Looking for some practical, sure to be loved gift ideas for the modern homesteaders (or modern homesteader hopefuls), rural living fans, self-sufficiency fans, off-grid dwellers and preppers on your holiday list? Or just looking for practical gifts for your friends and family that will help them get a little closer to a self-reliant lifestyle? Here are a few things I've come across that won't end up in the landfill - and will go on to keep giving and giving throughout the coming year.
My Personal Gift-Giving Criteria
I've been thinking about the environmental and social impacts of my gift-giving for a very long time. Over the years, I've created a mental checklist for any gifts I purchase, not only at Christmas time, but throughout the year. It looks something like this:
- Is the gift 'fair trade'? Do the people who create is receive fair compensation for their work?
- Is it made from natural, organic, or recycled materials?
- If it's not made from natural materials, is it made with recyclability in mind?
- If it's made from natural materials, is it finished with safe, non-toxic finishes (i.e., beeswax and/or naturally pigmented, non-oil-based paints)?
- Is it made or supplied locally?
- Is it recyclable in my community?
- Is it pre-owned?
- Is it built to last?
- Is it a gift of service that isn't a 'thing' that will be thrown away eventually?
- Will it improve the recipient's life in some way?
- Is the gift something the person will use a lot?
- Is the gift something the person will LOVE?
Obviously, some of these things sort of cancel others out (i.e., a Fair Trade gift likely won't be made locally, but both are good criteria to keep in mind). And while the list is a bit long, it does become second nature after awhile. Over the years, I've found these criteria have served me well in picking gifts that are low on the environmental impact scale, high on the 'social impact' scale, AND well received. So where do you find gifts that fit these criteria? Sadly, it's not generally at your local department store. You'll either need to buy from sellers who have done the research for you, OR do the research yourself.
Our Favourite Sources for Gifts for Modern Homesteaders
There are a gazillion places to find gifts for rural living and homesteading, both online and offline. Here are a few ideas of products and suppliers I've found really helpful in my searches for the perfect gift:
For the Self-Sufficiency Fans, Preppers, Off-Grid Dwellers and Modern Homesteaders:
- The Ready Store - One of the biggest resources for all things 'emergency' and preparedness. A gift from here would be appreciated by anyone working on improving their self sufficiency or emergency preparedness.
- GrowVeg Garden Planner - One of the things about intensive gardening and succession planting that has always intimidated me is keeping track of everything, knowing what was planted where when, and remembering what worked and what didn't. GrowVeg to the rescue! This brilliant little online garden planning tool makes it all really easy. With a 30 day free trial and only $25 a year, it's peace of mind for any beginning food gardener who wants to be organized and get the most production from their plot.
- Essential Oils Emergency First Aid Kit - Julie Behling-Hovdal at essentialsurvival.org has put together some brilliant mini essential oil kits for $22.95. These are trial sizes that will allow you to test out essential oils without investing in a more expensive kit right away. So smart, and so useful!!
- Herbmentor.com - A veritable herbal medicine degree in one website! Video tutorials, recipes, forums, podcasts... Highly recommended for those aspiring herbalists on your list.
- Lehman's - Lehman's started as a tiny hardware store employing 3 members of one family and is now the world's largest purveyor of historical technology. They ship old-fashioned, non-electric merchandise all over the world to a diverse customer base of missionaries and doctors working in developing countries, homesteaders and environmentalists living in remote areas, people with unreliable electricity living on islands and mountains, second home owners, hunters, fishers and cabin dwellers, the 'chronically nostalgic,' and even Hollywood set designers looking for historically accurate period pieces. The owner's goal was, and still is, to provide authentic, historical products to those seeking a simpler life. It's like a candy store for anyone who wants to reduce their reliance on electric appliances! I personally use the Pressure Handwasher (works great, but I concur with the reviewers on the site), and the Lehman's wringer (the person who wrote the one review there clearly doesn't know how to set up a hand wringer, because when secured properly, it works quite well). I've purchased a number of items from Lehman's over the last couple of years and have always been really happy with the customer service. For some nostalgic fun, check out the non-electric lighting options, hand cranked items, and non-powered laundry appliances! If you're at all interested in being even a little more self-sufficient, you could seriously spend hours poking around this website. It's my one stop shop for all things 'homesteading'.
- Lee Valley Tools - All sorts of fun stuff for gardeners and woodworkers on your list.
- Homesteader's Supply - HUGE variety of rural living products, from canning supplies to milk tools, to grain mills.
- Real Goods - I remember the 'old' Real Goods catalog, which returned in the 1990s after disappearing during the excesses of the 1980s. This is the granddaddy (or grandmommy!) of all 'green gifts' catalogs. EVERYTHING you could imagine for the 'off-grid' home - from recycled door mats (in use at our cold storage door) and non-electric woodstove fans (currently whirring away on top of our woodstove), to composting toilets, tankless water heaters, and decor items, they've got it all. Maybe not the most romantic of Christmas presents, but there's nothing romantic about huge electric and water bills!
- Etsy - Etsy is a treasure trove of hand-made eco-gift items that will fit absolutely anyone on your gift list. Gorgeous clothing, stunning, one-of-a-kind jewellery, decor items and whimsical bits and pieces that might be useless, but would look awesome in your loved one's home! You'll find a large percentage of the items on Etsy are 'green' - recycled materials, natural materials, hand made in North America... Plan to spend at least an hour (or two or three) looking around! And if you're a DIY-er, you'll find no shortage of ideas for gifts you can make yourself. Let your imagination run wild!
- Rawganique - Organic cotton and hemp clothing and gorgeous organic home decor, bedding and linens. I've ordered from Rawganique many, many times over the last few years and love their products and customer service.
For the Children on Your List:
- For a ton of ideas for quality, planet-conscious gift ideas, look no further than Green Child Magazine.
- Natural Pod - Located in Vancouver, British Columbia, Natural Pod has a lovely inventory or gorgeous children's toys, craft items and games. The owners are wonderful people and stand behind their products - natural materials, safe finishes, and lots of 'made in North America' items. No plastic in sight!
- Bella Luna Toys - Bella Luna Toys is a beautiful place to purchase quality, natural-material gifts for the children on your list. The toys are inspired by Waldorf education, and invite open-ended play that nurtures a child's imagination. Bella Luna is "committed to offering unique natural toys and products for children and families that are safe, healthy and encourage imaginative play. You will find no battery-operated or plastic toys here, the kind that will be played with for a short time before ending up in a landfill."
- Family Pastimes - Family Pastimes designs and manufactures cooperative games (all made in Canada). We've got a number of them for various ages and have enjoyed them immensely. Great for those nights when the power is out and you're gathered together around the table in a rare moment without all our modern distractions. Lots of fun, and foster teamwork at the same time.
- Simply Merino - Simply Merino offers beautiful, quality merino wool clothing for children. So much better for them than synthetics or pesticide laden cotton.
Ideas from Our Facebook Friends:
We asked the gang on our Facebook page what sorts of things they would appreciate for Christmas - here's what they said (straight from the source!):
- Fruit or nut trees - Maybe heritage varieties that do well in your local area?
- Volunteer to help on their property for a day.
- Seeds - Non-GMO, organic and if possible and suitable, heirloom.
- Rain barrel or water collection system.
- Food dehydrator (the Excalibur is well rated by users).
- Rural living, homesteading or preparedness books and magazines - Search on Amazon, then purchase from your local bookstore.
- Alternative energy supplies - If your budget is larger, ideas like small wind turbines or alternate power generators.
- Mushroom spawn, spores and/or plugs for culinary mushrooms: Mushbox, The Mushroom Man, or Out-Grow are just a few (keep in mind there are 'other' types of mushroom kits out there - make sure you're seeking out the culinary ones).
- Canning jars, or lids and rings. Use of equipment - If you own heavy equipment, the offer of their use for big projects you know your recipient needs completed.
- Seed Saver Exchange membership.
- Mini Green house.
- Worm bin.
- O'Keeffe's "Working Hands" cream.
- Make/buy a solar oven.
- Foxfire books.
- Wood burning stove
- Lee Valley Tools nail brush - Amazing for hands, produce - one of our readers keeps one at every sink in the house!
- Composting bin.
- Hand made gifts - useful or decorative or food items.
- Cold frames.
- Bring them breakfast and take on their morning feed/milk chores while they enjoy the oddity of no morning feed/milking.
- Good advice in the form of small notes like recipes.
- Home made coupons for helping do the work around their property: e.g., "Good for one flower bed weeding, one cleaning up the coop, one bringing the fire wood in, taking care of the critters one morning or evening, etc.
- Good company, great conversation, shared food and shared work.
- Gift cards to homesteading supply or hardware stores.
- Tools and technical books.
- A big coffee mug with different kinds of organic or locally grown tea packets.
- Warm socks, wool sweaters, warm work gloves.
- Pressure cooker/canner.
- Hand powered appliances, like slicers, grain mills, etc.
- A medicinal/preparedness goodie basket.
- Solar chargers for phones, radios and appliances.
Some Other Ideas:
- Spa gift certificates (for men too!) - Because rural living is hard on the hands and skin!
- Subscriptions to a local nature conservancy, wildlife agency or favourite magazine.
- Knitting or crafting lessons - Skills that always come in handy on the homestead.
- Music or dance classes.
- Membership to a local CSA (community shared agriculture), tool sharing group, local food group, etc.
- Concert tickets.
- Conference tickets to see a favourite guru or meet with fellow rural living fans.
- A weekend away at a fancy B&B (with an offer to look after the livestock!)
- Get a website designed for someone with a gift to share with the world.
- Use your imagination!
Gift giving for the self-sufficiency or 'green' set doesn't have to be boring - or difficult! And it can change a life if you pick the right one (think about how you can fulfill someone's dream, even in a small way). The ideas and resources listed here will set you on your way - the only danger is that you'll get so engrossed in all the options that you won't order in time for Christmas... ;o) Do you have other ideas for those rural dwellers/modern homesteaders/homesteading dreamers on your list? Please share them in the comments below! You might just inspire someone to change a life...