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More gifts for gardeners

12/17/02 12:00AM By Henry Homeyer

(Host) If you're still looking for a really unusual gift idea, commentator Henry Homeyer may have just the thing to inspire you.

(Homeyer) The holiday shopping season is well underway. Images of toys, games and gadgets; TV, newspapers and magazines flood our senses with ads for products to give to our loved ones- perhaps to show that we love them.

I say enough is enough. I realize that most of us don't have the time or inclination to build birdhouses or knit mittens anymore. There are, however, presents you can give your loved ones that don't wear out in just a year or two.

Speaking as a gardener, one of the best presents I could receive would be a truckload of manure. Not the fresh, gooey stuff, but some nice aged scrapings from a dairy barn. Many farmers are starting to recycle and sell composted manure for use by gardeners. A small dump truck-load can do wonders for your vegetable garden or flowerbeds next year. Ask for composted or aged manure, ready to use - fluffy and light with no strong odors. Most farmers will deliver to your loved one's door. And really, nothing could be more romantic - to a gardener that is!

I think weeding and working in the garden is often more fun if done with a friend. Instead of giving an office mate or a favorite auntie a box of chocolates, how about a gift certificate for an hour or two of weeding together? And if you're handy with a chain saw or able to lug rocks without damaging your back, why not present a card with a "gift certificate" for some time helping a friend.

All the gardeners I know love books about gardening. From the fanciest coffee table book on roses to the simplest paperback on ferns or weeds or organic gardening, gardeners like books. It's part of our strategy for surviving long, snowy winters. We read about gardening, and we plot our strategies for spring. And when you're shopping, keep in mind the local, family owned businesses. They give Vermont a good deal of its special character.

One last suggestion: instead of buying a gadget for your loved one, think about a donation to a non-profit organization, like Heifer International or Habitat for Humanity. I particularly like Heifer International because it asks the recipients of animals - from chickens and goats to llamas or rabbits - to give the first offspring of the animals they receive on to someone else in their village. It's like a pyramid scheme of charity.

Wishing you all the best for the holidays, this is the gardening guy, Henry Homeyer, in Cornish Flat, New Hampshire.

Henry Homeyer is a gardener and writer. His new book is Notes from the Garden: Reflections and Observations of an Organic Gardener.
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