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Holiday Gift Guide, 2016

by Tara

Here in Vermont, snow blankets the woods around our homestead. Our world is darker, quieter, and slower these days. Our slating tools are put away for the time being (posts about slating our cottage roof are coming soonish, along with a whole backlog of other journal entries), and other homesteading projects have dwindled to a trickle. 'Tis the season for reflection, planning, and turning inward. Coziness descends, as our place is warmed by the wood stove and lit from early dusk to night by the flickering light of lanterns and beeswax candles.

Snowfall out the Window Snowy Cottage & Homestead

As holiday season approaches, I'm finding such joy in the activities that have grown to be Tyler's and my own traditions: putting up a teeny, wonky tree brought in from the woods, decorating it with a motley assortment of ornaments gathered from our travels, choosing the photograph to be on our annual New Year's card, and spending many cozy evenings writing letters and addressing envelopes. This, more than anything, never fails to fill my heart near to bursting: how fortunate we are to have such good friends.

However, thus far this season, I haven't thought much about presents. Some years, I'm so filled with ideas that there's a whirl of activity involving packages mailed to loved ones, with presents beautifully wrapped and laid out for maximum enjoyment upon opening. This year, I have far fewer ideas, and I find myself thinking, "do we have to do presents? Can we just not?"

While I may not have presents figured out, I am sure of this: I know many brilliantly talented folks who run small businesses, and I would rather support them than I would big box stores. So, if you're like me and are unsure of what to get for your loved ones this holiday season, perhaps this list of our friends and their wares will help you decide.

For the person interested in minimalism and the tiny house movement:

Check out the book, Turning Tiny: The Small-Living Paradigm That's Reshaping the Way we Think, Live and Dream. Incidentally, we're featured in its pages! We wrote an article about our building project—how the cottage we constructed to escape from society became instead a welcoming haven for our growing community. Our sweet, goofy friend Andrew is also featured, as is our buddy, Jess!

Going Slowly Strawbale Workshop 2015: House Party Breakfast in our Cottage with Neighbors Andrew Jess & Dan being Silly

For the wannabe homesteader, or anyone who dreams of country living:

Check out our friend Jenna's book, One Woman Farm. Its pages are filled with her signature blend of wry, inspirational, personal prose about the farm she loves and works hard every day to maintain. Interspersed with her stories are hundreds of whimsical illustrations and doodles. One Woman Farm is sure to encourage its recipients to live their own unconventional lives.

Trapping a Hawk with Jenna Sal the Sheep Italics the Red-Tailed Hawk at Cold Antler Farm Playing Gloom by Oil Lamp Cold Antler Farm Chickens

For your favorite outdoorsperson:

I would be remiss if I didn't include my own labor of love in this list. Bike. Camp. Cook., the bicycle touring cookbook I wrote after returning from a two-year trip around the world, makes the perfect gift for the adventurous folks in your life. In it you'll find everything you need to know to get cooking real, delicious, gourmet food on your bike tours. (Or canoe trips! Or car camping forays! Etc!)

Tara Signing Bike. Camp. Cook. Tara Cooking Tara Working on the Cookbook

For your favorite letter-writers, fashionistas, and cozy homebodies:

Every year, Tyler and I make a point of visiting our friends Mike and Eliza in Maine. There, in a rambling old farmhouse, is Eliza's art studio from which she runs her business, Morris + Essex. She creates gorgeous letterpress stationary, silkscreened clothing and dishtowels, and loads of other goodies! Last year, she gave us a housewarming present of one of her tea towels sporting delightful green ferns. It remains one of my favorite kitchen items.

Eliza with Laika Morris + Essex Tea Towel Eliza's Studio ( Eliza's Studio (

For the gardener in your life:

Our friend Erik is a very skilled blacksmith (and fellow world cyclist!) who just opened an Etsy shop featuring mainly gardening tools. I've seen his trowels in person, and I can say that they are exquisite, truly built with love and skill, designed to last for generations. And if gardening isn't your thing, just send Erik a message to have something custom smithed. He makes ANYTHING, I swear. So far, he has made us big, beefy chains and gorgeous brackets for our Grindbygg workshop / future art studio.

Erik & Tyler Installing Handforged Chain Erik with Handforged Chain Newquist Metalsmith Trowels

For ME (just kidding! sort of...) and those with a rustic fashion sense:

I've only hung out with Sara a couple of times, with our mutual friends, the Hartmans. A year or so ago, I learned that she'd started her own business, The Wild and Free Company, sewing timeless leather bags and creating rustic, sophisticated jewelry. I immediately started following her on Instagram, and I am continually impressed by her designs and craftsmanship.

WildandFreeBracelet Sarah and Joel

Happy holidays, everybody!



    Tara, your words cast a spell, and I can relax into winter time. Your photos capture your friends so well, you have a photo for anything and everything.
    Posted by radha newsom on December 8th, 2016 at 11:35 AM
    mmmm. I sssssssso in-joyed your thoughtful gift of "gifts for the Holidays". Everything inspiring in itself.
    Posted by Deanne Bednar on December 22nd, 2016 at 6:37 PM
    Yay for Sara! Yay for supporting local, small businesses! Yay for you picking the exact thing that I wanted to!
    Love you both and hope you had a great holiday. Let's talk soon about an adventure this summer!
    Posted by Julia Goolia on December 28th, 2016 at 3:54 PM
    Catching up on your posts from our currently immobile home in El Salvador. Currently missing snow and you two:/
    Posted by Natasha on January 17th, 2017 at 10:40 PM
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    Posted by Bluestacks Download for Windows on February 23rd, 2017 at 6:17 AM
    Hello out there... we are still checking off and on your web-site.... are you guys done with journaling? We hope you find a way to keep it up.... All teh best; H&T
    Posted by Heiner & Tanja on May 23rd, 2017 at 4:23 PM
    Hi Heiner & Tanja! I doubt we will ever be done journaling on this website, though how frequently we will update it will probably vary wildly! Thanks for still checking in on us. :)
    Posted by Tara on June 6th, 2017 at 12:40 PM
    Nice Post thanks for this article
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