Season of Giving

The turkeys have finished dressing the tables. With a rough calculation, we surmised that 500 diners were enjoying turkey we’d raised on the farm for Thanksgiving! Every last piece of pumpkin pie has been consumed, and even the cranberry sauced was finished off the other morning topping French toast with maple yogurt.
Outside, the tiny snowflakes swirl and dash sideways—a reminder that, in the Northwoods, it’s no longer behaving like autumn. Wintertime is here, there’s the buttery smell of cookies coming out of the oven, and all the top 40 Christmas songs are drifting by no matter where you go.
At Farmstead, Grandma’s classic Dicken’s Village is up, along with Steve’s Santa collection. We just finished a week of balsam wreathmaking classes, with three sessions of bringing in fresh-cut boughs from the farm into the Fiber Loft for holiday transformation. The pungent, piney smells mingled with that of fresh ancient grains bread, adding to the cheer. I know I’ll be sweeping pine needles for weeks, but it’s worth the effort when the joyful lineup of hand-make wreaths parade down the stairs with happy students.
Of all the art classes I hold at Farmstead, the balsam wreathmaking ones are often the best attended. It’s a great way to learn a hands-on traditional skill and to bring in the celebration of the season. Most students know where they are going to hang their wreath when they return home, but some are already earmarked as gifts for a special person in their life.
‘Tis the season of giving. How unique that, in the depths of the time of year when most animals have hoarded up what they need for surviving the winter and keeping it all to themselves, humans have chosen to turn that on its head and pour outwards towards those they love around them. It’s a collective anti-hoarded social pressure. Yes, it’s dark and cold out there and you’d really much rather hole up in front of the wood stove and be as close to hibernating as possible, but no, don’t succumb. Throw parties, give special things away, wish each other well, donate to those in need.
I remember one of my favorite children’s Christmas albums growing up had a song that was in the perspective of the Christmas tree looking for a good home. The chorus went:
“I want a house that smells like cookies,
A house where people sing,
A house where people make their presents,
Instead of Christmas shopping, shopping, shopping, shopping, shopping, shopping, shopping.”For many years, the presents we have sent to family and friends have been care packages from the farm—jam, maple syrup, homemade granola, hand-made wearables, soaps. Each gift box combination was packed specifically for the individual or family receiving it, thinking on their likes and personalities. In essence, it was the gift of an experience rather than an object—a mix that would become a fragrant pot of soup, flavorful jam to add spark to toast and sandwiches. And it was also something to remember the farm by and those who toiled to make the gifts.
This year, we wanted to make the ability to share the experience of the farm and Farmstead Creamery available to others as well. Kara has worked especially hard to curate and craft gift boxes of varying sizes and themes that can easily be shipped. From a pancake care package to a full-immersion coffee suite, soap-lover’s gift to jam samplers, each includes something special and unique—hand-carved jam knife, honeybee pottery soap dish, hand-crocheted spa-style wash cloth, or a Farmstead mug.
Just in time for Small Business Saturday, Kara and I laid out the array of thoughtful and artful gift boxes, and the response has been overwhelmingly appreciative. Yes, you could stand in line forever at a box store for a deep discount on a mass-produced item, but there is something in a hand-crafted gift that rings out specialness and care. As one of the wreathmakers this week noted, “It doesn’t matter how old your mom is; she’ll always love the gift of something that you made for her.”
This gift-giving season, I hope you have a chance to make something for someone special in your life. A batch of cookies, a knitted scarf, a balsam wreath. And I hope you receive the joy of a unique items as well, touched by hands you hold dear. We’re sending out another round of Farmstead gift boxes this week, so if you need some give us a holler. Instead of pulling an Amazon all-nighter, it’s time for us to make another batch of apple maple jam! See you down on the farm sometime.