Gifts for Gardeners

But first you may wish to give yourself some carol-canceling earplugs. Bill gets mine though Cabela’s – which is where he gets just about everything he doesn’t get from Orvis – but there is also, it turns out, a place called The Earplug Super Store whose extensive selection suggests that noise pollution is every bit as much of a problem as you thought.

Earplugs are also widely available at bricks and mortar, of course. Sporting goods stores that cater to gun owners have the most effective models, but many drugstores also sell plugs rated at 30 decibels, the strength needed to muffle jolly shopping music without silencing the person who shouts “ Look out! That beam is falling!!”

Can’t Go Wrong Giving Any of These

* Stainless steel garden fork with synthetic  handle, such as this ergonomic Radius available through Amazon. The fork is an essential tool, so many catalogs offer high end beauties with stainless steel tines and sturdy, well-made hardwood handles. Your garden friend will probably be even happier if the handle is made from less handsome but more useful synthetic. One of the great things about stainless steel is total freedom from rust, so it’s nice to be equally blithe about rot. Translation: never, ever worry again about leaving it out in the rain.

* Small snub nose pruner. Pretty sure I’ve extolled these before, since they are absolutely the best for light-duty general pruning and harvest of all things with stems from flowers to hot peppers to winter squash.I love them especially because I don’t wear belts and these don’t stab you through your pockets.

* Lightweight garden gloves with nylon backs and nitrile palms. The most common brands are Boss and Atlas, both of which I have in multiples because years ago when they were still difficult to find I compulsively bought another pair every time I saw them and they take forever to wear out, even under near constant rough use in soil that resembles gravel.

They won’t protect against major thorns and only the palms are waterproof, but other than that they are close to perfect because they combine their fabulous toughness with being so thin you can feel what you’re doing almost as well as you can barehanded.

*Japanese garden knife, aka soil knife. Kristi the hardworking garden helper wears hers in a holster on her belt when she’s wearing a belt and rather daringly just sort of shoved into the back of her waistband when beltless. Either way, don’t go into the garden without this workhorse saw/knife/all-purpose digger, especially handy in tight spots and among rocks. Might as well get it from Fedco and put your seed order in at the same time.

* Membership in the Garden Conservancy – for design lovers – or the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association – for food growers everywhere in spite of its name. Or both, since it’s impossible to choose between food and culture.

Warning: Once you start in the dot-org direction it’s easy to fall down the slippery slope and start thinking that donating to worthy causes “in the name of” is a gift to the namee. This is of course completely bogus unless that noble person has already asked Santa for brownie points. Nothing hugely wrong with it – assuming you also give them a present that actually resembles a present – but please don’t forget that if part of the deal is a grateful acknowledgement from the cause, the other thing you have given your friend is a mailbox polluted with pleas for more, for the indefinite future.

After you’ve “established a relationship,” there’s no way to block these mailings without asking each individual organization to please stop. And the same is true for catalogs sent by any store that you’ve bought something from. But as you already know if you have ever, even in the distant past, subscribed to a magazine, the bulk of the catalog avalanche comes from companies that bought you (or at least your name and address). An outfit called the Privacy Council promises to turn back a lot of this tide, conveniently all at once,  but they also promise to remove you from Stop Political Calls, which may or may not be a good thing – the Privacy Council service is sponsored by the very people sending you all this junk. Stop Political Calls seems to be a lobbying non-profit which may or may not keep robocalls at bay. Never heard of it until I saw it on the Privacy Council’s otherwise no-brainer say goodbye list, so I don’t know how well it works.

* Gift Certificates can be great when they’re for something specific: spring delivery of a truckload of compost, say, or a dozen massages at Betty’s Backsaving Boutique.

But gift certificates good only for shopping at a particular store have all the impersonality of money with far less of its convenience. And the fact that they’re sold in rounded amounts makes problems of its own. There is probably someone living who chooses things that cost less than the gift and walks away from a few bucks in change; but most people end up with something that costs more, paying the difference out of their own pockets. Nice deal for the store. James Surowiecki wrote a terrific piece about this, The Gift Right Out, back in 2006 and it’s still a terrific read.

Note to bakers and would be bakers: Only a few baking days until Christmas. To make them less stressful (and more likely), I stock up on large quantities of probable ingredients before I choose the recipes. Butter, eggs, chocolate, nutmeats, dried fruits, flour and spices all keep fine , and having them on hand makes it easier to use them when a crumb of free time appears.

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