Looking for a farm-related gift for my father's birthday.
August 18, 2009 7:58 AM   Subscribe

Looking for a farm-related gift for my father's birthday. He recently bought a pretty large farm after living in the 'burbs his entire life. The main purpose of the farm is so my mother can house her horses there, but my father is quite excited to use their sizable land for other purposes too, which may or may not include raising chickens, growing all sorts of produce, and other activities that people do on farms...

Also, he will have very little help in the way of manual labor, so any gifts that might make things easier or more automatic would be appreciated. Anything from books, tools, clothing, or anything else that will help him transition into the farm life. Price range <$300. Thanks!
posted by the foreground to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
John Seymour's "The Self-Sufficient Life" is an amazing illustrated book of things you might need to know about working land and livestock on a farm property.
posted by Aquaman at 8:11 AM on August 18, 2009

Oh, man. A $300 gift certificate to the local hardware store. Things are always cropping up that require a run to Ace...

If you want something he can unwrap, however, consider canning gear--namely a food mill and a home canning kit (I link to Lehman's, but you might well be able to source these items locally). If your dad is thinking about a garden, then he needs to consider what to do with the harvest. Canning is a wonderful farm tradition and a very practical skill to have.

Work gloves, an awesome multitool, mini-loppers with a lanyard (so he can bring them with him on walks around the property), the entire line of relevant Storey Guide books, particularly the one on raising chickens, Muck Boots, a straw hat, a sturdy shovel, a garden seeder, a good wheelbarrow...and the list goes on. See also this recent thread.

The most important thing: Your willingness to help with projects when you visit!
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:16 AM on August 18, 2009

I recall a thread about catalogs a while back that I think had some great ones regarding farming and the like.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:30 AM on August 18, 2009

If you father's county has an agricultural extension agent, he'd be well advised to make an appointment with that individual. I believe that the information and help he'll obtain that way will be far more valuable to him at this point than $300.00 worth of tools, and if things work like they do here in Maryland it will all be free.
posted by imjustsaying at 8:38 AM on August 18, 2009

Picture yourself in a forest where almost everything around you is food. Mature and maturing fruit and nut trees form an open canopy. If you look carefully, you can see fruits swelling on many branches—pears, apples, persimmons, pecans, and chestnuts. Shrubs fill the gaps in the canopy. They bear raspberries, blueberries, currants, hazelnuts, and other lesser-known fruits, flowers, and nuts at different times of the year. Assorted native wildflowers, wild edibles, herbs, and perennial vegetables thickly cover the ground. You use many of these plants for food or medicine. Some attract beneficial insects, birds, and butterflies. Others act as soil builders, or simply help keep out weeds. Here and there vines climb on trees, shrubs, or arbors with fruit hanging through the foliage—hardy kiwis, grapes, and passionflower fruits. In sunnier glades large stands of Jerusalem artichokes grow together with groundnut vines. These plants support one another as they store energy in their roots for later harvest and winter storage. Their bright yellow and deep violet flowers enjoy the radiant warmth from the sky. This is an edible forest garden.

Edible forest gardening is the art and science of putting plants together in woodlandlike patterns that forge mutually beneficial relationships, creating a garden ecosystem that is more than the sum of its parts. You can grow fruits, nuts, vegetables, herbs, mushrooms, other useful plants, and animals in a way that mimics natural ecosystems.

They have books that describe the process.
posted by netbros at 8:40 AM on August 18, 2009

Thanks for the suggestions everyone and keep them coming. Sorry for the silly display of my question too, it was my first one--figured it out now! :-/
posted by the foreground at 8:43 AM on August 18, 2009

I have always enjoyed reading and daydreaming through Small Farmer's Journal [and to a lesser extent Mother Earth News]. If it were me, I think I'd get them two subscriptions and a few pairs of Carhartt or Filson overalls, a few pocket bandanas and a pair of Redwing boots. Also depending where they live, winter on a farm can be a lot of downtime so something fun to play in the living room during the cold months [depending where they're living] would be good.
posted by jessamyn at 10:48 AM on August 18, 2009

The Avant Gardner Newsletter might be of interest.
posted by Good Brain at 10:51 AM on August 18, 2009

Eliot Coleman's books - particularly The New Organic Grower are extremely informative, and fun to read.
posted by bubukaba at 11:35 AM on August 18, 2009

This doesn't fit the budget but seriously: Get. A. Bushhog.

Or failing that, a half dozen goats. Horses are ridiculously finicky grazers and without regular mowing your dads pastures will shortly be half bare dirt dust bowls, half weed-infested jungles.

I grew up on a horse farm for ~22 of my 41 years. Pasture maintenance is no joke. Make sure the fences are in continual good upkeep and remove all the wire, nails, random loose boards, etc... from anywhere they will be turned out.

Ace hardware gift card is a very good place to start. I'd also recommend he talk to local 4-H and FFA chapters as well as the local county extension agency. When I was a kid we often provided free or very cheap farm labour in return for project grades, etc.

Also, invest in soil cultures and well testing (if applicable) prior to putting in any produce crops. This will save time & expense in figuring out what will grow best where. We had a couple old-skool shallow pit wells on our property that proved unsuitable for human consumption (runoff contamination) but were perfectly ok for irrigation and washing equipment.

Have fun! Farming is continual hard, sometimes backbreaking work, but it's very rewarding.
posted by lonefrontranger at 1:49 PM on August 18, 2009

I've really enjoyed reading the online version of GRIT, maybe a subscription to that would be fun. It's a little bit "gentleman farmer" with articles on raising specialty livestock or getting used to rural life, but also with a bit of "lost arts", like making your own soda or canning.

Or anything from Story Publishing, with Basic Country Skills being a good overall reference book about everything from building fences to keeping bees. It doesn't go into great depth, but it's a good jumping off point.
posted by saffry at 4:10 PM on August 18, 2009

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