Sunday, May 15, 2011

Who would have believed?

Off to market

Had you told me even a year ago that I would be selling produce at a farmers' market, I would have called you insane, but that's exactly what I did this weekend. I have an abundance of invasive perennial herbs in my garden--mint, chives, pineapple mint, oregano, mint--as well as non-invasive but overgrown (as in can't see to get out of the driveway) rosemary and thyme. It's far more than two people can use, and I hate to see anything go to waste, so I asked the farmer with whom I have my CSA share for ideas. He suggested I bring a basket to his booth at the weekly famers' market and split the profits with him. Ever on the lookout for additional sources of revenue, I agreed.


The farmers' market this time of year is on Saturdays from 10 to 3. So after work on Friday, I went out into the garden with basket, scissors, and scale to gather my herbs. The mint and rosemary were easy to harvest, but the more delicate chives and oregano were rather a mess. In all, it took nearly two hours to cut, weight, and tie up the bundles (hope I get better/faster with practice). I put my lovely little bunches of herbs into bowls with a little water and popped them into the refrigerator overnight.

On Saturday morning, I met the farmer at the market at 9:30 to drop off my wares. It was fun being there as the vendors were setting up, and chatting to real farmers. I have the advantage of coming from a farming family and can relate anecdotes of weather-related crop disasters with the best of them. When I got my cut of the takings at the end of the day, I had earned just enough to pay for this week's eggs and two tomato plants I got from other vendors.  If I look at it in terms of hourly rates, I made less than minimum wage, but it was fun and cost me only two hours on a Friday night that I otherwise would have wasted online. Not a bad trade, in my opinion.

Spring marches on, and one of the rhododendrons finally burst into bloom, thought the others are nowhere close. I saw a hummingbird one evening at dusk, testing out the dogwood blossoms.

Feeders for hummingbirds and other birds have been cleaned and filled by my darling husband, and the fountain is back in service, provided a birdbath and a drinking fountain for birds and kitties. Now the challenge is keeping Baxter the Mighty Hunter from using these amenities to ensnare victims.

One of the things I love is seeing the daily changes in the garden. This year they have come more slowly than usual, but the pace is beginning to quicken. I realized today that one of the most difficult things about winter in the sameness day to day. In our valley, winter means grey skies and rain, with temperatures generally hovering within about 10 degrees of 40° F. Let me be the first to admit that this is in no way a bad winter by any stretch of the imagination. It's just boring--nothing changes for what seems an age. Spring, summer, and fall, there is near-constant change in the garden: seeds sprout and grow, flowers bloom and fade, fruit ripens and is harvested. I love that.

The garden path, with bluebells
Sundays are special days to me, a day to pause and take a deep breath before the cycle of the week begins anew. When economy made it necessary for me to give up my daily pot of espresso for tea, the "sacrifice" had an unexpected benefit. My Sunday morning coffee became a special treat, something to look forward to and to savor--usually with a croissant from the local bakery.  Since present circumstances require frugality, I find myself more mindful of what I have, what I do, and what I buy. Wasteful and unnecessary expenses have been cut out, and far from miss the way things were before, I find I get more satisfaction from daily life, small pleasures, and simplicity.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Provincial Life


Finally, finally it feels like spring is really here. The daffodils and tulips are finishing up, the bluebells are blooming, and the iris have buds. The garden is waking up after a long, wet sleep. We have entire days of sunshine occasionally (last week on a weekend--unheard of), and it's slowly warming into the 60s during the day. My darling husband is home after two looooong months in Australia, so the heavy yard work is finally getting done. Also, we no longer have the most disgraceful lawn on the street--it's neatly mowed, even if it is mostly dandelions (excellent crop this year) and moss.

I, too did some traveling for work, to New York for the Antiquarian Book Fair. I'm just too old for that. Even with non-stop flights, getting there and back was exhausting, and except for seeing friends and some lovely books, it was pretty miserable. I am no longer an urban person. Too many people make me nervous and claustrophobic. I dislike being surrounded by huge buildings and miss the lovely greens of Oregon. It was good to get home to the provinces and resume my provincial life.

Baxter straddling the fence like a politician

With all the stress in daily life and world events, I have been taking refuge in the Provincial Lady books and other works by E. M. Delafield, and the Barsetshire novels of Angela Thirkell, both full of sly wit and social satire. The comedy of manners is one of my favorite types of novels, and both of these writers continue in the tradition of Jane Austen, only in 20th century England. I know many "serious" readers look down on books like these, but I find more of value there than in most so-called literary fiction. À chacun son goût. I could no more face wading through Thomas Pynchon at the end of a stressful day or week than I could rise and fly. So I'll stick to my provincial, middle-brow reading and let better folk than I deal with James Joyce or the latest David Foster Wallace. 


This weekend has been the kind of slow-paced, simple time that I love. Yesterday was marketing, picking up CSA veggies, and arranging with my farmer to sell some of the herbs that are taking over my garden in his booth at the market. Desultory cleaning and gardening next, followed by a nap. Today has been all about the kitchen: baking bread and cookies, making chicken stock to freeze, preparing rhubarb compote to have with my yogurt and granola for breakfast this week, using leftover rice and assorted CSA veggies to make fried rice for lunch today and to take for lunch during the week, and finally, making beans & greens for dinner. Nothing complicated or intensive to prepare, just a steady day of puttering about the kitchen. 

Cocktail corner is ready and waiting for warmer weather

It has rained--sometimes torrentially--off and on today, so it was a good time to be indoors, cooking, reading, and puttering. Tomorrow it's back to work and deadlines, but it's lovely to have a peaceful day of rest in order to recharge for the challenges in the week ahead.