Every year in December, my husband and I have the discussion about a tree. I have this vision, as a young girl, of going to New Jersey to cut one down every year. This was quite a trek from Manhattan and made for great memories. It’s a bit of a Laura Ingalls Wilder fantasy but, hey, could be worse. So we argue about “killing a tree” for Christmas, something that didn’t occur to me in the twentieth century.
I understand and share the concern for the planet but I also love the whole ritual of setting up the fresh tree. As a compromise, for the last few years we’ve bought a live tree in a pot and put it outside for the rest of the year, the idea being we would re-use it again the next year. Well, for the first time in four years, our tree survived the year and is resplendent in our living room trimmed and beautiful. So, when I suggested we go to this fabulous Christmas tree farm for a day of fun, giant swings, wreath-making, picnic, tractor ride, bonfire and marshmallows, like every year I got the same grumpy answer. I persevered.
No, we were not going to cut down a tree this year, and yes it would be fun and exhilarating without the tree cutting fantasy fulfilled. The joke is, I’m actually half Jewish and I’m the one fighting for the Christmas spirit, but I digress. We always have a great time and this year we went again but without my better half: it turned out he had to work.
An hour and a half down the coast from San Francisco on Highway 1, near Davenport, is a family owned, no-frills, old-fashioned Christmas tree farm called Rancho Siempre Verde. If you’re not careful you might miss it. If you pass Ano Nuevo State Park, home of the magnificent elephant seals and worth it’s own trip, you’ve gone too far.The advertising is all word of mouth and honestly I don’t want it to get too popular so shhhh…don’t spread the word.
We have gone four years in a row and though it is fun to actually cut down a tree, swinging on the giant swings overlooking the farm and the Pacific is stellar. You get that tingly feeling like you are flying, half fear, and half exhilaration. The kids love the hay tunnels and always come running back for more hot chocolate.
Each year I make a slightly spazzy wreath, but I love to hang it on our front door and know I made it. Martha Stewart would not approve. They have these antiquated tables with built in wreath-making pinchers that you use on the wire skeleton for the wreath. There are piles of pine and fir tree branches, eucalyptus and some advanced wreath-makers bring their own holly and other supplies. The boughs are laid down in a circle and the pinchers close by pressing a pedal under the table, like an old sewing machine, and magically form the wreath.
Families gather around the giant bonfire and toast marshmallows; you can tell people look forward to this all year. Particularly this year, when the emphasis is, happily, more on family and quality time rather than shopping till you drop, it was a welcome respite from the usual holiday hubbub. This is the last weekend they will be open this year!