DEAR SANTA: A girl my age doesn’t need any more “stuff,” so let’s emphasize the practical, shall we, old friend? Easier mowing; less mess with the kitchen scraps; more pro tools to process garden harvest into food that keeps; warmer (and also skid-proof) tootsies in winter; oh, and a tactic for truly flipping squirrels the bird (as in squirrel-proof bird feeders). Those gifts would make garden types like myself truly happy. Those–and maybe just a small herd of the madcap cashmere cats that my neighbor makes from recycled sweaters?
better kitchen compost bucket
I just upgraded from my beat-up, age-old plastic kitchen compost pail to a snappy stainless one ($45.50), complete with replaceable charcoal insert in the lid to minimize odors.
steady as she goes
One of my favorite “stocking stuffers” to give to Northern types (or lately any types, since ice storms seem to be the new normal in unexpected locations): Yaktrax. These anti-slip grippers fit over boots or shoes. (Pro model about $30.)
dreams of dried fruit and more
Garden helper Susan made dried apple slices in a friend’s machine this fall, and when I tasted them, I kicked myself for not buying an Excalibur dehydrator and doing the same. From under $200 to $300-plus (of course I want the 9-shelf stainless model with BPA-free trays).
foraging! a field guide and cookbook in one
I met the author and illustrator of “Foraging and Feasting: A Field Guide and Wild Food Cookbook” this summer, and have been looking at my “weeds” and “wildflowers” with a different eye since. A-hunting in 2014 I will go, with a copy of this lavishly illustrated hardcover book of plant profiles and recipes ($40), paired with a handmade Vermont tomato basket ($125) to hold my loot.
Fermented foods are good for you. With Sandor Katz’s “The Art of Fermentation” and a traditional, heavyweight and beautiful Polish crock (about $90 to $158, depending on size), you’ll be all set to turn cabbage into sauerkraut or pickle other vegetables.
great gloves, in basic black
They’re cheap, but durable—and lately they come in basic black (how chic). I love the Atlas nitrile-coated glove (about $8), which allows me to still “feel” what I am doing with most garden tasks.
I have tried every “squirrel-proof” feeder out there, including many that are more expensive, and last year finally found a brand that outsmarts the big-tailed rats. Even if they can get a grip on it, a squirrel’s weight on a Brome feeder (models range from under $30 to $80-something) instantly closes access to all the seed ports, by sliding the outer part of the assembly down. My squirrels gave up pretty quick. Victory!
more upgrades to stainless
Two favorite tools—my half-moon edger and my Japanese weeding knife or hori-hori—share just one drawback. They’re not rust-proof. I’m ready to swap both out for stainless models, specifically the Sneeboer edger (about $86) and the knife (about $40).
new breed of mower
My right shoulder will tell you I push a too-heavy mower around my hilly yard. I’m asking for an ultra-lightweight, push-button-start, eco-friendly one. My friend Lee Reich loves his battery-powered Stihl RMA 370—just 30 pounds and $750 with the rapid charger, but I’d like an extra battery, too, Santa. A charge lasts around 30 minutes, about how long juicing the backup takes. The deck is only 14ish inches wide, but I’m happy to make the extra passes as long as I’m not pushing 80-plus pounds. (“Popular Mechanics” loved this one as much as Lee does, by the way, in their battery mower review.)
lightest, smartest hose
Regulars here know that I took my heavy old hoses to the dump and traded up to Water Right’s colorful, super-lightweight, drinking-water-safe ones (which apparently can do double-duty as a holiday wreath!). They have recently become a site sponsor, so you get 20 percent off if you click the ad on the right side of this page, and enter the code “GROW” at checkout. About $40 to $100, depending on length.
versatile garden cart
Photos of my heavy-duty but lightweight garden cart gets so many inquiries from readers, so here it is: the Smart Cart, available in various sizes (7 and 12 cubic feet capacity), from about $250 up. Handy feature: The tub comes off the frame, to use for mixing potting soil or amendments, or to fill with water for washing pots.
handmade linen apron
Who wouldn’t like a handmade linen apron when company’s coming, or anytime? This one, in natural color, is made by a neighbor ($104).
toasty tootsies, alpaca-style
Leave it to the Beekman 1802 Boys to upgrade the boot-liner to deluxe alpaca. Their inserts ($15) come in sizes, which you then trim down for a perfect fit. Happy feet!
for my good guy jack
“Frisky. Loyal. Always Hungry.” That describes my beloved Jack, and his new “Feed the Cat” placemat ($6.50) serves to tidy up the buffet area, where we currently have total kibble chaos.
a herd of cashmere cats
Jack isn’t as crazy about the idea of sharing me with a family of cashmere kitties like the ones up top of the page (about $30 each), but I cannot resist. I met these fat cats at the local farmer’s market this summer, when the neighbor who creates them (and also sells recycled cashmere blankets and scarves and such on Etsy) was participating.
A big meow, and happy holidays from me and my increasing feline brood.