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Christmas Tree? Cut Your Own

Take the time this holiday season to swing in the trees and cut down your own tree at Rancho Siempre Verde south of Half Moon Bay.

“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” — Philosopher Lao Tzu

If nature can get everything done without rushing, so can you, right?

Time spent at Rancho Siempre Verde, a Christmas tree farm 25 miles south of Half Moon Bay, is a reminder that life really is much better when unrushed.

From the farm’s parking area off Highway One with its "Slow, 5 MPH" signs to the idyllic fields dotted with evergreen trees beyond, there's lots to do at Rancho Siempre Verde, and you’ll want plenty of time to do it — unhurried and at your own pace.

For the past 45 years, Rancho Siempre Verde has been open to the public as a peaceful and pastoral place to enjoy the Christmas season.

It’s the place to go during the holidays for picnicking on a grassy hill, overlooking a chaparral landscape that meets the Pacific Ocean. It’s where children can take tractor hayrides, roast marshmallows and swing on the many tree swings located on the farm, and where families can cut their own tree and make their own wreaths.

It’s where dogs are allowed to visit, too, and where just about anyone from anywhere at any age can take it slow and appreciate how majestic life on the South Coast Range really is.

“This is a playful, relaxed place where people come and have a good time,” says Margaret Kosek, co-owner of the 100-acre farm. “It’s just a happy time of year and everybody goes around and does their own thing whether it's roasting a marshmallow, swinging or looking for the perfect Christmas tree, many spend the day, taking it all in.”

Before becoming a tree farm, Rancho Siempre Verde was the homeland occupied by many different people, including the Ohlone Indians, holders of a Spanish/Mexican Land grant. In 1964, Margaret and her husband Jon Kosek bought the property from Catherine Steele of the famous Steele dairy farm of the 1850s.

Upon acquiring the property, the Koseks reforested a large portion of the land and, on the 20 remaining acres, planted Christmas trees — first pine, and later fir.

“My husband is originally from Iowa and wanted to do something with farming and thought that growing Christmas trees here would be fine,” says Kosek. “We thought that visitors should have a good time, too, so we set up the swings, and we also liked the idea of making your own wreaths. Our family works together here to make it a family friendly and fun place to visit.”

The Koseks continued to expand and diversify the tree types, noting what worked best in the climate and soils. Along with their five children — and their partners, children, neighbors, and friends — they tend the trees, orchards and gardens.

Maggie, 14, and her mom Barb Anderson from Santa Cruz come every year to make their own wreaths.

“We’ve been doing this since Maggie was little,” says Barb Anderson. “We make a few extra wreaths together and give them as gifts to family and friends.”

Anderson even brings her own sage and lavender sprigs for the wreaths she makes.

“Mixed with the pine needles, it smells so good,” she says, noting that it does take time to clip and collect the greenery and assemble each wreath. "You just don't want to be rushed when doing this," she says. "Takes the fun out of it."

Metal wreath rings may be purchased for $7 (10-inch) or $10 (14-inch). The Ranch provides a variety of fresh greens, clippers, pinecones, and tips from resident wreath makers. Specially equipped tables that clamp the greens together make wreath assembly easy.

Still, most visitors come for the trees and will discover a nice variety of evergreen trees from Douglass Fir, Monterey Pine and Incense Cedar to Arizona Cypress and Swift Silver. All trees, no matter what type, size or shape, are $60. This includes taxes, tying, and free boughs. 

Unlike trees bought at a tree lot, all of the trees are coppiced or stump cultured. This means that by leaving a few bottom branches on the tree, you make it possible for another tree to grow from the same stump. This way the tree continues to live and flourish year after year.

“We have small trees and ones up to 12 feet that people come from all over to get right when we first open for the season,” says Kosek. “Some years we have more of the big ones than others. It’s like growing any kind of crop. Some years are just better than others.”

Kosek says that visitors will also want to leave plenty of time to try out all of the swings, from big swings, small swings and tire swings to rope swings, double swings, triple swings, and more that are all over the farm and in some cases hidden in the tree fields. There are also two large xylophones on top of the hill.

“We’ve seen the land go through many changes over years,” she says. “We have made many improvements, recently putting more gravel done on the path and every year we check the swings, which can hold up to 5,000 pounds and water the grounds around the fire for the marshmallow roasting to make things safe. It’s just a fun place to bring people together and enjoy the outdoors during the holiday season.”

IF YOU GO

Rancho Siempre Verde, (650) 326-9103, 2250 Cabrillo Highway (25 miles south of Half Moon Bay). Open 9 a.m.-5 p.m., rain or shine. Open December 3, 4, 10, 11, 17, and 18 and Monday the 19th.

Jamie White (Editor) November 27, 2012 at 05:53 PM
This sounds so fun, Christa! can you make me a holiday wreath too? ; )
Christa Bigue (Editor) November 27, 2012 at 06:05 PM
Going again on Sunday so if I'm feeling inspired, maybe I will!

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