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An Open Letter to the Public Works Department

Dear Public Works Department,

I have to ask: Did I do something wrong?

I’m just wondering because here I am in late January, drinking a cup of coffee and looking out the window at the freaking Christmas tree that you refuse to take out of my yard.

It was a good tree.  I really enjoyed it at Christmas–which you may recall was thirty-five (35) days ago.

I always get sad when Christmas is over, don’t you? It’s such a let-down, knowing we have to wait a whole year for it to come again.

You know what really rubs salt in that wound?  The dead Christmas tree outside my freaking house.  It’s a daily reminder that eggnog is no longer available in stores.

As you know, Christmas trees fall within the guidelines of things you’ll pick up.  Mine’s been on the curb for 3 weeks, but you don’t seem to notice.

You should know that a squirrel lives in it now.

I named the squirrel Lucas.

The longer you wait, the harder this is going to be on him.

You’re probably going to say there was some Christmas tree disposal deadline that I missed.

But that’s impossible.  I googled every imaginable angle of that issue.  There was no deadline–unless it was a secret, unpublicized one.

You know who doesn’t like secrets? The baby Jesus, whose birthday was celebrated thirty-five (35) days ago.

In your defense, maybe you saw the pumpkins on the front porch and got confused about what month it was.

Let me clarify: It’s not October.  I just happen to like decorative gourds and pumpkins, okay?  It’s just a personal preference.  Like my personal preference for you to pick up the Christmas tree or stop charging me $14.50 per month for allegedly removing my trash.

That’s $14.50 I could be spending on assorted nuts for Lucas, who really appears to be settling in, FYI.

Thanks for your prompt attention to this matter.  We are literally watching out for your response. If we don’t talk before then, Happy Valentines Day.


P.S.  In case you aren’t taking the tree because you’re hungry, here’s a recipe for some breakfast potatoes. They are super easy.  You just slice up some fingerling potatoes, heat up some butter, and cook ’em up.  Throw in some ham or bacon, and maybe some chives and cayenne if you like. Simple Breakfast Potatoes


1 1/2 lbs. fingerling potatoes (any color)

3 1/2 tbsp. butter dash coarse salt (preferably sea salt or kosher salt)

dash cayenne pepper (optional)

4 tbsp. fresh chives (optional)

5-6 slices ham (optional)


Rinse and scrub the potatoes.

Chop the unpeeled potatoes into rounds no more than 1/4 inch thick.

Melt the butter in a large skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium heat. Add the potatoes and a hearty dash of kosher salt and, if desired, a little dash of cayenne.  Stir to combine and cook, stirring often, 35-45 minutes.

While potatoes cook, rinse and chop the chives (I use scissors to snip the chives into rounds.)

Dice the slices of ham.

Add the chives and ham at the 30 minute mark and stir to combine.  Continue cooking until the ham is warmed through, the chives have wilted, and the potatoes are cooked through. If you like them crispy, press them down with a spatula and cook longer.  If you like them on the soft side, like I do, start taste-testing them at 35-45 minutes. Taste the potatoes and add more salt and pepper if they need it.


  1. White or yellow onions: I don’t use regular onions in this because they burn on me before the potatoes are anywhere near done.  When the Pioneer Woman makes breakfast potatoes, she sometimes cooks the onions first and then takes them out while she cooks the potatoes, and adds them back in when the potatoes are almost done.  So that’s an option.
  2. Bacon: If you want to make this with bacon instead of ham, you could fry the bacon first and put it off to the side.  Then you could cook the potatoes in the left-over bacon fat instead of butter.  I’d drain the bacon fat from the pan, reserving it on the side, and add a tablespoon at a time back into the potatoes as needed to keep them from drying out and sticking to the bottom of the pan too much.  That way you won’t have them swimming in too much bacon grease.  If you run out of bacon grease, supplement with butter.

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48 Comments Post a comment
  1. Though you feel stumped as to why the tree has not been picked up, maybe divine intervention is dictating it left there so you could author this great post?! Perhaps you should be dealing with another branch of local gov’t to help you discover the root of the issue. . . It’s always Christmas on Eggton. . . reading new posts is such a tree. . .t!

    January 29, 2012
    • You always leaf me laughing with your jokes, Ryan.

      January 29, 2012
  2. Angie #

    Hint: put the tree closer to the street, so that the tree is partly in the street. Then they’ll get it. I know, it’ll be hard as a litigator to ignore the liability that could arise from someone running into it, but I swear they’ll pick it up tomorrow if it’s in the street! 🙂

    January 29, 2012
    • Horray! I’ll do that. Tomorrow is trash day. We’re going to make this happen or die trying. Thanks, Angie!

      January 29, 2012
      • Put it in the MIDDLE of the street.

        January 30, 2012
        • You are so wise. The freaking thing cut me all over when I tried to move it, probably because it has been dehydrating in the sun for 37 days now. Let that be some kind of lesson to you.

          January 31, 2012
  3. Jenn #

    Better yet, put it aside for your “Christmas in July” party where you spray paint the dry tree back to a beautiful, lustrous green, then light it on fire! In the backyard of course. Burning the tree in the living room wouldn’t be much of a party.

    January 29, 2012
    • That sounds like it could lead to s’mores, so I am a huge fan of this idea.

      January 29, 2012
  4. Bonnie #

    OMG Katherine, ROTFL while LMFAO. Sorry, to go all texty (is that a word?) on you but I can barely type…lack of oxygen from laughing so much.

    Molto brava!

    BTW, the various pics of Thunder made an especially powerful impact on this post. Fantastic!

    January 29, 2012
    • Hi Bonnie! I’m so glad you liked it– I chuckled in spite of myself a few times when writing it.

      Thunder is obsessed with looking out the window from that chair. At first I felt bad (like geez, she would really rather be outside) but I think she’s developing a cat-like enjoyment of lounging around watching things. She likes to sit along the top of the chair like cat, and only opts for the actual seat cushion when she’s chewing a bone. She’s a funny one, that Thunder.

      Have a good week!

      January 29, 2012
  5. Your tree clearly needs a sign. Like, “Pick me up or return my $14.50”.

    Maybe the trash guys are just confused, as trees are often present in front yards.

    Or maybe this is opening you up to go into a side-job of blogging about animal rescue and squirrels. In honor of Lucas. Around here, we call the squirrels “tree rats”. We started calling them that after they plucked the marble eyes out of a cat statue we have in our front yard. Then they twisted the cat statue’s head around backwards i.e. “The Exorcist”.

    Maybe if you offer said city works guys breakfast potatoes they’ll pick up the tree.

    January 29, 2012
    • Why did I not think of a sign?!? Where would I be without you, geez. I am going to try to mount the tree on top of the trash can AND make a sign. The only problem is that it would make a 11 foot-tall Trash Can Monster, and I don’t know if my neighbors are ready for that.

      I don’t think I’d ever let Lucas play with your tree rats. It sounds like they might beat him up.

      January 29, 2012
  6. Krisann #

    I’ll be taking the “SAVE LUCAS” stance. Shirts have been made. Signs have been painted. Picketing starts tomorrow.

    January 29, 2012
    • I’m so glad you’re on top of this because I can’t find my posterboard. You have my blessing to bring on as many volunteers as it takes to get the little guy to safety.

      January 29, 2012
  7. Love the tip about draining the bacon fat and using a little at a time. Why didn’t I think of that?! Hope your tree gets picked up soon – say hey to Lucas!

    January 29, 2012
    • Hi, Lauren. I have been wanting to read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks for a while now– your excellent review just reminded me that I need to finally do it! I will pass your kind regards to Lucas, of course.

      January 29, 2012
  8. Jenifer #

    Maybe you should just stick the tree out of the top of your garbage can! If they seriously leave it after that you might have a hilarious phone conversation that we’d all enjoy too! he he he

    oh and about your pumpkin thing. Still have one sitting on my kitchen table as we speak! Waiting to see how long it will last! My 4 year old is super excited that it might dry out like her gourds and we can use it for a huge maraca! Ole!

    January 29, 2012
    • Ok, so I pored over the guidelines earlier today and I don’t think I can have anything sticking out of the trashcan. So I am just going to prop it up against the trash can with a sign of some kind. That way, if they pick up the trash and leave the tree, I know they wilfully ignored the thing. I don’t know if that advances the ball any, but it seems like the only thing to do.

      I can’t believe how invested I am in this now.

      January 29, 2012
  9. a #

    Our area has some very interesting rules for tree (and large limb and other large item) removal. These things are not announced by the trash company, or in the local newspaper, or anywhere…aside from the village newsletter. The newsletter that you can only get by checking the village website randomly. And then you must read about 10 pages of single spaced type because they don’t tend to highlight the news that will create actual work for themselves. Also, our trash company will not actually tell you when they’re going to come and pick up the recycling. They will only give you a week. You have to know what day of the week they pick up recycling in your neighborhood. If you want to have them pick up yard waste, you actually have to call up and interrogate someone – they don’t offer the information voluntarily. It’s just so odd…

    January 29, 2012
    • Question: Is the United States Congress running your trash company? Because that would explain a lot.

      January 31, 2012
  10. Jenifer #

    You’ve got to let us know if they take it this week! 🙂

    January 30, 2012
    • It was a long time coming, but Hallelujah! 11 more months before I have to go through that all over again.

      January 31, 2012
  11. Dear Eggton,

    Does Thunder have a Twitter account? What about Lucas?

    Just wondering.

    movita beaucoup

    January 30, 2012
    • movita,

      Due to recent events, Thunder is going to take over the administration of Lucas’s twitter account. She may not be able to answer the more squirrel-related questions, but I will be supervising her work to make sure she provides the best twitter experience possible during Lucas’s absence.

      Thanks for understanding.


      January 31, 2012
  12. Camille #

    Hey…hold on a minute…you have GREEN grass in your yard right now? AND your front steps are not all covered in ice and snow and stuff? (Love the pumpkins btw) That is just so gosh darn unfair! (I’m using stronger language in my head btw)

    Oh, and next garbage day? Why all you have to do is stand by the curb with the tree in one hand, a can of lighter fluid and a lit cigarette in the other…I’ll betcha that’ll get their attention. (Make sure you’ve re-homed Lucas by then) I think the photo of Thunder gazing out the window with her little hiner to the camera is adorable.

    January 30, 2012
    • Camille, this was a good plan, and I considered it closely before opting to drag the tree into the street with a sign on it. It was in my back-up plan, in fact. But when I saw the freaking *crane* they had, I worried I might find myself dangling in the air in my nightgown, so I scurried back inside before any fires were started.

      January 31, 2012
  13. What a fun and creative post! Did you ever get a response?

    January 30, 2012
    • Thankfully, the situation is resolved. Whew!

      January 31, 2012
  14. Squirrels, by nature, are sketchy. Put Lucas on surveillance and see if he’s threatening the garbage men (or women) with bitten ankles

    January 30, 2012
    • Good point. Spoken like a woman who has seen a squirrel or two in her day. I feel like I will never really know the *real* Lucas– maybe I’m just romanticizing him now that he’s gone. (sigh).

      January 31, 2012
  15. I cannot wait to have an update on this tomorrow. Good luck, Lucas. Might want to find the nearest Occupy tent city.

    January 30, 2012
    • Damn, I should have suggested that to him. He could have volunteered as their mascot.

      January 31, 2012
  16. sarah #

    Loving the new format.
    And in our neighborhood you would have gotten a notice about the pumpkins, but nobody will dare question a Christmas tree or lights on the house in July. Because we have standards which apparently only apply to some holiday and seasonal decorations.
    Anyway, I fee like the yard is going to feel like it’s missing something once your tree is gone. And Thunder will no longer be able to watch Lucas as he flits about. Maybe you should build him some sort of make-shift tree house so that Lucas isn’t displaced once the trash company removes its head from its rear.

    January 30, 2012
    • Sarah– We do, in fact, miss Lucas now that he is gone. Thunder has to watch birds now. It does make backing out of the driveway a little less nerve-wracking, though.

      Since this is my first year in the deep South, I feel like I’m constantly buying yard decorations for various holidays. I’m not as conscientious about taking them down, though. I should live in a neighborhood like yours, where I get a reminder. It would look a lot less weird around here if I did!

      January 31, 2012
      • sarah #

        Spray paint the pumpkins white or pink and slap a heart on it and you are good to go for Valentine’s day. And yes in my neighborhood people put out Valentine’s decorations, only to have to quickly swap them out for St Patricks Day decor. It’s far more effort than should be applied. Nevermind that when those same people are hanging their Independence Day Bunting on the porch, their neighbors will still have Christmas lights on the house. I don’t do any outside decorating. We dont have any outlets on the outdide of our house so I can’t do Christmas stuff, and after the threatening letter about the pumpkin, I am afraid of forgetting them again.
        Thunder seems like he isnt picky about what animal he watches, but would be extremely selective about TV shows.

        February 1, 2012
  17. Karen #

    Forget the nuts for the squirrel and just leave beer for the trash guys next to the tree — or I guess you could leave the nuts for the trash guys and the beer for Lucas if that will ease his suffering!

    January 30, 2012
    • This is the kind of quality problem-solving you’re known for, Karen. I should have spent the $14.50 in trash costs on a 6-pack of imported beer.

      January 31, 2012
  18. Hilarious. Too hilarious. And yummy potatoes!

    January 30, 2012
    • Thanks!

      By the by, I never would have thought to put strawberries and amaretto together like you did in your recent ice cream– it looks so awesome.

      January 31, 2012
  19. This is so clever Katherine! I hope they never pick it up. Just think of the material for a whole new blog called Lucas! 🙂

    January 30, 2012
    • Thanks for the idea, Linda! I might not have thought of the picture for the most recent post if it hadn’t been for this comment. Have a good rest of your week!

      January 31, 2012
  20. April was in CT now CA #

    Those potatoes need to be wrapped up in a nice soft flour tortilla with some scrambled eggs and shredded cheddar. Hellooooo breakfast burrito! They look scrumptious.

    Maybe the trash people think it’s one of those new fangled trees that grow sideways?

    January 30, 2012
    • Ha– yes, or like an out of control Bonzai tree or like one of those trees that grows at alpine altitudes!

      We actually did have the left-over potatoes in tacos the next night. Scott said it was “the best meal of his life,” and I was horrified. I was like, “TACOS? THESE TACOS I MADE FROM A PACKET OF SPICES AND GROUND CHUCK? WHY DO I EVER COOK?!” (eyeroll.) He clarified, but probably because I was holding a knife at the time.

      January 31, 2012
  21. I am terribly sorry about your Christmas tree miss fortune. It’s a terrible shame to have to be reminded of such a jolly day in such a way. I love the text over the pics, I literally laughed out loud.

    January 31, 2012
    • Hi Hillery! Indeed, it was not the same fresh young tree we stashed presents under in December. It had lost a lot of needles and was very pointy and ouchy, and probably a fire hazard. I’m so glad it’s gone!

      January 31, 2012
  22. Yum! This is what my family needs for breakfast this 🙂 Ham not optional 😉 P.S. Your dog is too cute!

    February 1, 2012
  23. Hi there! I think my household (dog included) would agree with you on ham making everything better. Like mac ‘n’ cheese!

    February 1, 2012

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