SHUEYVILLE — “Now we can’t cut it down,” Jill Reicks said. “It has new life.”
In a year when a freak inland hurricane on Aug. 10 destroyed so many Eastern Iowa trees, a young red cedar hugging Skyview Drive NE has been spruced up to not only add some Christmas cheer to a close-knit neighborhood, but to feed the birds and critters.
They’ve already nabbed most of the popcorn strung among the branches, and still can snack on bird seed encrusted pine cones, oranges and even a dried apricot.
The humans who stroll or drive by also can enjoy seeing the festive red and green garland and strings of tiny solar lights that spring to life as the sun sets.
It all started with an idea from the kids living and playing in the Brookfield Estates housing development west of Shueyville, resident Laurie Stange said.
“We have a wonderful neighborhood, and like everybody else, we’ve been feeling isolated, even from each other,” she said. “We wanted to create a way for us to stay connected without going into each other’s houses, because normally, we’d like to have a cookie exchange, then do Christmas carols, sled-riding parties — and you can’t do that this year.”
When the kids next door suggested decorating the lonely little tree that planted itself along the roadside, Stange and others sprang into action. Bags of cones from her huge Norway spruce found their way to all 13 houses in the neighborhood, along with an invitation for the kids and residents to smear them with peanut butter or shortening and stick on bird seed, raisins or granola.
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“It’s been such a joy, because we have a little Facebook group for the neighborhood,” she said, “and I think nearly every family has been involved, so we have lots of pictures of grandkids and kids doing their decorations. One of the families said this should become a tradition.”
On Dec. 22, three generations bundled up in winter wear — with a few even sporting antlers — gathered around the tree to admire their handiwork and smile behind their masks for a group photo.
Three-year-old Theo was mesmerized as mom Kelly Coffman pointed to the pine cones. Then he was off to hang with the big kids.
“This is really fun,” Stange said, “when we can get everybody together.”
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