Exploring December While Shopping Local For The Holiday Season
“It has been a glorious winter day, its elements so simple, the sharp clear air, the white snow everywhere covering the earth, and the polished ice. Cold as it is, the sun seems warmer on my back even than in summer, as if its rays met with less obstruction,” from “The Journal of Henry David Thoreau, 1837-1861.”
My edition of Thoreau’s Journal was published in 2009 and I enjoy opening it up to take in his musings for the day. This quote, from Dec. 20, 1854, perfectly describes what I like about winter. The sharp clear air has arrived, although sporadically, but the snow remains elsewhere. While I am thankful we have not, and likely will not, get the 70 inches of lake effect snow the Buffalo area is dealing with, I would be happy to have mother nature send us 10-12 inches any time she is ready.
December brings an end to the seasonal cycle in a way that we feel deeply as the Winter Solstice arrives. We begin this month to hunker down, keeping a watchful eye on the forecast and keeping a snow shovel within easy reach of the outside door. December is also the month for purchasing holiday gifts. For me that means searching for the perfect present for family and friends locally.
Luckily, our hometown of Putnam has several arts and crafts shops, antique stores, restaurants for gift certificates and specialty stores. My wife and I like the small town feel of downtown Putnam and have plans for an afternoon of shopping and getting a bite to eat. From there we’ll head to Danielson, another small downtown with a few stores we also frequent.
One of the best parts of living here in The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor is our agriculture businesses and the great foods and beverages they provide. We like to share those local tastes and sips as gifts, so we’ll head to Woodstock and shop at the local orchard store, winery and brewery, and dairy farms that have small retail operations carrying a variety of locally grown and produced food products. Honey, wine, beer, maple syrup, jellies, cheeses, baked goods and cured meats make great presents. A gift of food and drink is a wonderful tradition we enjoy giving (and receiving), and it means more when it is locally grown. There are many farmstands still open this time of year and you can find a robust list covering many of the heritage corridor towns at www.grownconnected.org.
When it comes to purchasing a Christmas tree there is nothing quite like trekking over a frozen field to cut your own. A freshly cut tree also keeps its needles longer than the precut ones found at larger stores. There are more than 400 Christmas tree growers in Connecticut and many throughout The Last Green Valley. If you’re looking for a tree farm near you a handy guide to consider is the Connecticut Christmas Tree Growers Association. They have a website with a map that lists Christmas Tree farms by county, each with links to websites and locations. It can be found at: https://ctchristmastree.org/by-county/.
The other benefit of shopping local is knowing your dollars are staying in the region and helping our local businesses and farms. For me, our locally owned stores have more charm and small-town neighborly feel that symbolizes what I like about the holidays. I like getting to know the proprietor too, making the purchase a bit more personal. Our farms also keep our lands open and productive, and along with our forestlands, are what makes The Last Green Valley region so unique and nationally important.
When it comes to holiday purchases, I also like to consider the many non-profit organizations providing key benefits and services to all who live in our region. This is the time of year when most non-profits have begun their annual appeals for folks that include year-end donations. Human service organizations, museums, land trusts, conservation organizations and other non-profits are worthy of support and need donations to keep fulfilling their missions. They are also a source of gifts of membership, or a gift in honor of a friend or loved one. Some of these organizations also have products for sale on their websites that make for unique gifts.
The Last Green Valley is also a non-profit organization with an online store filled with unique products connected to the heritage corridor. Like our non-profit partner organizations, we rely on financial donations and memberships to help us achieve our education and conservation mission. By providing a gift membership to TLGV or a land trust or conservation organization you are giving the gift of nature and the opportunity to explore the outdoors while sharing our beautiful region with the recipient.
Every day of each month the natural world is right outside our door. This December I’ll be enjoying nature’s offering of clear air, crisp frosty mornings and, hopefully, snowy hillsides. It’s the time of year that reminds us, yet again, of the wonders of living in New England, with each season very different and beautiful. December begins the season that brings the challenges of cold, ice and snow. Yet, despite the starkness of bare trees, howling winds and frosty fields, there are also blue-sky days. Sometimes, as Thoreau reminds us, even days when the sun can warm your back in a way that is even more fulfilling than in summer. There is still beauty to be found, we only need to get outdoors and witness its stunning glory.
We live in a special place called The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor. Join me, and let us come together to enjoy it, care for it, and pass it on. It’s a treasured gift worth giving.
Bill Reid is the Chief Ranger of The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 860-774-3300.
Exploring The Last Green Valley, Sunday, December 4, 2022
The Norwich Bulletin is granted first serial rights and associated electronic rights to publish the following article. The Last Green Valley, Inc. retains all other rights to the work.
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