ADVANCING capitalism makes wood out of trees and businesses out of people.
Recently, a neighbour affirmed this.
He is selling his land.
Farming, he said, was not viable, not when land values, driven by the influence of tree-changers, were so high.
All sentiment, I pleaded the case for farmers whose connection with the land is so deeply and powerfully part of them, or whose skill for producing food - without wrecking the land - is such that for them to leave and take up lesser things in less suitable country would be akin to making a postman out of a paediatrician (with all due respects to posties).
He said farming was the same as running a corner shop, just a different sort of business.
The recent floods were the equivalent of a supermarket opening over the road from the corner shop, he argued.
I argued 10 years of drought plus flood was like having not just a supermarket open over the road from the corner shop, but a big hardware store one year, a newsagency the next, a chain takeaway food outlet the next, a coffee shop the next and so on.
Regardless of her skill and marketing savvy, the corner shop owner doesn't stand a chance.
If a business ain't viable, it ain't viable, my neighbour argued. He won the argument. Easily.
And he'll keep winning it.
Only I don't know where that takes us in the end.
In this hard-nosed commercial context, where landscapes are assessed for their ability to return a dollar, places that reflect more tender aspects of our humanity are beacons.
And I am pleased to report that near Crossroads, in central-southern Victoria, there are two such beacons.
Their creator, welding engineer, shed builder and Crossroads fire brigade captain Clive Keays tells me he first constructed his roadside Christmas tributes about 20 years ago, erecting and dismantling them each year.
He started with pine trees but his traffic-stopping tributes now comprise a 13m high and 7.5m-wide Christmas tree of steel, decorated with luminous paint, bicycle tyres, roadside reflectors and whirling vents.
In the paddock next door, an equally sizable man (presumably a wise one) on a camel, points to a guiding star.
Heading south from Beaufort on the Eurambeen-Streatham Road, drivers crest the hill and see giant oddities, striking not just for their size but for the underlying sentiment and spirit they reflect.
Like thousands of others before and after us, upon seeing them, we stopped our journey, got out of the car and admired. We took photos.
Clive, 63, says one truck driver who happened upon them raced home and pulled his children out of bed at 2am to bring them to see his giant, roadside tree.
"It looks better at night," he promises.
One year, he chased a car-load of youngsters who nabbed some reflectors from the tree.
The cops castigated him for such foolhardiness but the reflectors were eventually returned, albeit tossed out recklessly on the roadside.
But Clive now has a dilemma.
For the past year, the tree has remained in situ, largely because he damaged his shoulder, which rendered him incapable of dismantling it.
"That many people pull up, including buses," he says, "that the local shire has put it up as a tourist attraction."
Such is its pulling power, he's not sure that he can take the tree down now. And he's not making a buck out of it. He's just sharing the joy.