuttings. At one point, I pulled over to get a closer look at an intriguing dried sunflower stalk. A ranger rolled up, saw the extra greenery, and—boom!—I got nailed for trafficking in "hot" branch tips. The Pickle Suit threatened me with a $5,000 fine and told me that, in the future, I had to buy a separate permit to do my thing. Since then I've been scared straight, and it's a good thing, judging by the big wreath bust that went down in Florida last month.

But honesty isn't easy. When I called the Forest Service recently, the guy who picked up sounded confused—"I've been working here six years, and nobody has ever asked for a wreath permit." Later, he told me the only place I could collect was at the site of a major summertime chop-down of ponderosa pines. I went there. The boughs, piled in ugly heaps, were brown. Just the thing for wreathmaking fun—with the Addams Family.

I struggled by this year, using piñon branches that I collected—legally—with one of my firewood permits. The wreaths turned out nice, but this option may not be available next year, and the whole situation seems out of whack. I can obtain a permit to shoot an elk or beat trout against rocks, but I can't gather a few ounces of evergreen windfall? Write your congressmen and tell them to "craft" a reform. The happiness of several nice old ladies may depend on it.

TODAY IN SLATE

Doublex

Crying Rape

False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

The Music Industry Is Ignoring Some of the Best Black Women Singing R&B

How Will You Carry Around Your Huge New iPhone? Apple Pants!

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

Television

The Other Huxtable Effect

Thirty years ago, The Cosby Show gave us one of TV’s great feminists.

Lifetime Didn’t Find the Steubenville Rape Case Dramatic Enough. So They Added a Little Self-Immolation.

No, New York Times, Shonda Rhimes Is Not an “Angry Black Woman” 

Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 1:39 PM Shonda Rhimes Is Not an “Angry Black Woman,” New York Times. Neither Are Her Characters.
Behold
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM An Up-Close Look at the U.S.–Mexico Border
  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 19 2014 6:22 PM Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 19 2014 6:35 PM Pabst Blue Ribbon is Being Sold to the Russians, Was So Over Anyway
  Life
Inside Higher Ed
Sept. 19 2014 1:34 PM Empty Seats, Fewer Donors? College football isn’t attracting the audience it used to.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 4:48 PM You Should Be Listening to Sbtrkt
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 19 2014 5:09 PM Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?   A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.