Well before Thanksgiving, I began receiving four or five catalogues a day in my snail-mail box, and as many email pitches from wilderness outfitters, sports-gear and gardening retailers, chef suppliers, and—for some reason—a number of high-end purveyors.
I’d often spend a few minutes thumbing through the catalogues, just for fun. Today’s batch featured a two-story inflatable reindeer (with integrated fan that “inflates the reindeer in five minutes and maintains inflation”), an automatic pot-stirrer (only $60), waffle tongs, a solar pineapple pedestal garden fountain (soothing sounds of cascading water...without the hassle of extension cords), sunglasses (whose frames are smoothed to a high gloss “as a result of being tumbled in teakwood and bamboo”), and a “running dress” complete with convenient “cleavage pocket.” I could go on.
So much stuff.
The year of giving local
After a week or two of catalogue-perusing, my eyes glazed over, and I decided that this holiday season and throughout 2013, I’d give local, no matter the gift-giving occasion.
By local I mean gifts that keep my money circulating in the recipient’s local economy, directly supporting individuals and companies who work and hire locally using locally available materials as much as possible.
Within minutes, I came up with more than a half-dozen suggestions that met my criteria:
A gift certificate for home landscaping services. Landscapers plant, prune and care for trees and shrubs; create gardens and “hardscape” features such as fences, walls and patios; improve soil; mow lawns and plow snow.
A share or half-share in a CSA . Thousands of community-supported agriculture projects have sprung up across the nation, allowing people who can’t or don’t want to produce their own food can support local growers who do. The idea of sharing both the risk and the bounty of a nearby farm operation gives shareholders “skin in the game,” encourages them to meet the folks who grow their food and maybe visit the farm operation itself.
- A basket of products from a local farmers’ market. Even the winter markets here in central New Hampshire offer locally grown winter squash, sweet potatoes, beets, carrots, onions, garlic, cabbage, potatoes, apples, honey, and eggs. Except for the eggs, all these products enjoy a long shelf life without refrigeration, so people can enjoy them over a long season. Summer market baskets (weddings, baby showers, housewarmings) could over overflow with green vegetables, small fruits, cut flowers, and fresh herbs.
For word-burning households, a cord or two of green wood to season for next year. (For Christmas this year, we each bought the other a cord of cut, split, and delivered firewood from the logger across the street.)
Also for woodburners, a certificate for a chimney cleaning, a fall safety check, or even a new stovepipe (with installation).
For veteran gardeners, a truckload of compost and a strong back to spread it.
A length of rock wall or a raised-bed planting area, built by a local artisan from native materials.
A hands-on course in vegetable or tree-fruit gardening, land management, rock-wall building from your community-education program or cooperative extension educator.
I’ll bet you could add a few of your own.
Margaret Boyles lives in a wood-heated house in central New Hampshire. She grows vegetables, eats weeds, keeps chickens, swims in a backyard pond in summer, snowshoes in the surrounding woods in winter, and commutes by bike whenever possible.