Sow There!: Gifts to buy when you intended to not buy gifts, Dec. 22, 2017

This floater is a Christmas gift for a 6-year-old family member.
This floater is a Christmas gift for a 6-year-old family member. Photo by Heather Hacking

This week I went shopping for a thank you gift for my amazingly kind and gracious mentor teacher. My thought was that I would buy “a plant that would not die.”

I’m not saying she’s an “air-fern-only” type gal. In fact, I have every reason to believe she nurtures most living things.

However, she’s busy planning ways to educate the future thinkers of the world and may not want to drag a hose around during winter break.

Because I love plants, I’d love to give them to everyone I know. However, sometimes people think that if I give them a plant I expect them to keep it alive until the release of “Guardians of the Galaxy XVI.”

I visited the Little Red Hen Nursery and the gal in the red apron was honest and helpful. She pointed toward one particular row of “will not die” plants. Hardy perennials, she said.

As we exchanged words, we each exhaled puffs of smoke in the frigid air, as if we were sucking on electronic cigarettes. Maybe the end of the year is not prime time for buying plants, I concluded, as I bought a gallon-sized dianthus for myself and headed into the Little Red Hen gift shop.

A better idea for a plant-related gift this time of year is to give a pot filled with dirt. My friend Chrissy called recently. She had lemons waiting for me, and I traded her a container of soil.

“Put this in your yard somewhere and let it get watered by the rain,” I said with the instructive, yet kind teacher tone I have been learning these past several months.

Of course, I tucked bulbs in the container and in several months she’ll realize I handed her a pot filled with hope. With any luck, we might actually receive some actual rain.


Other items on my holiday shopping list include worms and fake poop.

Mom has a tremendously likeable boyfriend, and the merry couple recently built a compost pile.

I’ll overlook the fact that I have been lecturing my mother for about a dozen years to save her kitchen scraps and improve the tilth of her soil. She ignored me until she met Steve, and now she has embraced composting like it’s the latest new fad.

She’s happy, their fingernails are dirty and that’s all that matters.

The fact is, I had vowed not to buy presents this year, except for the family members younger than 12.

However, my mom’s boyfriend continues to do really nice things for me — likely out of pure goodness of his heart.

He heroically mowed my lawn when it was a yard high and hauled away a trailer filled with junk from my yard. During my recent trip to UC Davis to reconfirm my cancer-free status, Steve drove my mother and I. He even waited in the car while we toured the UC Davis hospital with my rubber chicken.

Steve’s definitely on the list for a thank you gift.

When I asked mom what Steve might like, she said she had no idea. She tried to secretly buy him a leaf blower, and then he started talking about buying a leaf blower.

“Do NOT buy a leaf blower right before Christmas,” Mom said, which should have been an obvious hint.

“But there are leaves out there now,” Steve said logically.

She gave him the leaf blower as a late Thanksgiving gift.

“Could you give him something for the (new-and-now-cherished) compost pile?” she said, brainstorming out loud. “Maybe some additive or something, for the compost pile?”

I’m on it.


We have it all in Northern California — world famous ice cream, award-winning beer, California’s longest river and a worm farm.

During my many years as farm reporter, I had several excuses to visit the Worm Farm in Durham, an old turkey ranch that now supplies worms, worm castings and supersoil for worm connoisseurs throughout the country. A pound of red wigglers (worms) will arrive on mom’s boyfriend’s doorstep sometimes in early January. I’m quite certain he will not think to buy these himself.

As for the fake poop, that’s another silly family story.

My great-nephew (yep, I’m a “great” aunt), has been asked repeatedly about what he would like for Christmas.

“Poop,” he has said after repeated inquiries.

He’s 6 and he thinks he’s hilarious.

When they’re out and about, my Mom will make jokes about following dogs around to try to bag his Christmas present.

In a concerted effort to teach him a lesson, and share in a family joke, each of us is tracking down plastic poop. We’ve been surprised at how many varieties of the lesser-sought Christmas item exist in novelty stores, and even big-box stores. I tracked down a disgustingly life-size specimen called “The floater.”

Depending on how things go, we may or may not provide him with other Christmas gifts.


If you haven’t located that perfect holiday gift, you still have Saturday to shop at the Saturday Chico farmers market, Second and Wall streets, 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Everyone needs food and you can get some dandy stuff, grown by real people with local dirt under their fingernails.

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