Taking Root #19

A Recycled and Homemade Christmas

By Gini Bramlett

For the Calapooia Food Alliance

Christmas doesn’t have to be expensive. In our family, we’ve almost done away with the gift giving ritual over the past few years. Of course, the little ones still get spoiled, but instead of wiping out our bank accounts, we gift each other with much-appreciated homemade items.


My brother and his wife have several old and very productive walnut trees on their farm in Junction City. Consequently, they share their bounty with the family as Christmas gifts. Sometimes, we get whole walnuts in burlap bags tied with big red bows. And, other times, our Dad, who is 80-something and likes to stay busy, cracks them for us before Christmas gets here. This bounty is most appreciated.

My sister and her husband have Gravenstein apple trees and are crazy about canning. For the past few years, we’ve received apple-related products and/or jams and other canned goodies. Who wouldn’t like that?

 I like to put together gift bags or baskets and share some of my canned goods, such as tomato and tomatillo salsas, apple pie filling and raspberry and boysenberry jams I make from our own berry plants. Sometimes, I tuck in my homemade fudge and/or cookies, too.

This year, I am adding DIY lotions to my list of handmade gifts. I use organic almond oil, coconut oil, beeswax, essential oils and other organic products to make my own lotions and creams. I started doing this earlier this year making a “Gardener’s Hand Cream” that both my husband and I loved. I also plan to make my own organic lipstick (no nasty chemicals). So, now you know what my family and friends are getting for Christmas this year.

My mom has always made things. After years of crocheting Afghans, she has given everyone in our family, including all the grands, their own personal afghan. Now that the next generation has begun, I’m sure each and every one will be getting an afghan of their own to treasure.

One year, I crocheted neck scarves for my granddaughters in their favorite colors, and bought matching purses. Another year, I crocheted colorful cotton dish clothes for my friends and neighbors with a handmade gift tag (FYI- once you’ve used a cotton dish cloth, you’ll never use anything else). Other years, I’ve given homemade vanilla, kahlua and wine vinegars. 

Another thing I have done this year is collect gently used cookbooks, gardening books and canning/preserving books when shopping at garage sales and resale shops. Now, everyone gets a book suited to their lifestyle tucked in with their gifts.

If you’re a gardener, seeds saved from your favorite veggie plants are fun to share with friends and family, too. Download free seed packets online to package them.

One year, my sister bought the dried ingredients for Taco Soup, arranged them in a quart canning jar, then she attached a ribbon with a tiny plastic zip top bag of hot pepper flakes along with the recipe. With a little effort, you can have an instant gift for the neighbor who picks up your mail when you’re on vacation, your walking buddy or the cat sitter.

There’s no end to what you can make at home without spending a fortune, and you’d be pleasantly surprised at how much the recipients will love the thoughtful gesture of time and thought put into it.

There’s tons of information online for making homemade, recycled gifts.  You better get busy!

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