The Farmer Diaries
Top 5 holiday gifts for the farmer in your life
When a loved one starts a new hobby such as gardening, it provides good fodder for gift-giving. They can probably use some new gear or accessories. Of course, you want to support your beloved's hobbies, especially if one of them is gardening — if for no other reason than you might reap some of the abundant harvest of fresh fruits and veggies. Everybody wins.
But what gear to buy? With the holidays looming, you need an insider's list, someone who knows first-hand what a grower, gardener or urban farmer will appreciate. Here is that list:
$115.95 in black or terra cotta, at some Whole Foods Markets
Between the Texas drought and municipal water restrictions, you have at least two good reasons to collect rainwater for use in the garden. As a bonus, rainwater is free of salts and chlorine compounds that disturb soil microbes and stunt plants, and it is rich in nitrogen, an essential plant nutrient.
A rain barrel from Epoch Solutions, LLC is an upcycled, food-grade drum that has served its initial purpose, often as a way to transport olives. Each is transformed into an attractive, high-quality collector that can capture 55 gallons of rainwater.
Weatherproof gardening shoes
After a mishap one day involving a shovel and a pair of flip-flops, I graduated to the Bogs Mossy Oak Valley Walker. These waterproof shoes are essential for anyone who spends a good deal of time in the dirt. They have a cushioned insole, four-way stretch material and a temperature rating of 60 degrees Fahrenheit to -20. I wear mine from September through May until the summer heat makes them stuffy.
Bogs also makes a line of women's shoes such as the Rose Garden with the same weather-proof qualities at about the same price.
The Solar Food Dryer by Eben Fodor
$15.95, Mother Earth News
Canning is one way to enjoy fruits and veggies in their off-seasons, but I'm wary of exploding pressure cookers and botulism. A little more to my liking is drying food — and not just any kind of drying but solar drying, with no hot stoves and no carbon footprint.
The Solar Food Dryer is the go-to book for learning the ancient and environmentally friendly way to make a summer cantaloupe last until next Valentine's Day. Author Eben Fodor contends that anything can be preserved through drying: tomatoes, strawberries, peppers. If you can slice it, you can dry it. He lays out the theory and practice of food drying, with instructions on how to build a solar dryer.
Tabletop Sunlite Garden
$249, Gardener's Supply Company
Garden centers carry the most popular varieties of garden transplants — a selection that works for beginners. Farmers who want to grow something really special, like a Texas Wild tomato, a Zuni tomatillo or a sheepnose pimento pepper, must start transplants from seed.
The Tabletop Sunlite Garden stand gives seedlings the light they need to start off healthy and strong. The stand even allows the light fixture to be raised as the plants put on height.
The rugged, black, powder-coated aluminum frame supports 100 watts of fluorescent lighting (included). A watertight tray keeps runoff in place. January is the time to start seeds indoors for transplanting out in the garden in the spring, so it'll be a timely gift.
There are never enough seeds to a farmer. No matter how many packets he picks up at the feed store, or how many boxes arrive from mail-order seed companies, his hunger for seed is never satisfied.
- For a starter set, consider the Basic Bounty Veggie Garden Collection from Botanical Interests for $14.
- Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds has a seed collection in the mid range: The Home Gardener's Collection comes with a wide variety of seeds and a cookbook for $40.
- The mother of all seed gifts is the Complete Garden Collection from Native Seeds/SEARCH. This bucket of 29 seed packets constitutes a full garden: beets, broccoli, cabbage, peppers, beans, corn, tomatoes, watermelons, even a garnish of native wildflowers — all suited to the Southwest, including Texas. It costs $69.95.
Of course, you could go all out and get the nuclear option — the Baker Creek Jere Collection of 1,000 seed varieties for $1,295 — but that would have to be one very special farmer.