So hoop-de-doo, and hickory dock…Take a look at your arm and check your clock! (Sorry to both Frank Sinatra and Grandmaster Flash.) Now that my home is filled with magical elves, reindeer, and general sugar-fueled cheer, it’s hard not to notice the annual proliferation of holiday gift guides in magazines, newspapers, and a number of the blogs I regularly visit. Gardeners are easy to gift, but a number of the things I see suggested surprise me (though I’ve gotta give it to The Garden Buzz, “Things we don’t need” is extremely helpful). Hank at Hunter Angler Gardner Cook gets a free pass on his $300 immersion circulator, too, because if you’re gonna shoot your food you can cook it sous vide if you want to.
But generally I have noted that gifts for gardeners tend towards the specialized, the expensive, and the…genteel. That is all well and good, but it’s not the way I do it. So with that I offer my list of suggestions for things that you or the object of your gift-giving affection can make, that are inexpensive, that are multifunctional, or that are metaphorically hairy chested. In honor of my favorite mountain man and yarn-spinner, it’s the HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE: Jim Bridger Edition.
Where I garden there are many wild animals. Some are annoying, all are cute and/or interesting, some potentially dangerous. I can’t let that get in the way of my hobby-slash-obsesssion, however; so I take my cue from the fishing guides of Alaska and keep a can of wasp & hornet spray outside near each door and at each corner of the house. Caustic and with a range of 20 – 30 feet, wasp spray is about $6 per can compared to about $50 for bear mace or pepper spray (I’m still going to get some bear mace though). Fishing for salmon way in the bush, it is recommended that anglers wear bells to alert bears to their presence. For about $5 worth of craft supplies, you can make elastic or velcro straps with ‘jingle bells’ for your ankles (the ones my mother-in-law made for me have both elastic and velcro. Fancy!). Wear your bells and have your spray at hand when you are out in the woods. Do you know how to tell the difference between Black bear and Grizzly bear ‘scat?’ The Grizzly’s has bells in it and tastes like cajun food!
Tired of paying your local public utility to haul away your yard waste, only to buy it back in the form of bagged compost from the Orange Apron Store? I know I was. Give your Significant Gardener two large plastic storage tubs and print out these instructions. Make a worm bin for about $15 (not including worms)! Or you could get a roll of chicken wire so your handyperson can make compost bins–$40. This has the added incentive of once you have chicken wire, you have to do something with it or it will just get in your way and annoy you–unlike the worm bins, which I filled with stuff and put on a shelf and now need more. A Hori Hori, for about $30, can serve as a trowel, root ball scorer, soil dibber, and with ambitious application of whetstone, Arkansas Toothpick. Plus it looks totally bad*ss hanging on your belt. $32 lets you or a loved one dig, pry up boulders, hack through tree roots, and defend your foundation garments from marauding Sasquatches with your very own Mr. Diggy.
‘Twould be illegal for me to fell a tree, but the judicious pruning of dead, diseased, or
dangerous limbs (DDD, baby) is a necessity. The Ryobi cordless chainsaw is light enough to use one-handed at the top of a 24′ extension ladder, or in other foolhardy and dangerous ways, and with a sharp chain cuts incredibly well at low RPM. That means it’s quiet enough that it doesn’t say ‘HEY, LOOK!!! I AM CUTTING DOWN A TREE!!!’ like a gas powered chainsaw does, and that is important to me. The tool is about $70 without the battery and that sounds expensive; but if you buy Ryobi’s cheapest tool + battery packages ( I recommend the drill or the reciprocating saw), pretty soon you have multiple interchangeable batteries and chargers
for multiple tools, and that is practical, multifunctional, and is a very good value. Lastly, I favor West County garden gloves, particularly the waterproof ones, which at $32 per pair are not cheap. But they fit well and last a looong time– and they are machine washable–I HATE putting on a pair of stiff and filthy gloves, which I do all the time. Now, I am perfectly capable of running the washer and dryer. I just don’t want to put my filthy gloves in there…I could get in trouble for that. You know what would be a great stocking stuffer for your Significant Gardener? A little card that says, “I washed your (whatever).” Nearly free and very, very sweet. So put on your bear bells and ring in the holiday season, and just hope your local predators don’t have a taste for reindeer and come running at the sound of you.