The festive season is here. I love the glitter and sparkle of all it brings. Getting shopping done, presents wrapped, Christmas cards posted, mince pies, cakes and puddings baked. Christmas parties and nights out are in order with visits to pantomimes and shows. Carols, concerts, Christmas fayres and festive lunches are hosted as the Islay community draw together to enjoy all that the festive season offers. Villages are lit up with Christmas lights and Christmas trees and there is an atmosphere of excitement in the air as the Christmas Spirit takes hold.
At Persabus the Happy Farmer has been out on his annual Christmas tree’ hunt’. A ‘hunt’ which the Happy Farmer takes very seriously. Getting just the right tree is quite a mission. It must be the right height. It is preferably a Lodge Pole, so will survive the Persabus festivities without casting its needles across the wooden floors and rugs. It needs to have plenty of branches on which to hang all the treasured ‘heirloom’ decorations that we have collected over the years. Beautiful handmade angels from the children’s primary school and nursery eras still hang with pride on the Persabus tree intermingled with sparkly bits from the yesteryear of my grandparents’ tree. Lots of baubles from previous generations of the Happy Farmer’s family along with shiny new additions. The tree’s branches need to form a gradual pyramid shape rising to the pinnacle of the tree for the Angel to look down from. There needs to be no bare bits and no gaps. The Persabus Christmas tree is serious business.
Sometimes the Christmas tree ‘hunt’ has taken the Happy Farmer many long nights. There are lovely stories of him falling knee deep in peaty bog land, lost in the depths of a forest long after bedtime as that traditionally is when the tree ‘hunt’ happens. The danger of such a late hunt of course was that in all of the excitement and merriment the ‘tree hunters’ could get led astray and completely forget the focus of their ‘mission’, only to arrive home ‘treeless’. On such occasions it could take several long nights of ‘tree hunting’ until that successful moment when the ‘perfect’ tree would be transported home to the farm. The perils of such a ‘hunt’ could mean that what appeared in the glistening moonlight of the ‘wee small hours’ to be the ‘perfect’ tree could in the harsh light of day be a spindly, short, half bare bit of a tree that may just have been grabbed in haste in a last ditch attempt not to arrive back empty handed again.
These days the Happy Farmer has his own plantation of several varieties of pine trees on the farm. He loves trees and actively plants more each year. These trees must be well fertilised. Planted in rich soil. Their young trunks protected with plastic tubes, away from livestock. For a good Christmas tree to grow they also need some protection from the harsh winter gales that sweep our island shores. This comes in time as shelter belts are formed over the years by older more mature trees.
This December the Happy Farmer and I walked across the fields to see the perfect tree. One he has nurtured carefully over the years. This tree will be the centre piece of all the Persabus parties of Christmas and Hogmanay. It is indeed a beautiful tree and in the New Year the Happy Farmer will plant another batch of trees.
Until next time….