At Nature's Way Christmas Tree Farm the hayrides, fresh air, and holiday cheer are all part of picking a tree right out of the field. This year, Bill and Kaye Walton celebrate their 10th Christmas of selling Virginia Pines on their 40 acres a mile east of Elgin, off of US290.

The farm, with its neat rows of evergreens spread out over the gentle slope of a hillside, was the Walton's retirement project. In 1984, the Waltons planted their first Virginia pines in the sandy loam about 15 miles east of Austin and sold their first trees in 1987.

Maintaining 30,000 trees, which produce the annual oxygen requirement for 72 people, is a year-round job according to Bill, who retired from the Texas Railroad Commission last year. The tree farm expects to sell around 6,000 trees between now and December 22.

A visit to the farm can easily become a family tradition with something for everyone. A petting zoo next to the barn features a pot-bellied pig, goats, rabbits, and chickens. Volunteers sell Elgin sausage, baked goods, and hot drinks.

The Waltons have added a field of Leyland cypress trees to their stock of more traditional pine trees. The hybrid cross between a cypress and Arizona cedar doesn't have all of the side effects of traditional pine trees. Bill said he doesn't sell the trees as allergy-free, but the trees have the advantages of not having sticky needles and pollen.

Nature's Way Christmas Tree Farm is open Sunday-Friday, noon-5:30pm and Saturday, 10am-5:30pm. Prices range about $4 per foot. The farm supplies the saws, but you must make the final decision, which can be difficult when faced with so many wonderful choices. For more information, call 251-2016.

Other Christmas tree farms in the Austin area:

Loma Alta Christmas Tree Farm, five and a half miles east of Bastrop off TX71, has hayrides, picnic grounds, and ducks. 512/360-2005.

Evergreen Farms, (take Loop 109 in Elgin to FM1704 to CR75), has hayrides, petting zoo, craft shop, campfire, and hot drinks; open Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, 9am-dark. 409/775-1717.

Santa's Forest, north of Gruene Historic District at 4413 Hunter Rd., has hayrides, hot drinks, flocking, and wreaths. 210/629-1854.

Hill Country Christmas Trees, between Wimberley and Dripping Springs off RR12, has some potted trees. 512/858-4886.

[NOW CLOSED]Wolf Plantations, between Wimberley and Dripping Springs, off RR12, has trees up to 14 feet, hot drinks, and coloring books for the kids.

The Lit'l Christmas Tree Farm, west of Leander, on FM1431 to Nameless Rd. 512/267-3539.

Proffitt's Farm, two and a half miles south of Marble Falls, off of US281, has hayrides, picnicking, and cattle. 210/693-2081.

Afghan Nursery, two miles off of TX29 on TX261, on the west side of Lake Buchanan, features Afghan pine seedlings. 512/793-6332.

Coming up this weekend...

Hot Air Balloon Race and Glow Fest in New Braunfels Dec. 14 & 15, includes an evening "glow" in Prince Solms Park on Saturday

Bazar Sabado recreates a traditional Mexican market on the grounds of the San Antonio Museum of Art, Dec. 14. 210/978-8158.

Christmas Tree Lighting at LBJ State Park in Stonewall creates the sights and sounds of the holiday season, Dec.15. 210/644-2252.

This page edited 12/09/2002

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