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By Staff | May 22, 2012

It was no trashy gift. Well, maybe it was kind of trashy.

Either way, it was a highly unusual way to express Christmas love and peace and good will among men.

Or among husbands and wives.

Gift-giving can be tricky, indeed. When I was growing up on the farm, there were seven kids to buy for at Christmas time.

Surely, it was quite a time-consuming task (not to mention an expense) to orchestrate. My mother – always the thinker – decided it would help if she could narrow it down to three gifts per kid. We got something we needed, something we wanted and one surprise.

That was Christmas morning, times seven.

Now that I’m all grown up with kids of my own (who are also grown), I have come to appreciate that notion all the more.

Do we really need to give our kids more than three things on Christmas morning as they’re growing up, while trying to teach them the real meaning of Christmas, as we work to live within our means; and because of that, as we try to teach our kids what it means to “live happy?”

I think about that every year as I prepare my Christmas list. I think about how simple times were back then, and how appreciative people were of those simple things.

I think of how it has helped me to appreciate living simply, and being happy with what I have, instead of wishing for what I don’t have.

After all, there will always be others with more than I, no matter how much I have.

It’s kind of like that saying, “Home is where you make it.”

A couple of years ago, my husband surprised me with a most unusual Christmas gift. It wasn’t like the time he gave me a garbage disposal and let me find later on that he had tucked a beautiful pair of earrings inside of it.

Good save and a fun thing for our children to witness.

I’ve heard women say that if they have to plug it in, or if it can be deducted on their farmer husband’s taxes, they don’t really want it.

I guess this means that women are not all practical in nature and like to be spoiled a little bit now and then.

And this is where my husband’s trashy gift enters the picture.

As a farmer, he can’t help but be practical in nature. It’s part of who he is, and it’s really one thing that is so great about almost all farmers. They like gifts that make life easier, in both giving and receiving. What’s not to like?

We all got up that Christmas morning, a little later than we used to get up when our children were small. Our rule back then was, “No one is up before 7 a.m.”

After all, with a very busy Christmas Eve schedule, it got late before the children could get to bed and before Santa was able to arrive. (Even Santa was dragging pretty good by that time of night.) But back then, 7 a.m. took an eternity to arrive if you were a Schwaller kid. Not so anymore.

We gathered in the living room to have our first gander at all the gifts wrapped in beautiful paper and ribbon. We got breakfast in the oven so it could be ready later, and were all making our way into the living room when I stopped at the kitchen sink to get a drink of water. It was then that I spotted it.

When I looked out the window, I could see long, red ribbons billowing from a tall pipe out in the grove. It was hooked onto something that looked like a very large barrel with a lid.

As my mind was paging through ideas of what that could be out there, my husband saw me looking, smiled and said, “Hey! You’re not supposed to be looking out there yet!”

Turns out, he had made me a very large trash barrel, complete with a lid that hinges open and shut, and a pipe so that the trash will burn even when the lid is closed.

It was a farm wife’s dream. It seems that those trash barrels fill up so quickly, even when you recycle as much as you think you can. Burning the trash becomes a very time-consuming chore. This one was huge, and seemed quite handy.

Many a wife – and possibly, many a farm wife – probably would have thought this to be less than what she had hoped for in regard to a Christmas gift. But I loved it, not only because of the fact that it would make my life (and maybe his) a little easier, but he made it himself, which was also pretty special.

“Trashy” gift or not, it was a great one, even if my husband could deduct it from our taxes. It’s part of living simply.

However, you can believe that I examined the interior for a beautiful pair of earrings before I burned my first batch of trash in it.

Schwaller is a Farm News correspondent from Milford. Reach her by e-mail at kschwaller@evertek.net

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