What to gift a permaculturist in the holiday season?

by Gabriel Hahn

In the squeeze of the holiday rush, one may feel pinched to run out for the common gift grab while the ethics of permaculture we typically hold at center escape our bodies and minds. In doing so, we all too often disappoint ourselves while perpetuating the cycle of grab and go. This list of doable projects and affordable gifts is offered as a gentle reminder that quality can be obtained or created with limited time and budget, while helping ourselves and others move toward the kind of world we want to live in~a world where we set our own limits, sharing personal surplus with the earth and the people we love.


  1. Fig cuttings. Now is the time! Actually it’s a bit late, but still fine for decent take. Don’t have any fig trees? You probably know a gardener who has 5 trees and hasn’t made time to cut them back. A foot or two above the ground leaves a tree ready for much more production the following year. Mulching the tree heavily will greatly add to next year’s productivity. More at *https://threefoldfarm.org/blog/simple-fig-propagation

(If you have more questions, post them on our blog!)

CC0 via Pixabay

  1. Cold Frame   With a rule, some old windows, nails, string, and a hand saw, one of these puppies can be popped together in about an hour and allow strong, healthy  veggie seedlings to live outside instead of becoming the weak, leggy things we often see in a south facing window. For the general principles, see https://www.thisoldhouse.com/how-to/how-to-build-cold-frame If building isn’’t your style, frames can be found online from $80-$350.
  2. Tiffin  or, portable, stackable dishware. These are great for toting the lunch, harvesting a few berries or greens, or packing up the leftovers from the cafe. Plus, they make you look cool at the lunch table…or wherever you take them.   http://www.happytiffin.com/about-us/   We have a few from this company that are 5 years old and good as new.
  3. Plant a stand of evergreens (or large, dense shrubs) for a winter windscreen. Nurseries often sell plants and trees very cheaply this time of year so that they don’t have to  protect them all winter, then pot them up next spring.  P.S. Planting them for your beloved is part of the package…or else it’s like handing someone a bunch of work. One strategy is to plant densely for sooner benefits, with the intention of thinning (and using falls) as trees size up. Trees that work well in our region include: Eastern Red Cedar, Norway Spruce, Eastern White Pine, Juniper

Hazelnuts in the spring! CC0 via Pixabay

Deciduous native windbreaks include: Bald Cypress, Osage Orange, Ninebark, and Black Locust. The latter two can be coppiced to increase their screening function while reducing risk of breakage.

(Tall!) Shrubs: Highbush Cranberry (medicinal), Viburnum, Hazelnut (edible), Serviceberry (edible)

  1. Mushroom Kits: Winter isn’t the ideal time for starting most spore species outdoors , but the spores can be shipped or stored at a better time, like spring.


For indoor growing, spore kits can be purchased for growing in coffee grounds.


  1. Books. The most challenging part in any permaculture system is the people part. So this list starts with books that offer tools to better understand ourselves, each other, and methods of communication.  
    1. Kindred Spirit by Matthew & Terces Engelhart     The common denominator in each of your relationships is…yourself! Learn tools to communicate with lovingness.
    2. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey   This is not about capitalism. At all. This book offers practical, doable action for learning ones self, prioritizing, and maintaining key relationships.
    3. Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenburg   Learning to really hear to what another has to say. And how to meet them in that place..or not.
    4. People and Permaculture  by Looby Macnamara   How permaculture design can restore social, personal, and planetary well-being
    5. Future Scenarios by David Holmgren   Fossil fuel, Green tech, and Brown tech aren’t here to save us from ourselves. Neither is the bank. Friends, let’s get ready for the very uncertain.
    6. The CSA Cookbook by Lynda Ly  How to use all parts of a vegetable to create beautiful meals in a simple, healthy way
    7. Earth User’s Guide to Permaculture by Rosemary Morrow  A wonderfully simple, brief, yet illustrative book on understanding and bringing permaculture  into one’s life. (Yes Volume II is now available!)
    8. Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew   For rural or urban setups, Mel offers methods for efficiency and high production in a small space. Why spend time maintaining extra pathways when you could be harvesting?

Give a gift of true abundance. CC0 via pixabay

  1. Food Dehydrator   A solar dehydrator can be built simply and cheaply but the high humidity in our region can make this process problematic. The Excalibur is designed to hold lots of material at one time, thus making the time and energy invested in dehydrating more than worthwhile.
  2. Sociocracy training session    Sociocracy is a model for decision making that vests the power to rule in the  the people who regularly interact with one another and have a common aim. This model involves all in the group and removes the bulldozing type roles we all too often see in our patriarchal culture. The model works for members of families, neighborhoods, organizations, and businesses, and training is quite affordable. http://www.sociocracyforall.org/sociocracy/

Ginseng seeds (Or any seeds you’ve saved.) A worthwhile quantity of ginseng seeds can be purchased for about $20, thought the payoff won’t come for 5 to 10. But, once of size, the plants can be propagated. The seeds can also be sown this time of year to allow for stratification.  


Enjoy practicing our second ethic of People Care. We’re wishing you the warmest and best of times with friends and loved ones this season.