Recently, Jennifer came home from work and said one of her co-workers, George, told her I ought to write a column about the Christmas presents I have gotten her over the years. Normally, I don’t take requests, but I am happy to share any ideas and hints I can.
I was surprised that anyone would want my help with gift buying because, quite frankly, I thought I was bad at it. Then I realized that some of us were put on this earth for no other reason than to serve as a bad example. So here it goes — the gift giving guide for the farmer or rancher’s wife.
Last year’s was probably the most successful Christmas present I’ve ever purchased. We bought a very used Kubota UTV. Although it was well-used and worn, it was better than what we had, and that was nothing. It was probably my most practical gift ever, and Jennifer used it every day to do chores and at night to check ewes. It really saved her a lot of time. Then when I caught it on fire this spring, I was able to buy her a newer one for Mother’s Day.
The year before that was also a successful gift-giving year, although not nearly as popular. Her gift was bright and shiny with red paint. Of course, I am talking about four new feed bunks. That is all the red paint I can afford. They were also a very practical gift, allowing her to spread the calves out when she fed them and making it so we could keep them around longer. The Kubota gift made it so she did not have to carry the buckets nearly as far.
The year before that, I bought her a dishwasher. I know you aren’t supposed to buy appliances for your spouse, and I am sure in the first 20 years of marriage I probably would not have gotten away with it. But after two decades of disappointment, one wears down and lowers their expectations. This gift really cut down on her dishwashing time and allowed her to spend more time with me, which was really like getting two gifts in one.
Christmas gifts should be practical but also say that you care for her. One year I bought Jennifer insulated coveralls — something that she needs on those cold winter mornings when she does chores, or those nights she is out in the weather checking ewes and cows. A new pair of coveralls really say, “I love you and I don’t want you to get cold out there.” This is a can’t-miss gift, but get out there early before they sell out of her size. Buying the next size up isn’t met with the same enthusiasm.
I am also good with stocking stuffers. Perfume and bubble bath are always good ideas. That way she can relax in a hot bath after checking those new lambs out and before going out at midnight.
You might want to stay away from fencing pliers and crescent wrenches. Usually they aren’t met with the excitement you would have imagined, and they really hurt when they are thrown.
I’ve had to get creative with stocking stuffers. In the past, I’ve taken my daughter shopping to pick something that Jennifer would like. College really screwed that up.
This year I outdid myself. I will share her present with you if you promise not to tell.
Oh, who am I kidding? I always run purchases this big past her.
You know how they say everything old will be new again? That is what I did for Christmas. We moved the old Hydrabed off the feed pickup she refused to drive (because while I think of brakes and reverse as optional features, she does not) to our good pickup. And just to prove how special Jennifer is to me, I added a toolbox and brush guard. Now she has a feed pickup that she can drive again without worrying about stopping or needing to back up. It’s a real bonus that the heat works and the doors close. She will be in the lap of luxury when feeding cows this winter. If she is lucky, she will get a new set of tires for her birthday, but don’t tell her. I want it to be a surprise.
So yes, George, there is a Santa Claus, and he wears a free seed corn hat. I hope this helps you and all the other farmers and ranchers out there struggling with what to buy your wife for Christmas.
We all know that farm and ranch wives are selfless and often don’t expect much in the way of gifts, so meet their expectations. Another bonus to my gift buying expertise is that I can enjoy the lights on the Christmas tree as I sleep on the couch for the next couple of weeks.
Glenn Brunkow is a fifth-generation farmer in the Northern Flint Hills of Pottawatomie County in Kansas. He was a county Extension agent for 19 years before returning to farm and ranch full time. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.