Friends, Family, and Farmer’s Markets

One ray of sunshine in our otherwise sleepy little town is the abundance of fresh produce during the growing season. Almost everywhere you turn, someone is set up by the side of the road selling something and here in about a month, it’s only going to get better as the farmers who planted after the last frost (instead of in a greenhouse) start to see their tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, and corn come in like crazy.

I realized as I was driving down the road the other day that I’ve inadvertently become a bit of an expert on where to find the best produce in our area. If you want strawberries, you can’t beat Bradley’s Kountry Acres or Oak Grove Farms. Blackberries, we also get those from Bradley’s or Circle S Farms. Peaches come from Mr. Paul’s house (he has a little stand with an honor box). The best honey is from Happy Bee. Almost everything else (cucumbers, tomatoes, squash, eggplant, potatoes, etc.) comes from Wade Farmz or one of the many other vendors at our Wednesday or Saturday Farmer’s Market…which now includes a man named Jeff.

Two weekends ago as I was leaving the market with our CSA basket, I heard a voice call my name. I turned to see a scraggly mountain man waving at me from the gate. Almost instantly I recognized the weathered but smiling face. It was Jeff, a friend of the family from so many years ago, I can hardly recall. In fact, I’d dare say 30 years have passed since Jeff was popping wheelies on my 3-speed bike across the backyard where our garden now grows. Jeff’s sister and my mom were good friends for a short while and Jeff always seemed to tag along with us wherever we went.

Me posing with a rooster in Gatlinburg, TN [circa 1988].
Jeff is a character like none I’ve ever encountered. He was a wild 22-year old boy when he went with us to Gatlinburg on vacation one year. Chickens must have been all the rage back then because everywhere we went, there were giant chicken statues and Jeff and I posed by every one of them. When I was going through photos earlier in the year, I found this one.

It was good to see Jeff at the Farmer’s Market and even better to find out that he now has a farm just 3 miles from Mom’s house. His pickling cucumbers and red potatoes are absolutely delicious, earning Birdwell Farms a spot on my list of “best places to buy produce” in Sumner County.

Last Wednesday, I took Ticky to the market with me. It was really too hot to be outside but I thought she might like to help me pick out some vegetables. She immediately wanted to give Jeff a hug, though they’d never met. Little kids (and dogs) know good people when they see them. She picked up potatoes and studied them intently, eventually handing one to a lady who walked up. Then she discovered blueberries. Before I could stop her, she plucked one from the container and popped it into her mouth. I bought 2 cartons, of which she ate about 1/2 cup when we got home. That kid loves fruit (and veggies) thank goodness!

She was so tired from her Farmers Market adventure that she passed out at our next stop. Thankfully Walmart has pillows!

We’re starting to see a few veggies from our own garden and will likely have enough blackberries to top a few waffles very soon. Watching them grow makes me pretty happy. Filling the freezer for winter will make me even happier!

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Angie comes back from her 2 week stay in Texas tomorrow. I absolutely can’t wait. Though we’ve talked every day, it feels like she’s been gone forever. While she’s been away, she’s been doing a bit of gardening too.

Plus, she took her mom to the Lubbock Farmer’s Market for the first time ever. I believe her mom has lived there all of her life. This is their haul for the day, most of which Angie has already eaten. (I hope she can sneak that honey jar past TSA!)

Five Thought Friday (Week 9)

#1) After going back and forth about it, Angie and I decided to join a local CSA (community supported agriculture) program. We opted for the small share, which is about a 1/2 bushel of fresh produce per week for 16 weeks beginning in May. The farm is located in the county where we live and run by 2 brothers in their early 20s. This is their first year to offer a CSA and while they are not Certified Organic, they do practice sustainable natural farming methods. Our biggest hold up wasn’t the price (which is a reasonable $350 for the season) but the fact that we might end up with too much food, since we are also growing a small garden. I refuse to waste food. To that end, we’ve decided that during CSA season, we will plan our meals around what we receive (or harvest) for the week and freeze or can any extras for this coming winter.

Chase Pear Tree#2) Speaking of the garden, we seem to have inspired a few others in the neighborhood. My mom’s next door neighbor, Chase, dug what looks to be a 10′ x 15′ garden plot and his neighbor on the other side plowed up his entire back yard. This is Chase’s first garden. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, we can begin planing the 2nd weekend in April to avoid freezing. We have tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, and peppers ready to go. I’m not sure what Chase will plant but I can’t wait to see what becomes of our “community gardening” projects. Chase also has a pear tree that bears the most delicious pears (that I hope he will share again this year.)

#3) Toward our decluttering for cash effort, I listed 9 items on Ebay this week. Most of the items were jewelry, which is pretty easy to ship. It’s only been 2 days but so far so good – half of them have bids already. Angie has almost finished wiping the hard drive on the Tank (her old laptop) so that we can get rid of it too. We still haven’t decided whether to donate it to a computer reuse program or sell it for the few bucks that it’s worth.

#4) About that cash…the Xterra is finally fixed! The great folks at Cooper’s and Helping Hands Automotive in Gallatin really went the extra mile to fix what turned out to be more than just a bad relay. They rewired the entire back half of the Xterra, including reinstalling our 4-way wiring harness (for towing) that another (less reputable chain store) mechanic had ripped out and left in the spare tire area. AND…they fixed an annoying noise that had been bothering us for years! PLUS…they reclamped our air conditioner hoses where a small leak was causing the Xterra to overheat when the air was on. Since they kept the car for 2 full days, I expected our bill to be outrageous. I was half prepared to cry. The total cost was $290.03. That’s still a lot of money but not nearly what it could have been so we were pretty happy.

20150718_190538#5) We got our bicycles out this week, cleaned them up, and put rear racks on them. The racks were “free” using a $25 Amazon gift card that I received for completing a survey from my insurance company (on fitness of all things). With the bikes up and running, the search has begun for milk crates to mount on those shiny new rear racks to carry picnics, library books, and fresh produce. But free milk crates are hard to come by! My thought is that we can bike the short 2.5 miles from our apartment to our CSA pick up location each week this summer – get some extra exercise to go along with our healthy eating plan.