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Dear Mitch,

In the past, you wrote quite a lot about recycling, and mentioned that it would be a part of your website.  You have mentioned the subject once in a while, but it's been a very long time since you've included any pictures or things that people can actually see.  I'm very curious to see what some of the finished products look like, because, truthfully, when you (or anyone else) mention all these things you make out of 'garbage' it is very hard to picture it coming out decently.  So, whenever you feel it's appropriate to squeeze it in, feel free!  I think a lot of us who have tried could use a little inspiration!


 Naomi R.


Dear Naomi R.,

Your timing is perfect!

First, because your letter tops a pile that just reached the critical mass, making it the kind of thing that is no longer just something I can answer one at a time in private emails.

The second reason it is perfect timing is because Arbor Day is around the corner.  It is celebrated on April 24th in the United States, and, to me, Arbor Day can hardly be discussed without talking about recycling as well.  Arbor Day, to those who may not know, is the day that is designated as a sort of 'Plant a Tree Day', and it's an annual event not only celebrated in all the states that I know of, but is also celebrated in many different countries.

In England it is spelled Arbour Day, and is celebrated on a different day from our Arbor Day, but the important thing is that millions of trees get planted in a single day around the world!

BUT even millions of tress can be chopped down for all kinds of purposes – not all necessary – in a single year, and that is where the recycling comes in.  Now, in most places I've lived, when a tree has to be cut down for purposes other than the use of its wood, such as it's rotting and poses a danger to other nearby tress with potential viruses, or it poses a different kind of danger to children climbing its decrepit branches, the situation is not a total waste, because although the wood may not be in fine enough shape for construction, it is typically cut into logs for fireplaces and wood burning stoves, heating homes and saving fuels, etc.

However, at the moment I am spending a large portion of my year in the southern part of the United States, and the climate is such that the number of nights one would even think about using a fireplace makes the whole idea of collecting logs seem almost comical.  (In fact, most people I've met who have lived here for decades or more cannot recall the last time they had a fire roaring in their own fireplace!)  To me, personally, that's a shame, but I won't get any more personal than that.  The point is that it is an extremely common occurrence after a storm (there are storms here, and lightning aplenty, but little cold weather), one sees what appears to be giant mounds of firewood piled up with the trash; and, indeed, it gets carted off and thrown away as though as worthless as any other trash.

(Shipping it to a place of colder climate is not cost effective, nor environmentally sound, as the amount of fuel required for trucks to ship it would outweigh the benefits.)

So when I saw all these logs at the beginning of my stay down here in the south, there was that northeastern part of me that could not bear it.  So I ended up collecting the ones that were within a hundred feet of my house.  And then, one night, enclosed in my home during a storm, I found myself using the logs to make primitive-looking but farcical little totem poles, statues, sculptures, and very simple furniture (lamps, small tables, etc.).

The following morning I decided to decorate my otherwise ordinary front lawn with them.

Someone came by and took photos of them and sent them to someone else, who sent them to someone else...

Well, the end of the story, for this season, anyway, is that for this coming Arbor Day I am going to be working with children at a local – though world-famous -- children's park called "The Children's Garden" in Sarasota, Florida.  Any child who attends on April 24th who wishes to will take home his or her own handmade little figure or other work of art he constructs from local logs or sticks that would otherwise be thrown away.  In the next few days, I will post more details so that anyone who wishes to attend will have no trouble doing so.

I am very excited, and if you visit this site, in a day or so, right under this response you will find two things:  First, a collection of headboards made from various items pulled from discarded items ("trash"), and second, a sampling of some of these creatures I've made out of discarded logs.  As you will see, I try to use whatever natural idiosyncrasies the logs themselves have after being discarded, so that there is very little carving and most are completed in an hour or so.   

One of the headboards is affixed to my daughter's bed, one is affixed to my son's, and one is affixed to a large bed, still in use, that was too heavy for me or anyone else to reasonably carry across the country or the across the ocean in our series of moves. 

So stay tuned for the pictures!

I will also include some Arbor Day math problems for people of all ages, because this website, though expanding and blossoming into a range of areas, did start out primarily as a math site, and I have no intention of leaving the exciting world of mathematics behind!

Hope this answer your question,


Tree1 Tree2 Tree3 Tree5 Tree6 Tree8 Tree9 House1 House2 House3