Ethical Christmas Trees

Kim & Al Watson Galloway Smokehouse
Me with Kim & Al outside their Galloway Smokehouse
Galloway Nordman Christmas Trees

One of my closest girlfriends met and married an amazing man a few years ago. ‘Big Al’ as she likes to call him is exactly how we all imagined ‘Bear Grylls’ to look like, before we saw what he actually looked like.

Al is someone who lives and has lived life to the fullest and is definitely someone you’d choose to be shipwrecked alongside as he is an absolute survivor. Originally English, He’s lived in the Falkland Islands, ( there’s quite a story in itself) and for the past thirty odd years in Galloway where he has a traditional Smoke House. He is a very fine purveyor of wild Scottish Salmon, that he smokes, plus an incredible range of game, fresh and smoked fish.

Last year, along with their Christmas mail order brochure he slipped in a printed flyer about his christmas Trees. It tells quite a story and one that I felt compelled to share. When Al does anything, he does it well, actually extremely well, and always in a way that is best for the animals and land in which he lives.

His trees are no exception to this and his story will certainly open our eyes to the way that commercial growing has changed even the simplest of ‘naturally ‘grown products. We ordered our tree from him last week and I am looking forward to giving our carefully tended and nurtured tree a home for this season of advent, knowing that no land or water was polluted in the growing of it.

Please take a moment or two to read Al’s story and do pass it along.

Home Delivered Xmas Trees

Galloway Smokehouse Christmas Trees
Al’s trees Easter 2015

A Christmas Story

 Once upon a time when I was young and silly I decided it was time for a Christmas tree. New to my house and the first time I had attempted this, I did what all the locals do – go into the forest find a suitable tree and cut it down. Most of the trees are Sitka or Norway spruce, sharp needles but they look the part. The tree was placed in a bucket and filled with gravel, decorated with newly acquired baubles and my house was suddenly filled with the smell of newly cut spruce and the vision of Christmas had arrived. A couple of days later a few needles began to appear on the carpet under the tree so presents were distributed to disguise the offending needle fall. Any of you with a Labrador for a pet will know they retrieve things and the presents under the tree were fair game. The process of retrieving involves lots of excitement and tail wagging and the problem needle drop suddenly increased

from slight to severe. During the retrieving, needles that had fallen on the dog were also duly spread around the house. An exclusion zone was prepared and the big question was would there be any needles left for Christmas? Well, all was OK roughly half the needles were lost, and the carpet and presents had a healthy one inch layer. Christmas came and went and then came clear up, the now crispy dry tree was pulled out of the bucket and dragged across the floor and through two doorways and out the back door.

The slight bending of the branches followed by the spring back released a shower of needles so by the time the tree was outside it was now completely bare and a trail of needles was spread through the house. What a mess! The needles were sharp and managed to find there way into every nook and cranny available, Mr Dyson was still at school in those days but the good old hoover soon gave up with a clogged pipe. A whole day was spent brushing up the

little devils and I vowed to never have another real tree in the house again.

A few years later I was given a Christmas tree but this time it was a Nordman fir, the gift was turned down but after a bet over a bottle of whisky it was duly given house room. The simple instructions given to me were put it in a bucket, fill with gravel and then fill with water. Keep the water topped up and very few needles will fall. It looked the part and by

Christmas the carpet was still needle free. Removal was the same and it was left in the garden, two months later it was still green and it appeared to have rooted. This was of course not the case but I was a convert.

The real name of the tree is Abies Nordmanniana, the common names being Nordman fir or Caucasian fir. They have soft rounded dark green needles a wonderful smell and are the best for the control of needle drop of all common coniferous trees.

The story doesn’t end there however. A field was purchased next to our house as our spring water supply was inadequate, a well was bored and the outcome was an endless supply of clear uncontaminated, unadulterated spring water for ourselves and neighbours. So what do we do with the field? Sheep and cattle? No, in a wet winter there may be surface run off. How about growing Christmas trees? Professional advice was sought and notes taken. First of all spray weed killer, plant the trees and spray more weed killer. Keep

this up for four years and when the trees start to grow too quickly apply a hormone to slow the growth and spray insecticides when needed. Carry on the spraying for another three years and a harvest will be possible.

This sounded like too many chemicals going into the water and coming into the house at Christmas. A cocktail of herbicide, insecticide and hormone growth suppressant was not what I had in mind. So in the interests of clean water I decided to do it the hard way. The weeds were cut with a mower and strimmer, the insects fed the birds and by cutting the

grass rather than killing it, the tree growth was reduced. The mower trip was 4 km, the strimmer trip was 8 km, 4 cuts per year for the last five years !!!!! But at the end we have Christmas trees as nature intended, a haven for wild life which includes a nest box full of barn owls, plenty of insects for the summer visitors and seeds for the winter ones. Roe deer mark a few trees to define their territory and the odd badger plays at excavators but they must be tolerated.

The Christmas tree market for Nordmans is now huge and big business has moved in. With European grants and cheap labour many thousands of tree are grown and exported to the UK. However our trees are grown on site, chemical free with no huge transport issues. We only have about 300 available but we will be able to harvest them over the next 4 years. With each harvest being replaced by the next generation.

They will be cut, netted and bagged the day before dispatch. All you have to do is stand in a bucket of water on receipt and then set up in the house when required. Keep the bag it arrives in and this can be used to take it to the recycling centre to be turned into compost.

They will be sent by next day courier service delivered to your door and can be left somewhere safe if requested.

Sizes available are

4 – 5ft £40
5 – 6ft £45
6 – 7ft £50

And include delivery

I hope you enjoy our hard work!

Mr A W Watson Galloway Smokehouse


Tel: 01671 820354


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