Getting out to an artisan event in Texas just isn’t what it used to be, huh?

COVID has made some of us wary of crowds…and others of us having been getting sick. We hope everyone gets better, and this virus that’s been causing so much strife gets vanquished.

Whatever your stance on masks or vaccines, we’ve all been affected by the pandemic, and our hearts go out to those who’ve lost family members or have had to work in hospital ICUs. So many people on the frontlines are simply exhausted.

And none of this is the best news for fairs and festivals and the makers who sell at them. With people working overtime, tending to kids whose school have closed or just waiting out the virus by sticking close to home, it’s going to be, well, quite different from what it could have been.

How do we keep local businesses in good stead, browse for early holiday ideas and find the unique handmade wares that bring us joy? Well, the same way many of us now shop for groceries, we go online.

Here are some ideas for practical artsy products, many giftable, from Texas makers with great reviews. Most of these have online shops or in the case of some, outdoor or easy in and out shopping (peruse online first).

Mod Mettle in Georgetown makes sleek metal address plates that can modernize the front of your house. These bold number signs will help HEB or Tom Thumb delivery and your holiday visitors find you, while making a classy statement. See the many options on Etsy.

Here’s a find for nature lovers wanting to help bluebirds. These houses built from durable cedar hew to the Audubon Society’s specifications. Bluebirds, who may know have suffered from loss of habitat and they’re picky about how they nest. They need an abode of specific dimensions and Gerald at Texas Ranch Woodshop in Kemp has got the plan down. He makes some well-reviewed and reasonably priced bluebird houses (also bat houses) to support a stronger ecosystem right in your backyard.

rustic bird feeder

Before nesting season though, comes the fall and winter bird feeding months, and here’s a sweet homemade bird feeder made by the Rustic Birdhouse Shop in Murphy, Texas. Woodworker and shop owner Richard Wiski hit the mark with this Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired design. Wiski builds many variations of feeders and birdhouses, each with special rustic or antique flourishes. He promises that all of them are well sealed and can take a beating.

Now that you’ve invited wildlife into the backyard, you’ll need a good place to sit and watch. This need brings to mind Wimberley Chairs,   a maker of Adirondack chairs and rockers. They get great reviews and if you catch them soon, there’s a fall sale.

Wimberley Chairs Adirondack chair

We have been coveting these chairs for our deck ever since an older rocker broke down and may have to jump in one soon. If you’re in the Hill Country, you can try them out in advance to make sure the fit is Goldilocks perfect.

We all love to eat on the patio in Texas during fall, so for serving outdoors you may want a sturdy cheese, fruit or charcuterie board. We like that Rustic Valley Woodwork in Edinburg uses hardy Texas mesquite wood to make these elegant tray/boards.

Rustic Wood Cutting Board

They’re well-reviewed and truly amazing looking.

personalized cutting boards

If you’re starting to think about the holidays, here’s a similar item that can be personalized and serve as  practical gift any family could use. These would work as a charcuterie server for festivities indoors or outdoors and you can gift them many ways, with elaborate or similar designs, names, dates or not. The GAVA Shop in Pearland offers a ton of options and they’re open to customizing your order.

But it’s a little early for gifts, so here’s a fun wood item for yourself. Let’s face it, we may want to have Octoberfest in small groups this year on the back porch. Impress visitors with your own flight board. There are many to choose from out there, including this one in smooth walnut hand made by Wes Woodward of Woodward Wood Designs in San Antonio. Who can resist?

Walnut Flight Board

Here’s another option that comes with glasses and personalization. It’s also made with walnut, but with added handles and sold by Shenanigans Supply in Lake Dallas.

Personalized beer flight

Here’s our final thought for early fall. It’s time to plant wildflowers!

Seriously. Then next spring and summer, you’ll be growing bluebonnets, coneflowers, coreopsis, gayfeather and daisies. (Caveat: Some may bloom the following year.) If you have a spot you can devote to native plants, this is a great way to support bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. There’s a bit of an art to it, but once you get a plot going, there’s little maintenance or watering. That’s the beauty of native plants. They’re adapted to right here, and your kids will love watching nature at work.

Check out Native American Seed’s many mixes of wildflowers and native grasses at their site or at the many local stores around the state  that carry their mixes.

These seeds, which are grown and collected in Junction, Texas, represent the literal history of the land, making them the ultimate “Made in Texas” product.