Wow, as I sit here and type this article I am wondering where in the world this year has gone. Time really goes by in a hurry. Speaking of hurry, there are only a few more days of shopping days left until Christmas. As always I have managed to find time for just about everything else and am now faced with going out and fighting the masses at local stores and shops to get that annual chore done.
My dislike for Christmas shopping is so great that the other day I even offered to clean out the garage instead. While many people now days do their shopping online, I am unfortunately more "old school" and prefer to do what shopping I do live in person — and besides about the only thing I hate worse than Christmas shopping is computers.
Buy Fresh, Buy Local
This slogan coined by the Alabama Farmers Federation and Al. Farmers Market Authority out of Montgomery has served our local growers well during the past few years. Consumers have also benefitted by obtaining fresh, locally grown produce from familiar faces. We should consider these sources for Christmas gifts.
Many products such as honey, sausages, processed grains such as grits and rice as well as items like goat cheese and Alabama produced freshwater shrimp and catfish are all excellent items to give not only to our friends here in the state but most can be shipped long distances with a little special care. Pecans, satsuma's and muscadine wines and juices from several of the vineyards popping up around the state make fine regional gifts. I remember one time long ago my parents received a large bag of whole unshelled peanuts from some friends of theirs in South Alabama. I thought to myself what a terrible Christmas present....that is until we enjoyed fresh parched peanuts all winter long!
Packs of Alabama produced sausage, honey, pecans, muscadine jelly, bees wax candles and Muscadine wines have all brightened faces and make outstanding gifts. Walker County is fortunate to have several local beekeepers in and around our area. In my opinion a couple jars of fresh locally produced honey makes a gift that anyone would be proud to receive. There are even folks around who make cheeses and soaps that also make great gifts and stocking stuffers.
Gifts for the Gardener
By nature, most gardeners are frugal. Some may even say "thrifty". Others may be so bold as to even say "Cheap" (I only use that term in referring to myself of course!). I guess that assumption stems from the fact that a good gardener can take a seed, some soil, sunlight, some fertilizer and water and a little T.L.C and produce a plant in a spot where previously nothing existed. This also may translate into using tools, implements and supplies for the garden that are marginally worn out, or in some cases ineffective. Here are some suggestions for the gardener in your family.
• Pruning Shears. Most people buy the cheap ones. They wear out quickly and cause poor cuts on woody plants after only a short time. Consider a good, high quality pair of garden pruners with a belt holster or flag the new shears so they don't disappear in the piles of fall leaves that always seem to pile up until there is time to rake them.
• Slow release fertilizer. Most of these formulations will keep indefinitely if kept dry and have a wide range of uses. Recent increases in fertilizer prices have driven up the cost of these much needed elements for plant growth and I'm sure they would be welcomed by your gardener.
• Give a tree or shrub.Most any of us can walk around our landscape and literally name everyone who gave us this shrub, that tree or herb. Can you do the same for all the socks, ties or plastic items you've received over the past few years?
One word of advice, consider the recipient. If it is a young family with over exuberant, energy filled kids who just can't wait to get out there and dig a hole in the yard, that's one thing. If it is an older or elderly recipient, be sure that the gift of a plant, whether it is a tree or shrub, includes a commitment to plant it in a suitable location as well. Often times, I have found that the actual visit while planting said tree or shrub is as valuable to the recipient if not more than the gift itself.
Gardeners are also very appreciative of other tools and are always in need of more of the latest gadgets and gizmos as well as the old standbys. Spades, shovels, rakes, hoes, gloves, and even hoses make good last minute Christmas gifts for the gardener in your household. There are numerous gardening books ranging from very general gardening information to specific plant books depending upon the interest of the person that you are buying for.
Don't forget the backyard wildlife enthusiasts. Bird feeders come in many forms including platform feeders for songbirds, tube feeders for smaller bird species such as finches, and suet feeders for insect eating birds. Bluebird boxes which can be put up in late February or March are also great gifts and spring won't be far away.
• Gift certificates to nurseries and garden centers. This gift giving practice has become most popular in the last few years and I myself have been the receipt of several of these welcomed gift cards. I look at gift certificates as a reason to splurge. I might purchase an item that I may not normally have bought, or perhaps an item I would have felt guilty spending so much money on. Most of the time, I buy an item that I really wanted but could not justify economically.
I hope this helps someone who may have previously had trouble purchasing Christmas gifts for the "hard to buy for" individuals in their life.
Each of us here at the Extension office want to take the time to wish each of you and your family a very happy holiday season. We have enjoyed all the visits, phone calls, questions and even all the strange "stuff" that has been brought to us for identification during the year (and yes that even includes the folks who brought in live snakes, spiders, and other critters into the office). It is all part of what makes our jobs so enjoyable. Take time this holiday season to relax and enjoy time with your family and friends. I certainly plan to do just that.
The Walker County Extension Office will be closing for the holidays at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, December 19 and will reopen on Thursday, January 3, 2019. During that time most of our publications and a lot of other information can be obtained from our website at www.aces.edu and each of our staff members have e-mail that can be accessed through the website. We like other folks check e-mail often (almost like a compulsion at times). What did we ever do before e-mail, websites, and cell phones!