Debbie Arrington

Seeds: Christmas trees rule in these homes’ decor

Dutchess the corgi greets visitors to QT Ranch, a fiber farm with goats, sheep and llamas in Shingle Springs. The ranch will be part of this year’s “Homes for the Holidays” tour.
Dutchess the corgi greets visitors to QT Ranch, a fiber farm with goats, sheep and llamas in Shingle Springs. The ranch will be part of this year’s “Homes for the Holidays” tour. Courtesy of QT Ranch

What would the holiday season be without trees?

Since ancient times, these symbols of abundance, home and eternal life have been part of winter celebrations. Historians trace the use of evergreens as decorations back to the Egyptians, Chinese, early Hebrews and Scandinavians. By the 16th century, old Tannenbaum had become a regular part of the seasonal decorating inside German homes.

As a melting pot culture, America embraced this tradition as their own. All that holiday history can give tree decorators a whole world of inspiration, too.

Dozens of decorated trees at six homes will be part of this weekend’s “Homes for the Holidays” tour in El Dorado Hills and surrounding communities. Hosted by the Assistance League of Sierra Foothills, this family-friendly tour supports several programs for schoolchildren in El Dorado County.

This year’s event incorporates several touches specifically for kids. One stop in particular encourages children to touch.

QT Farm, on Quail Trail in Shingle Springs, is a working fiber farm. Sheep, goats, angora rabbits, alpacas, llamas and llama-like guanacos make their home on this small self-sufficient ranch. The Terbijhe family dyes, spins and weaves their animals’ wool.

“It’s a great thing for kids,” said Crista Dixon, one of the tour’s planners. “You can pet the animals.”

“It is an amazing place,” added Barbara Brown of the Assistance League. “Christine Terbijhe calls it a ‘luxury fiber farm,’ and the property is ‘off the grid’ right in middle of Shingle Springs.”

The family’s corgis keep the herds in order. They’ll likely greet patrons at the door next to a Victorian-inspired tree.

Besides the instant petting zoo, the ranch has its own holiday tradition – lots of decorated trees. In all, 11 trees should be ready for the tour today and Sunday. Among the decorations are a charming music box collection and Dickens-inspired ceramic miniature houses.

In nearby Rescue, the Seebode house is all about the trees. The family decorated 60 redwood trees surrounding their home with lights.

“People come from all over to see it,” Dixon said.. “But that’s only the beginning. They have a casita (guesthouse) decorated all in peacock feathers.”

Dixon does double duty this weekend. In addition to her organizing chores, her own El Dorado Hills home will be on the tour, too.

“I did really traditional (decorating) this year,” said Dixon, a jewelry designer and home-tour veteran.

Warm and inviting, the family room looks ready for Santa with a large tree, covered with handmade ornaments and toys.

For the tour, Dixon put a decorated tree in almost every room. Even the dog has his own Christmas tree in the laundry room (but he still has to go outside).

“There’s one in my husband’s office, one in my office and one really unusual one in our bedroom,” Dixon said. “I made it out of an old spiral plant rack from the 1950s. I strung it with little gilded Christmas trees. It’s so pretty – and so strange. It turned out pretty cool.”

Gary Dixon’s home office tree has a seaside theme, festooned with starfish and shells. Crista Dixon chose a Victorian theme for her office tree, strung with vintage paper ornaments.

Dixon also has a wrought-iron tree in her living room. It sits on a large silver tray next to an antique black marble fireplace, rescued from a demolished San Francisco Victorian. The “tree” has its own lifetime of memories.

“That’s really our family tree that we do every year,” she explained. “Those all are our treasured ornaments that bring back all those family memories. There’s Bert and Ernie from ‘Sesame Street,’ my son’s favorite (characters) from when he was growing up. We love Hawaii, so there are lots of Hawaiian references – little leis and hula girls. There’s a beagle angel with wings in memory of our dog.

“We’ve collected those ornaments over the last 30-something years,” she said. “There also are ornaments that belonged to my mother, so that tree represents more like 50 or 60 years of memories. People look at it and wonder, ‘What is this tree all about?’ But that’s the story; it’s (about) us.”

Call The Bee’s Debbie Arrington, (916) 321-1075. Follow her on Twitter @debarrington. Read her Seeds columns at


What: This tour features holiday-decorated homes with something extra, from Santa’s Candy Bar to a working fiber farm with pet-able llamas and rabbits. See dozens of elaborate trees.

Where: Six homes in El Dorado Hills, Rescue and Shingle Springs

When: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. today and Sunday

Admission: $10-$25; tickets available at Pottery World, 1006 White Rock Road, El Dorado Hills