Monday, December 22, 2008

Holiday Gift Thoughts

Monday, December 22, 2008

Tonight is flying by as I try to crank out Christmas cards and little notes to people I am feeling guilty about. They were able to find time to send nice notes and I'm trying to figure out if I should use up the rest of the sunflower postage stamps or wait in line at the post office for half an hour tomorrow. It's been one of those weeks that doesn't seem to change. Do people really look at stamps on Christmas cards and letters or is that just something my mother taught me?

Last week's 8 inches of sleet and freezing rain bonded to the roofs and Friday's additional foot was followed by yesterday's 22" of new fluffiness. I am not going to get into an inconvenient truth type discussion with anyone but I have to say that the past couple years have brought this part of Vermont one pile of snow.

I cannot make myself forget when I was a kid growing up on Church Hill Road in Woodstock that by January my 6 foot 6 inch father was made small by mountains of snow. The snow was so plentiful it blocked visibility from the farmhouse windows while actually shielding us from the subzero winds that blew through our 1826 farmhouse. It was so cold in that house that you could see your breath despite six woodstoves. Even the mice packed up and moved to the farm next door for the winter.

The top picture is looking down the valley from the house roof on Saturday. It looks a lot different today. The next picture of the snow fence at night shows the fence before it was covered with drifting snow. A snow fence is intended to block snow and this one did just that until the snow got deeper than the fence. Tonight the lights look nice but the path that was supposed to be protected is deep in crystal magic.

The holidays are here and good gardeners have already made gift purchases for other gardeners. I know there are some who see shopping as a challenge that only gets better as less time remains and for those I want to drop a few suggestions. There's no order to this but I do ask that you think about the last suggestion after number 12. I wanted to have some pictures but time is short so just pretend there is a backwards Letterman drum roll and here we go.

1.) Folding garden bench for huff and puff older gardeners. Gail asked me to get her a fold up bench like worker bee Gail brought to work one day. These are readily available and I got one at Gardener's Supply in Williston for $32.95. They have two folding handles and a knee pad so you can huff and puff and push yourself back up from a kneeling position when you're pulling weeds or planting. The plastic and foam pad is marginally easy on your knees but it's the ability to get up off the ground easier that makes this product worth it.

2.) Long handled garden trowel. I suspect most would call this a little garden shovel with a 4" shovel blade and an 18" wooden handle. These are so great for planting annuals in the spring or perennials in September. I wish they would paint a flourescent stripe on the handle so I don't have to keep hunting for mine when I lay it down but that's because the handle is dirt brown after twenty odd years of use. About $20. now. Do not buy one that says "Made In..." you know where on it. Their steel is no good.

3.) It's hard to believe every gardener doesn't have a cheap digital camera. They come with too many pixels now and some are made for outside use, i.e. built to lay on a rock, spray with the hose, coat with fertilizer, leave in your pocket with the old Hersey candy wrapper, etc. Digital pictures of your garden make you proud but also give you plenty of recall during winter months when you are replanning gardens or designing new ones. Memory cards wear out over time and are cheap so if a friend has a camera, find out what they use for a card and buy a replacement/back up. If you really like the person and know they don't have a newer model computer with ports for every gadget going, spring for a card reader for about $15. They plug into aUSB port and will handle 13 different memory cards. That way they won't have to plug their camera into the computer. Cameras aren't built for the stresses of plug in, plug out, plug in, plug out, etc

4.) A bulb drill bit to fit in your electric drill is of no use this time of year but a great tool for quickly planting hundreds of bulbs next spring or fall. I even use mine to plant annual plugs in early summer. The drill will fit in any electric drill. $10.00 will do it.

5.) Gloves and polar fleece socks are good stocking stuffers and make for better spring and fall chores when wet, cold days tend to slow down the day's to-do list. Write a little verse and stuff it in a glove or sock and no one will know about it until the day they are placed into action. The little note will be nice and generate smiles.

6.) Memberships to plant societies are great. We belong to a dozen societies and like the American Hosta Society best followed by the American Hemerocallis Society. Name the plant and there's probably a society to go with it. Don't say "no" to the American Conifer Society or the
succulent folks or the rock gardeners or the begonia clan. They are all great and have an annual magazine published from 2-4 times a year. $25-$40/year for individual memberships.

7.) A one gallon, recycled, glass mayonaise jar with lid and a note from you saying you'll get together in the fall and make a terrarium of native woodland plants that are not on the endangered list. Thoughts or pictures of bunchberries or partridge berries or tiny hayscented ferns or mosses would give nice thoughts to what is possible.

8.) A stainless steel shovel, strong and sleek. It won't rust, will look attractive, will feel good in the hands and will cause garden comment. $50 or more.

9.) A leather, belt case for nursery shears. About $10 but either give it with some leather curing oil or rub it good before giving as a gift. Tell the recipeint what the smell is. Protect it at the beginning and it will be passed on for years and years, turning darker with age but remaining soft. A good leather holster is one that is on your belt but you don't know it 's there.

10.) Lunch and a day trip to visit 1-2-3 garden centers, display gardens, speciality nurseries within an hour of your home. Do this annually and you won't be able to stop because it's always fun and always enjoyed by anyone. Pack the lunch if you don't want to stop at a resturant but include a tentative sample menu and itinerary at gift giving time as a description to what you're planning. Make the card yourself and slide in a dried flower, some dried herbs or rose petals and thoughts of creative genius.

11.) Garden books that you think will match the recipent's experience or interest. I'm a nut and love the outdoors so you can give me a new bird book, an 1932 daylily species book, a history of a New England garden estate or Dan Snow's latest book on dry wall stacking. Used book stores have some great finds and such books are cherished. I once found Pioneering With Wildflowers
by Vermont's famous US Senator George D Aiken. Not only had the senator autographed the book but the previous owner had included newspaper clippings of him in the cover flaps. Book dealers have great memories and can help with books you may not have ever seen or even thought about.

12.) A can of Vermont- famous Bag Balm for sore, garden- rough hands. Made in Lyndonville, Vermont for chapped cows teats, Bag Balm cures problems fast. $5 to $10 depending on the size (of the can). Include a pair of cotton gloves for excitement. Explain that rough hands rubbed with Bag Balm and gloved before bed, will seem odd until morning when the soreness is gone. ..all gone.

These are just some ideas to get you going. There are millions more out there and unless your mind is getting muddled and time is growing short, you'll do fine yourself. But before you finish with the giving part, think about those that you do not know who are not receiving gifts. As I sit here writing away, the temperature is 4 below zero and the wind chill is "I don't know how cold". "Bitter" isn't close to what it would be called if you were homeless and "shivery cold" wouldn't be much better if you were on fixed income with the heat turned to 40 so you could keep from freezing and still have a buck to buy something to eat.

If you want to feel really good about the holidays, think about what you can give of yourself. There are lots of charities to give to, kitchens to work at, food shelves where deliveries need to be unloaded, seniors' driveways to be shoveled, rides to doctors to be offered. These are things that are worth a million to someone with nothing. These thoughts always become more obvious to people when I ask "Who exactly does put money in the Salvation Army kettles? Give these thoughts a little attention. The warmth created will come from you!

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where fine snow drops from a below zero sky as a sliver of moon twinkles seasons greetings to all.

Best holiday thoughts and wishes!

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Gardens
Vermont Flower Farm Where gift certificates are always available

1 comment:

Sybil - said...

Lovely blog site, George! I laughed out loud to read of someone else doing the sunflower/holiday stamp debate. If it helps, I opted for holiday stamps so I could save the sunflowers for spring letters! (But not bills, much too nice for those!)