A doily from the thrift shop, some lavender from the garden, and you’ve got a great homemade Christmas gift. 
(Mary Lowther photo)

A doily from the thrift shop, some lavender from the garden, and you’ve got a great homemade Christmas gift. (Mary Lowther photo)

Column Dig In: Turn garden yield into Christmas gifts

“Humbug!” David snarls when confronted with Christmas ads before Armistice Day

By Mary Lowther

“Humbug!” David snarls when confronted with Christmas ads before Armistice Day, and it doesn’t help when I prance about singing carols and making gifts.

I completely agree that the holidays have been commercialized into an orgy of consumption for its own sake, but the irony of an agnostic Jew complaining that Christmas has been co-opted by corporate unbelievers has become part of my annual ritual.

I think of it as an early warning signal. Time slips away so fast that if I don’t get a jump on making gifts inertia sets in, and I have to add “no procrastinating” to my New Year’s resolutions. Again. Besides, homemade presents have many advantages: they are a personal expression of love, unique to the giver, and they spare one exposure to the human tsunami at the box store checkout lines. I used to think they lasted longer than store bought stuff but my sister-in-law has confessed that my gift is always opened first so they can fight over the fudge.

She outdid me one year, buying crystal wineglasses at a thrift shop and filling them with homemade cranberry jelly. Sheer genius, especially the hint of orange rind, and done in August! December is so much easier to face when the gifts are already wrapped.

Strawberries or blueberries sitting in the freezer can be transformed into jam that will say “Merry Christmas” well into the new year. Tomatoes and peppers taking up more than their fair share of freezer space can become tomato sauce. Someone who doesn’t have time to cook might appreciate a jar of soup that she just has to warm up, but you need a pressure cooker to safely can nonacidic foods. I have a recipe for a ginger squash soup that will use up all the sweet ones I harvested last month and can never persuade David are food. Add some flaked almonds with a pinch of cumin and even he will ask for seconds.

One year I made sachets using dried lavender that I bought, and they turned out so well that I planted lavender bushes to harvest my own. Start with a round lace doily, available cheap at a local thrift shop. Cut a piece of fine netting the same size, stitch it into a half moon shaped pouch and fill with lavender flowers. Cover this with the doily and thread the doily edges together with attractive cording, wool or ribbon, weaving in and out. This sachet can be slipped inside a pillowcase or in the lingerie drawer.

Master gardener Linda Gilkeson has a suggestion for someone else to buy for us gardeners. Lee Valley Tools carries a book entitled A Gardener’s Journal, for $39.50. Gilkeson says that she uses hers to keep track of everything she does in the garden and wouldn’t be without it. I told David that he’s getting me one. He’s good with that as long as he doesn’t have to wrap it.

David is a little busy this year. He got tired of my complaints that our garden wasn’t big enough and bought the acreage across the street to shut me up. All that stands between him and a life of matrimonial peace is two acres of trees that must be removed before my Christmas present can be wrapped in two thousand feet of fence. This keeps him out from under foot and provides a place where he can grumble in peace.

Please contact mary_lowther@yahoo.ca with questions and suggestions since I need all the help I can get.