What can I buy my sister who doesn't want things? Well, most things
September 3, 2013 6:33 PM   Subscribe

I'm completely at a loss for what to buy my sister for her upcoming birthday. She's in her early 20s, lives in upstate NY, works on a farm, and likes anything farm/outdoors/sustainability/anthropology related. She's interested in anything, really, but doesn't like materialistic "bought at the mall" type stuff. So nothing mass-made. I need some special little something that she would find useful and not silly or frivolous.

I'd love to buy her some kind of "experience" type thing but.... she's really busy so might not have time to actually use it. But if you have a suggestion like that, please share! She's really interested in learning/trying anything. She likes sailing, camping, watching documentaries, world music, making thing with her hands, gardening, brewing beer...

Please no book suggestions unless they're REALLY unusual, because she already owns all the how-to type books out there.

I live in NYC so I have access to all the stores around here. I have a couple weeks so there's time to order something. I can spend up to $100. However, what I don't have is ANY time to go shopping. So it has to be something I can pick up or order relatively easily and quickly. Oh man, I'm stumped. Help!
posted by silverstatue to Shopping (35 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Buy her a subscription to Grit magazine. Seriously, no fooling. It's right in line with almost all the interest s you listed.
posted by boo_radley at 6:35 PM on September 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Your description reminded me of Sombra cooling gel. It's natural and feels good when you're overheated from working out, or sore. I think they have other products so maybe a gift basket? Plow and hearth also has a great methol-y muscle rub (can you tell I've been extra active lately?)

If she likes candles or other scenty things I would recommend Hallow Candles. I found them when I was visiting my sister and they smell wonderful. And not mass produced mall gifts!
posted by brilliantine at 6:42 PM on September 3, 2013

Find out what the feed store or garden center is. See if they sell gift cards.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:42 PM on September 3, 2013

I'm a person who doesn't like gifts and I tell people who want to get me something to get me (nice) food (like chocolate or wine or cheese or something.) I like this because food is generally not that expensive and it's consumable so I enjoy it for a minute but it doesn't sit around.
posted by needs more cowbell at 6:46 PM on September 3, 2013 [5 favorites]

Have you seen "Looking for a farm-related gift for my father's birthday" and "What are the farming essentials?"

If she's the hat type, you might look at Tilleys. Practical, lightweight, easily stored, and would be useful for all sorts of outdoor activities.
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:46 PM on September 3, 2013

When's her birthday? Day trip to the Sheep and Wool Festival? I'm an upstater with a NYC sis and I'm all about sharing quirky upstate experiences with her, much more than stuff, and with lots of prior notice, she might be able to make time.

Food is good, too, especially if it's local. Whiskey?
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:49 PM on September 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

If this will be her first winter in upstate NY, get her some winter gear - wool socks, flannel jammies, long underwear.

Otherwise, maybe some materials for her hobbies? If she knits, get yarn; if she quilts send fabric.

A gift certificate to a nearby restaurant could be good.

Or a netflix subscription if she doesn't already have one.
posted by bunderful at 6:50 PM on September 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Above a certain age, the best gifts are consumables, not things. When that age occurs varies, but the best thing to do at that point is to buy food or drink - special salts, special spices, special booze, special jerky, etc.
posted by rr at 6:50 PM on September 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A critter given in her name to a family in need?

posted by BrashTech at 6:54 PM on September 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

How far upstate? I fell in love with Finger Lakes winters because of snowshoes.
posted by headnsouth at 6:54 PM on September 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Gardener's Supply has some great gifts. I also like Uncommon Goods for useful but quirky gifts. They have some beer-related items, too!
posted by Ostara at 6:55 PM on September 3, 2013

A bit clich├ęd, but...etsy gift certificate?
posted by Salamander at 6:56 PM on September 3, 2013

Best answer: A subscription to the Sun Magazine is my default gift for tenderhearted progressive types.
posted by ottereroticist at 7:03 PM on September 3, 2013 [4 favorites]

I think she would like it if you made something yourself. How about a small soapstone carving? It has an earthy vibe and is not difficult to make but would mean much more than many other gifts.
posted by travelwithcats at 7:05 PM on September 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

If she has a sense of humor, perhaps she would enjoy an artisanally sharpened pencil.
posted by slogger at 7:08 PM on September 3, 2013

Response by poster: Some good stuff here so far! To answer a couple questions above, she's in Ulster County so.... about 2 hours north of NYC. Ok so it's not REAL upstate, but it's pretty rural :) And she's lived there her entire life.

I've already given her several Heifer and Heifer-esque donation gifts in the past. They're always a great gift!

OOOOH, ottereroticist, the Sun Magazine subsciption looks verrrry tempting. That and headnsouth's snowshoes....

Keep 'em coming!
posted by silverstatue at 7:09 PM on September 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

posted by Jacen at 7:15 PM on September 3, 2013

Best answer: Hard to go wrong with mail-order fudge. I always get mine from here.
posted by Wild_Eep at 7:26 PM on September 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, sweet! I'm in Ulster Co. too. If she likes booze, definitely something from Tuthilltown, which is in Gardiner. If you want to do a local gift certificate, Papyrus in Rhinebeck and Cocoon in New Paltz are filled with adorable, superduper cute stuff.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:28 PM on September 3, 2013

Best answer: A friend of mine who has a verdant backyard full of beans and hops and chickens and subscribes to the Sun Magazine has a prized garden tool: a hori hori hand-forged by her husband and handled with oak from a neighborhood tree.

I'm not suggesting you forge one, but if you can find a handmade or small-production hori hori, you're aces.
posted by Kakkerlak at 7:41 PM on September 3, 2013

This book is pretty much the definitive text on permaculture--it sounds like it's right up her alley.
posted by yellowcandy at 8:12 PM on September 3, 2013

Gift subscription to her local edition of Edible NY? I've browsed the Finger Lakes edition and it's very pretty.

Gift cert to local restaurants?

Or I'd suggest a gift cert to her local GreenStar CoOp market if she had one nearby.
posted by RedOrGreen at 8:14 PM on September 3, 2013

I would suggest a really high quality base layer. A good base layer is useful through much of the year and can regulate temperature and wick moisture away. Wool is also naturally anti-microbial, which means you can wear it a lot without it stinking. This REI guide is a good starting point: http://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/underwear.html (I know they refer to it as 'underwear', but many people wear base layers just as shirts or tights under skirts).

Another suggestion is wool socks of varying weights.
posted by sorrel at 8:28 PM on September 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Take her to Maker Faire. From the list of exhibitors: The BioBus is a high-tech science lab on wheels powered by renewable energy! Come see how solar panels, a wind turbine and waste vegetable oil can power an incredible hands-on science experience. The PLY90 is a connector to build and bring your ideas to life. It's like Legos for adults. Farm Hack is about enabling sustainable farms to build, create, or obtain the scale appropriate tools they need. We bring together farmers and makers together to document tool online and in person. Garden Gadgets-This presentation will summarize the public workshops of Pratt Institute PSPD on environmental issues that has used design and technology and will focus on community engagement aspect of garden gadgets project that utilizes Arduino.
Or you can just get her a subscription to Make (which is an option with admission to the faire)
posted by Sophont at 8:50 PM on September 3, 2013

Mail order micro-brews, Craft Beers.
posted by edbles at 8:55 PM on September 3, 2013

Maybe a Kiva gift certificate? She can donate to someone who is looking for a loan to help their farm, or any other category that she likes. It's a bit more personal than a gift card to a charity that gives people set things like animals because she can read the bios and choose who she would like to donate the money to. Plus she can re-lend it over and over or withdraw it and spend it on herself.
posted by Lay Off The Books at 9:05 PM on September 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

A gift certificate to Ben Meadows.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 9:22 PM on September 3, 2013

A selection of differently-sized dry bags. Seriously, if she likes camping and sailing, she can never have enough dry bags.
posted by topophilia at 10:02 PM on September 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

A pair of really good quality work gloves.
posted by Catch at 12:14 AM on September 4, 2013

A gift certificate from Lehmans. They have an amazing array of farm-related and non-electric goods. Your sister's interests and inclinations are right in line with my own, and I could easily spend $100 on things from Lehmans.
posted by dubold at 1:00 AM on September 4, 2013

For the gardening aspect:
'tis the season to shop for spring bulbs.

gift certificate to Brent & Becky's Bulbs
or Van Engelens

gardening supplies:
AM Leonard.

a hori-hori was mentioned above. yes. if she doesn't have one get her one.
posted by sciencegeek at 3:38 AM on September 4, 2013

Opinel No. 8 Garden Knife and a Hori-Hori. These are two of the most used tools in my garage, and will be of use in everyday farming and cultivation chores. The Opinel is durable, famously sharp, immensely practical, easy to carry around in a pocket or a tool bag, and pretty to look at.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:23 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yeah, good tools have been the number one gift for farmers in my life. They can be a bit pricey if they're well designed, but it's nice to have an axe that's well-balanced or a hoe that's the right size. Hell, artisanal scythes are even a thing.
posted by klangklangston at 2:04 PM on September 4, 2013

Response by poster: I think I'm gonna go with a nice hori hori (which I never even HEARD of before this thread!) and a subscription to Sun Magazine. With maybe some fudge thrown in there too. Thanks so much everyone!
posted by silverstatue at 8:51 PM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Plain Magazine is no longer in print, but I bet the Plain Reader would be something she'd love.
posted by slogger at 11:19 AM on September 5, 2013

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