Homegrown for the holidays

Whether from Nevada artisans or your own two hands, make it local this holiday season

Kristen Harris uses one of Nevada’s best-smelling plants to make products for Lavender Ridge.

Kristen Harris uses one of Nevada’s best-smelling plants to make products for Lavender Ridge.

Photo By David Robert

The Christmas countdown is underway. Indeed, we’re already running out of time to procrastinate. But, it seems it’s more difficult each year to muster the strength to enter crowded malls to buy something made in China as a token of affection for friends and family.

There’s no need to whip up a dose of holiday dread. Put a Made in Nevada holiday gift catalog into your hands. Flip through the pages, or view it online, and await inspiration.

Christmas cards are available from the Sierra Nevada Club. Hidden Valley Honey in Reno makes sweet gifts. The Sausage Factory in Carson City makes meat gifts. Lavender Ridge Gift and Garden Shop makes handcrafted lavender products.

You might be inspired to visit some of these local businesses in person.

Driving in the opposite direction of the malls, fall colors frame West Fourth Street along the Truckee. There are no honking cars, traffic jams or parking problems. The destination is Lavender Ridge on 7450 W. Fourth St.

Happy customers exit with little purple bags in hand. The scent of lavender fills the cozy little farmhouse that’s been converted to retail space. A homemade cookie to nibble on while shopping is offered along with a cup of tea.

Botcha-Caloops’ etchings show up on wine bottles (above) and ornaments (below).

Photo By David Robert

Kristen and Mike Harris opened Lavender Ridge a bit more than a year ago. Its owners claim its the only lavender farm in Nevada. The barn is being converted to a bottling center because business is booming.

“My husband built his own still to extract the essential oil,” Harris says while demonstrating Mike’s Magic Salve, the first product they produced. The Harris’s make salves, lip balms, bath products for men and women, lavender spices, candles, oils, teas, sachets, pillows and lotions from the extracted oil. They even sell lavender honey, but supplies are slim since the queen left the hive last year.

Beyond lavender items, this little shop also has kitchen gadgets, from engraved, heavy duty measuring spoons to aprons. Handcrafted dragonfly-shaped, stained-glass window pieces or bird houses made from dried gourds are just a couple of items you’ll find in the lavender barn.

Lavender Ridge will wrap items, make custom gift baskets or create gift baskets for groups on your list.

It’s just one of 104 businesses featured in the Made in Nevada directory. This is the third year the Nevada Commission on Economic Development has produced the free catalog. But only 3,000 copies were printed. Order it by calling 687-4325, or visit www.madeinnv.com.

Heart of glass
Botcha-Caloops is a funky little company run by a husband and wife team of glass etchers.

The sandblasted etching, which is done in a shack that used to be the timekeeper’s shed for the Dayton Consolidated Mine, is all done by hand.

Photo By David Robert

Bob and Linda Larson can make etched mirrors. They have everything from personalized key holders/mirrors to full-sized county seals on display in their informal showroom.

The couple does special promotional pieces for many of the events that come through town, like the Motorcycle Marathon, the Virginia City World Champion Outhouse Races, and the Virginia City Camel Races.

The quality is consistent considering all the etching is handmade. Although they prefer to work with glass, the Larsons can also engrave wood, stone and stainless steel.

The steelwork is cool, in a post-modern way. However, the stonework looks like something you could buy at many spots around town.

The Botcha-Caloops crafters also can perform “glue chipping.” In this process, they manipulate the glass so it can take on various surface colors like gold leaf or black paint.

Botcha-Caloops makes souvenirs for the car enthusiasts during Hot August Nights. Several had the owners’ names etched around the margins of the car’s picture. It’s a little cheesy, but the HAN crowd probably likes it.

The Larsons also do wine glasses and bottles. One bottle, for St. Mary in the Mountains church, has a shrubbery motif that runs along a tastefully done portrait of the church. They’ve also done wine bottles as wedding proposals and party favors.

The company is beginning to break into “architectural etching.” In other words, the Larsons will travel to your home if you think that window or glass door would look better with some decoration.

The Nevada artists also create many Christmas tree decorations. These run about $10 and can be custom-made in as little as two days.

“We give these out to all our relatives,” Linda Larson said.

For more information on Botcha-Caloops, call 847-9693 or visit www.botchacaloops.com.

The writer’s grandmother, Jane Thimmesch, knits a gift for a family member for the holidays.

Photo By David Robert

Do it yourself
Christmas, the time of giving—and spending. Most years, my family spends hundreds of dollars buying gifts for each other. But this year, our family has decided to make our own Christmas gifts, and creativity lies in the eyes of the beholder. I’m afraid of those eyes—terrified, in fact.

The holidays have usually been a time when we all come together to shower one another with overpriced items, while “Jingle Bell Rock” strums madly along in the background. This year, we’re in for it. Making our own gifts—is my mother crazy? Just because she knows how to make jewelry doesn’t mean anyone else has inventive talent. In fact, we don’t. It’s as simple as that. I can get as far as writing everyone a heartfelt poem or gluing a couple of old school photos to a brightly colored poster and presenting it as a collage, but other than that, I’m empty-handed.

As for everyone else in the family, I don’t even want to know what’s in store. I’m guessing my grandma might break out her childhood knitting skills, my aunt might pick up some store-bought pastas and refer to them as “homemade,” and everyone else, well that’s a Category Five hurricane waiting to happen. Basically, our idea to save money this year is most definitely going to result in laughter and humiliation when we present one another with our attempted artistic masterpieces. I sense a lot of “Let’s just put this in the memory box so we can show it to our future grandchildren,” in my Christmastime future.

However, making gifts does have one great benefit aside from the financial savings: You get to see your relatives’ skills. Will they toughen up and put an undying sense of energy into what they’re making, or will they simply come to terms with the fact that they haven’t a clue how to formulate a gift and act accordingly? As for me, I think I’ll stick to the heartfelt poems and memory-igniting collages. I assume I’ll receive a few of those myself. My family tends to think alike, and gluing pictures onto flimsy pieces of cardboard is much easier than brainstorming over just how much creativity we might have lying in the depths of our potentially resourceful souls. Of course, if my mom is making handmade jewelry while I’m using a glue stick to affix yearbook pictures to an old Valentine, I’m going to get to feel guilty for a whole year.