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It’s time to get real for Christmas

Trees: A fresh Christmas tree makes the season

Posted: December 10, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: December 10, 2011 1:55 a.m.

From left, Alex Anthony, Jeremy Weber and Erik Kautz wrap a Leyland cypress tree through netting at Nancy’s Ranch in Valencia.

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There is just something spiritually uplifting about a real Christmas tree, and there is also something spiritually uplifting about a family outing to purchase that tree. This is especially true when you visit Nancy’s Ranch, which has been the go-to tree lot for generations of Santa Clarita Valley residents and even folks outside our valley.

Nancy’s Ranch is the Christmas tree farm beside Magic Mountain Parkway, just east of Interstate 5.

The farm offers cut-your-own Monterey pines and a variety of pre-cut trees, including grand firs, Fraser firs, Noble firs, Douglas firs and Nordman firs.

“The recent rain we had perked things up with the trees we are growing, and the trees from Washington are looking nice and fresh, as well,” said Nancy Roatcap, the owner of Nancy’s Ranch.

But she said that the recent high winds prevented her crew from getting many of the pre-cut trees placed on stands.

However, they will have everything ready to go by the time you read this.

With more than 25 years in the Christmas tree business, Roatcap, and her ranch, are also “Tree Fresh” certified by the California Christmas Tree Association, so she knows how to care for trees and how to prepare them at the time of sale.

 

Your choice

The pre-cut Christmas trees at Nancy’s Ranch are brought in fresh from the state of Washington. As they arrive, and while they are still bundled up in netting, their bases are fresh-trimmed, and the trees stored together with their bases in water in a special holding area. (Other Christmas tree lots do not take this extra step.)

As they are needed to replace trees in the purchase display, they are trimmed again, unbundled and placed in stands, which are kept filled with water.

The whole procedure is designed to keep the trees as fresh as possible.

Of course, your choice of the type and size of your tree is up to you, but prices range from $19.95 to $299.95.


Cut-your-own

The cut-your-own Christmas trees at Nancy’s Ranch are Monterey pines. “That’s what grows here, and they respond well to pruning. That’s what you have to do a lot of (pruning) to get them to turn into Christmas trees,” Roatcap said. The Monterey pines grow to between six and 12 feet tall in four years, depending on water and soil, she added.

Though they are probably all gone by now, there were a few Leyland cypress trees growing at Nancy’s Ranch. This is a hybrid tree, from the Monterey cypress and Alaskan cypress. 

Cutting your own Christmas tree, of course, ensures its ultimate freshness when you take it home. And, if cared for properly, Roatcap said her trees should stay fresh for five to six weeks.

“I provide the saws,” Roatcap said. “You get to cut your own tree, which is kind of rare now.” She said some other lots send an employee out to cut the tree for you.

“A lot of people are coming in and saying that they have had fake trees in the past, but wanted to get a live tree this year,” Roatcap said. “And a lot of people used to come here with their parents when they were kids, and are bringing their own kids now.”

That was the case with the Wethington family, of Saugus, who I met as they were purchasing their tree.

“We always come to Nancy’s Ranch,” Ian Wethington said. “And the trees are beautiful this year.” He said they like the cut-your-own Leyland cypress, and were lucky to find one remaining.

Rachel Wethington said that she grew up in Simi Valley, but that her parents brought her to Nancy’s Ranch every year since she was 13. “We’ve been bringing our own children here since they were born,” she said. “You can’t beat it. We have fun playing hide and seek with the kids — but watch out for the stumps.”

Roatcap noted you should cut your tree with as much trunk left on it as possible to allow you to cut it to size when you get it home.

After you cut your tree, you carry it back to the checkout, where it is drilled for the tree stand spike — and shaken by machine to remove dead needles ($4) or wrapped in netting ($2), if you desire.

The cut-your-own price this year is $49.95 for any size tree up to 12 feet.

 

Let it drink

Roatcap said you should get your tree into water as soon as you get it home, and, if you can, “condition” the tree. This means storing the tree (with its base in a bucket of water) in the garage or other cool place for a few days before bringing it into the warm house. These first, critical days are when the tree drinks the most water.

Before you bring the tree into the house, trim the end of the trunk again. Be sure to always keep the base of the trunk deep in water and, “Use a tree preservative. It helps keep the sap stream open,” Roatcap said.

 

A local fixture

Roatcap has been involved with the Christmas tree farm since the 1980s, when her father ran it and it was called Windmill. She took over in 1997 and gave it the name Nancy’s Ranch.

She leases the land from Newhall Land Development Inc., and though the land available to her is less these days, due to various construction projects, she still maintains about seven acres, and she expects to stay in operation for years to come. (Note: 1.5 acres Roatcap previously leased has now been taken for the River Trail.)

Nancy’s Ranch, 25039 Magic Mountain Parkway, Valencia, is open through Dec. 24. The lot opens at 10 a.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. on weekends. The cut-your-own farm closes at dusk. The pre-cut yard stays open until 9 p.m., except on Dec. 24, when it will close at 5 p.m. Visit www.nancysranch.com or (661) 255-6943.

jwalker@the-signal.com

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