I grew up hearing the saying that the best gifts are homemade or at least heartfelt. This year a dear friend from Twitter sent me these ornaments for my pups that she carved. One of my treasures is a sketch my co-worker penned of my golden retriever, Lucy.
However, let's face it ... gift giving doesn't have to be expensive, but farmers are oftentimes so practical that they can be hard to please. And sometimes, despite our best efforts, gifts can backfire.
One year I carefully crafted a knitted nose warmer for my dad. He was forever complaining about his nose being cold during winter. My original design fit over his snout; tied at the back and had a tasteful tiny tassel at the end.
It also resulted in exhaust issues that aggravated allergies and a few frantic moments when it froze to his nose and resulted in a slight bit of frostbite. Oops.
There was also a Christmas morning moment when myself and four siblings united in a group surprise to feed all the livestock before daybreak. The goal was to surprise Dad, relieve him of all that backbreaking work and give the entire family a head start on unwrapping gifts.
The plan, however, went awry. My grandmother's call to Dad in the early morning hours saying rustlers were gathering the stock and her shotgun wavering in the moonlight is a tale that continues to part of our Christmas tradition.
Old habits are hard to break though. For years I've worked to find items that are meaningful to my farm guy. So, here's some of last-minute gift ideas and some pro tips to help with your selections.
-- Honeybees. While most bees are snuggled in their hives this time of year, it is the time to order live bee packages for next spring. My husband, Jay, didn't know he needed bees until he received my note: "Honey, you have something sweet coming your way." Let me tell you, that note perked him up.
Pro tip: Make sure you include bee gear into your gift-giving plans. A hat, veil and gloves weren't enough in our experience. Our bees found their way underneath the netting. Stings led to lots of arm waving, some not so kind words about the gift and glasses being lost somewhere in the surrounding half-acre. An entire bee suit and maybe an educational class on bee rearing should come ahead of the bees.
-- Wire-feed welder. I worked hard researching this gift. My guy was stuck on stick welding, but hey, sometimes the joints can be smoother. For the price of a case of beer, I hired a friend that has a welding shop to introduce the new concept. I wrote a note: "Keep the sparks flying baby." I even bartered brownies in exchange for the compressed gas in the deal.
Pro tip: Clear the practice area of combustible materials, such as random paper towels and oily flannel chore gloves. The fire we had in the shop wasn't too bad ...
-- Chain saw. Our chainsaws get borrowed by friends and are not always returned promptly or in the best running order. I bought a short bar saw (we didn't have one), tied a bow on it and penned the note: "Cut down on frustration. This gift comes complete with a no loan policy."
Pro tip: If you have a local shop that knows what equipment is already owned, it really helps the shopping experience. Chainsaw chaps are another good gift ... don't ask how I know.
-- Heated Hoodie. There's no shortage of hoodies in this household, but perhaps the most-used gift ever given has been a heated jacket. The note read: "Honey, you'll never be cold again." The heated work jacket from Milwaukee uses carbon fiber heating elements to create and distribute heat to the chest, back and shoulders. I followed the purchase with heated gloves, but they seem to be awkward if for working hands.
Pro Tip: Buy multiple rechargeable batteries to avoid getting the inevitable cold shoulder.
-- Drill Doctor. "What's all this," I asked, innocently tugging on a drawer in the shop. "Ahhhh ... drill bits," came the answer. Years and years of dull drill bits had been gathering dust and rust. Enter a handy dandy little sharpening device called a Drill Doctor. While it took a bit to get the hang of sharpening, my husband became almost obsessed with the exercise. In fact, he hasn't purchased a new drill bit since this gift and was sad that he eventually ran through his supply of old bits. The accompanying note with this gift read: "I love you to bits." (I know ... that's almost too easy.)
Pro tip: Go ahead and buy an extra diamond sharpening wheel if your pile of bits isn't exactly itty bitty.
-- A puppy. Last year I asked for a puppy for Christmas. Yes, I asked for it for me. I've never had a puppy of my own and a friend kept sending photos of golden retriever pups. I sent Jay a note: "You know I can't resist your puppy dog eyes." He allowed that I could have a puppy as long as I didn't expect him to be involved with caring for it. I agreed to those conditions in good faith. But guess who that pup loves most? Yep, the guy with conditional love. So that's how I came to give my husband a puppy -- even though she's really mine ... sort of.
Pro tip: Training a pup is not a one-person job and much harder in winter.
-- Ag donation. This year there are plenty of agricultural groups looking for help -- either due to recent weather events or simply to support an educational program. That kind of giving seems to be a one-size-fits-all answer that has all the feels for the gift and giver.
Pamela Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow her on Twitter @PamSmithDTN
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