The word from the Christmas-tree growers this year is, pack up the ax and the kids and get moving. The trees are going fast.

"Absolute madness," said William Keim of last weekend's goings-on at Quail Call, his cut-and-choose farm in Amissville. "They're going fast and furious," said Joan Marie Dresel of Scuttlebutt Christmas Tree Farm near Gainsboro. "It's pandemonium," agreed Louis Nichols of Loudon Nursery. "Tell people to take a couple of hours and come out during the week; they'll have a much more relaxed time and be less hassled. 'Course, it's all the same to me, I'll be panic-stricken anyway."

Here are some of the tree farms within reasonable driving distance of the metropolitan area. To avoid surprises, call ahead before setting out. MARYLAND CIDER AND GINGER TREE FARM, near Poolesville. 301/349-5693.Open through Dec. 24, weekdays 3 to 5, weekends all day. Scotch pines to 6 feet, all sizes $10. Saw and twine provided. From I-270 take the Rockville exit west on Route 28 north for 11 miles. Then left on Route 107. Four miles after Poolesville, left on Elmer School Road for 1 mile to sign. FRANZ TREE FARM, near Damascus. 301/831-6840. Open through Dec. 24, 9 to 4:30. Scotch, white and Austrian pines, all sizes, $15; spruce and firs, $25. Some saws available. Twine provided. Take I-270 to the Damascus exit and take Route 27 to Damascus; at second light, follow 27 to Route 80 (2.2 miles past Damascus). Go left 3 miles on Route 80 to farm opposite Overlook Lane. HARDEE FARMS, Woodsboro. 301/384-6576. Open daily, through noon of Dec. 24, 9 to 4. Scotch pines, "plantation-grown and sheared for fullness," and a limited number of spruce and white pines, 4 to 12 feet, $10 for all sizes. Saws and twine provided. Wreaths and greens available. Toilets and snack bar. From I-70-270 take U.S. 15 North around Frederick. Turn right on Liberty Road (Route 26) 2 miles; left on Woodsboro Pike (Route 194) through Woodsboro. Go 2.5 miles more to New Midway. Right on Renner Road 2 miles to sign. LARRILAND FARM, near Lisbon. 301/442-2605. Open daily, 9 to 5, through Dec. 24. Scotch and white pines, Douglas firs and Norway spruce to 8 feet, $15.75 for any size; dug trees priced individually. BYO cutting tools. Greenery available. From I-70 take exit 71 south on Route 94 for three miles to farm.

MEHRL F. MAYNE FARM, south of Frederick. 301/874-2665 or 301/874-5675. Open daily through Dec. 23, 9 to 5. Scotch pines, all sizes $12. Saws and twine provided. Strawrides (like hayrides, only different) on weekends. Free greenery. From I-270 take Route 85 south to Buckeystown to sign on right. MELWOOD FARM, 10200 Marlboro Pike, Upper Marlboro, 599-9446. Open daily until Christmas during daylight hours; honor system if no one's there. "Natural-growth" Maryland pines (like Scotch pines), some cedar and loblolly, $1 a foot, from seedlings to 35 feet. "These trees are in the rough; they may be less symmetrical than those found in nurseries," cautions the owner. Saws, axes and yardsticks provided; BYO twine. From Beltway exit 11A, take Pennsylvania Avenue east through two lights. Then, before third light, veer slightly right onto exit lane which takes you past third light through Dower House Road and onto Marlboro Pike. Farm is one mile on left; watch for white brick pillars. ROLAND'S FARM, Friendly (just below Oxon Hill). 301/248-4670. Open daily through Dec. 24 or until they sell out, whichever comes first. Scotch pines to 7 feet, all sizes $20. Saws provided, but BYO twine. From Beltway exit 37 take Route 210 south to Old Ford Road; go left one mile. WOODVILLE FOREST FARM, near Mt. Airy. 301/829-1478. Open daily through Dec. 21, 9 to 5. Scotch, white and Austrian pines, 4 to 8 feet, $12 all sizes; Douglas fir and some Colorado spruce, 3 to 7 feet, $14 all sizes. No live trees this year. Saw and twine provided; baler available. Free cider and cookies on weekends. Toilet facilities. From I-70 take exit 66 into Mt. Airy, across railroad tracks. Turn left (at bank) on Prospect Road for 1.7 miles. Right on Old Annapolis Road for .7 mile. Right on Woodville Road for 4 miles and right on Peddicord Road for .3 mile, to sign. VIRGINIA DANNY-DAYLE CHRISTMAS TREE PLANTATION, Winchester. 703/662-9026. Open weekends only, 8:30 to dark, through Dec. 21. Scotch pines, $2 per foot, 8 to 9 feet; fir and spruce to 7 feet, $2.50 per foot, with a 3-foot minimum. Saw, twine and baler provided. Ornament shop and snack bar. Free greens. Take Route 7 west 8 miles past Berryville; right on Route 656 for about 1 1/2 miles, left on Route 661, and it's a mile on the right. LOUDOUN NURSERY, Hamilton (20 miles west of Fairfax City). 703/882-3450 or 702/882-3560. Open weekdays 10 to 4, weekends 9 to 5, through Dec. 24. The owner recommends coming during the week, if possible, since weekends are hectic. Scotch pines 5 to 7 feet, white pines 5 to 10 feet, $16 (7 feet and up, $3 per foot); balled-and-burlapped white pine 5 to 6 feet, $35; b&b blue spruce, $10 per foot. Saws provided: some twine available (no baler). One-half mile east of Gilberts Corner (intersection of Routes 50 and 15). Turn north on Route 860, 1.75 miles.Farm's on right. PINEHILL CHRISTMAS TREE FARM, Winchester. 703/877-1643. Open daily, daylight hours, through Dec. 24. Scotch pine trees, 4 to 6 feet (no tall trees, emphasizes the owner), $8. Ornaments and wreaths available. Saws, baling, and twine available. Limited picnic area. Four miles west of Winchester on U.S. 50. Go past Citgo Gas (at Route 608) to private road on right. Watch for sign and follow red arrows. QUAIL CALL FARM, Amissville. 703/937-4696.Open 8 to 5, Dec. 13-14 and 20-21 only. Scotch pines 6 to 8 feet, white pine 5 to 7 feet, $1.50 per foot plus $1; Colorado blue spruce 6 to 8 feet, Fraser fir 6 to 7 feet, $3 per foot. Limited number of saws available. Twine and baler available. Take Route 211 to Amissville. South on Route 642, 2 1/2 miles to sign on entrance on west side. SCUTTLEBUTT CHRISTMAS TREE FARM, Gainsboro. 703/888-3442. Open daily, daylight hours, through Dec. 24. Scotch and white pines, 5 to 6 feet, $12 for any size. Saws and baler provided. From Winchester, north on Route 522 to Gainsboro; right on Route 600 about 3 miles to Route 689. Left on 689; 2 miles to farm. SKYLINE EVERGREEN FARM, Bentonville. 527-2743 (Arlington phone). Open during daylight hours through Dec. 22. Scotch and white pines, 5 to 12 feet, Norway spruce, 6 to 14 feet, $8.75 to $75; b&b pines and spruces, 2 to 6 feet, $7.50 to $38. Will assist with cutting and loading. Saws and baling available. From Front Royal, take Route 340 south 10 miles to Bentonville. Left on 613 East. Two miles to sign. WALNUT RIDGE NURSERY, Clear Brook. 703/667-9537. Open daily, 9 to 4, through Dec. 24. Scotch pines, 5 to 8 feet, $14 any size; b&b white pines, 5 to 6 feet, $30. BYO saw, or they'll cut it for you. Take I-81 north from Winchester to exit 84. Turn right to Route 11. Left turn to Sam Mason Road; go 3/4 mile and follow signs west. YULE LOG CHRISTMAS TREE FARM, near Amissville. 703/364-2811. Open 9 to 5, Dec. 13-14 and 20-21 only. Blue and Norway spruce, Scotch and white pines, 5 to 7 feet. Cut ($10 for any size) or dig ($15). No digging Scotch pine. Use of saw, twine and burlap (for dug trees) free; Vexar wrap $1; use of spade $1. Take I-66 to second Marshall exit. Left on Route 647, 12 miles west to Route 637; right 2 miles to farm. Look for the log house on the hill.