By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News
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“I stay away from that,” said Ken Nattinger, owner of Deer Park Tree Farm at 4227 Deer Park Road east of Port Angeles since 1996.
“Husbands and wives can disagree on that stuff.”
Steve Johnson, who runs the Lazy J Tree Farm at 225 Gehrke Road in Agnew, echoed Nattinger's sentiment.
“I send them out there [and say], 'Pick any tree you want,'” Johnson said.
On Johnson's farm, “out there” means about 55 acres split into several fields, each home to several varieties of Christmas trees.
On both Johnson's and Nattinger's farms, visitors can venture out on their own, with farm-provided saw in hand, and pick the perfect seasonal companion for their homes.
Nattinger's farm opens officially today and operates from dawn until dusk seven days a week, while Johnson's farm is open daily from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The more adventurous tree-seekers also can go into certain areas of Olympic National Forest to secure a tree once a $5 permit has been purchased.
Johnson, who took over Lazy J in 1970 after his father died, said he has mostly noble firs and Douglas firs, with some smaller areas home to grand firs, Turkish firs and Engelmann spruces.
“[I] even have some giant sequoias,” he added.
Johnson said he'll also have a fair amount of Nordmann firs this year, which he described as looking like a cross between a noble and grand fir.
“The customers will really like them,” Johnson said, adding that Nordmanns also respond well to shaping and keep well.
“They have kind of a glisten to them.”
The classic Christmas tree shape of noble and Douglas firs still prove the most popular, he added.
The tallest of Johnson's trees, which go for $6.50 per foot, reach about 12 feet high.
In addition to Christmas trees, Lazy J sells natural wreaths, boughs, organic apples, potatoes, garlic, local honey, soap and berry preserves.
New this year, the farm also will host a wreath-maker from Sequim named Dotty Bartee who will work with others on the farm making wreaths for sale afternoons while the farm is open, Johnson said.
“[Bartee is] one of the nicest wreath-makers I've seen around,” Johnson said.
Deer Park Tree Farm
On the Deer Park Tree Farm, trees go for $6 per vertical foot, Nattinger said, adding that he buys them as seedlings from the Pacific Northwest Christmas Tree Association.
Most of the labor in tree farming comes from pruning and trimming the trees to keep the classic conical Christmas tree shape.
“There's a lot of work involved in maintaining trees,” he said.
Nattinger said varieties such as noble firs, Douglas firs, grand firs and Scotch pines are spread across about 1 acre of his property in a more “natural” setting.
“It's [customers] going out into the woods and getting a tree themselves,” Nattinger said.
“It's more of a woodsy experience up here.”
Those who want an even “woodsier” experience can purchase a permit to harvest a tree in Olympic National Forest.
The permits, valid only in specified areas, can be purchased Mondays through Fridays between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., with special weekend hours at some locations.
Maps and a list of cutting locations will be provided with each permit sale.
Permits also can be purchased through the mail.
Click on http://tinyurl.com/PDNChristmastrees for a mail-order form and instructions.
Olympic National Forest offices offering the permits:
■ Pacific Ranger District Office in Forks, 437 Tillicum Lane; 360-374-6522.
■ Hood Canal Ranger District Office in Quilcene, 295142 U.S. Highway 101 S.; 360-765-2200.
■ Pacific Ranger District Office in Quinault, 353 South Shore Road; 360-288-2525.
■ Olympic National Forest Headquarters in Olympia, 1835 Black Lake Blvd. S.W.; 360-956-2300.
Forest rangers suggest that tree hunters talk with them about areas open for harvesting and other information, such as road closures due to snow.
Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.