Nature’s Bounty at the Farmers Market

This is the time of year when the farmers market is in full swing. There are two markets in our town that between them happen three days a week—and others close by, each with its own personality.

Honestly, I just can’t get enough of it, and I thought I’d share some photos I took at the Murfreesboro Saturday Market today. Enjoy!

Tomatoes. Those are Mr. Stripeys in the lower left. Don’t you just love that name?

Tomatoes. Those are Mr. Stripeys in the lower left. Don’t you just love that name?

Seedless watermelons picked this morning.

Seedless watermelons picked this morning.

Okra was everywhere this morning.

Okra was everywhere this morning.

Colorful patty pan squash, yellow crookneck squash, zucchini, and others whose names I don’t know.

Colorful patty pan squash, yellow crookneck squash, zucchini, and others whose names I don’t know.

Little potatoes next to green beans.

Little potatoes next to green beans.

Just look at these peppers! Love the colors!

Just look at these peppers! Love the colors!

Quart boxes of mixed cherry tomatoes.

Quart boxes of mixed cherry tomatoes.

I’ve posted a little about farmers markets before (here and here are two I visited in Ireland; here’s the last day of the 2013 Saturday Market), but I don’t think I’ve ever even pictured the Rutherford County Farmers Market, which is my personal favorite.

Rutherford County Farmers Market on a Tuesday morning in early July 2015.

Rutherford County Farmers Market on a Tuesday morning in early July 2015.

Hope you have a farmers market near you—and more importantly, that you are patronizing it. It’s good for your personal health and good for the economic health of your community. Do it!

 

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Stereotypes No More

I was at the farmers market yesterday morning and had an interesting conversation with the gentleman from whom I occasionally buy pork. Most of these small farmers are selling “small ticket” items—a couple bucks for bell peppers, three dollars’ worth of Mr. Stripey tomatoes—and I always come with cash. I’d stopped at the bank on my way into town. But when you’re talking about a roast to throw on the grill for a few hours, the tally is likely to be more than a few dollars (and I had more shopping to do), so I asked if he could take my debit card.

Big grin. “Sure!” He pulled out an iPhone. “I only got a smart phone last year,” he said, while he settled a small plastic square—to swipe a card—into the jack on one end of the phone. “I never thought it would be so useful. My wife did the research and got us set up.” (This was Jamie Weaver of Weaver Farms, it turns out.) We had a chat about the beauty of technology.

Farming has long adapted to technology, of course: breeding, milking, high-tech tractors (and so much more that I, being a city girl, cannot speak about with any semblance of intelligence) long ago revolutionized the way farmers live their lives. But old stereotypes die hard, I think.

I grew up in the San Joaquin Valley of California—the heart of California’s agricultural industry—and when I was in high school (we won’t discuss how long ago that was) our social cliques divided along lines that seemed to indicate (to us kids, anyway) where our lives were leading: among others, the jocks, the stoners, kids headed to college, and … the aggies. The latter grew up on farms and were likely headed to a life of farming. At the time, that sort of life was the farthest thing from my mind.

Fast-forward a few decades. My brother earns his living as a farmer (mostly flowers and herbs), I love to garden (for a decade maintained a backyard vegetable garden, but a move to a new house with a shady yard put paid to that), consider myself a fair cook, and am an appreciator/supporter of the slow-food/locavore movement. I’ve read Joel Salatin, Michael Pollan.

Tennessee backyard, mid-summer.

Tennessee backyard, mid-summer.

I’ve blogged about the farmers market phenomenon more than once … the last one of the season; one I wandered through in Kilkenny, Ireland, with a raging case of pneumonia; another we found in Mountshannon (Co. Clare), Ireland; and one about a farm dinner. I have at least one other post planned but not written yet (so many ideas, so little time). This is a topic I love.

A Saturday Market on the Square in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

A Saturday Market on the Square in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

And certainly I love eating what comes home with me from the farmers market.

And certainly I love eating what comes home with me from the farmers market.

But this post is really about farmers and stereotypes. And social media (in this case, Twitter), which sometimes busts those stereotypes and sometimes is just plain fun. A couple afternoons ago I stumbled—via an editor in Co. Clare, Ireland, I follow—into a hilarious conversation with a bunch of farmers in Britain. Young guys, probably early thirties, clearly tech savvy, great photos of sheep (don’t laugh) and countryside. Look:

• “Keen young farmer working hard to produce your food sustainably alongside some diversification enterprises. #‎BuyBritish.” (@FarmerBeary) Located Staffordshire, UK.

• “Livestock farmer and free range egg producer. Amazing wife and 3 boys under 6. Trying to breed Texel sheep and Saler cattle. Loves: family, beer and triers.” (Will Case @will_case) Located Ulverston, Cumbria.

• “Husband. Father of 3 little Girls. Arable, Beef & Free Range Egg Farmer. Harper Adams Grad. Welsh Rugby, Test Cricket & LFC fan. History geek & Music lover.” (Will Evans @willpenrievans) Located Bangor-on-Dee, Wrexham, Wales, UK.

• “450 pedigree lleyn sheep. Producing purebred and commercial cross lambs. Fencing, hedge planting, firewood and a bit of arable keep us out of trouble.” (Hawcroft Lleyn @PVickerton) Located East Yorkshire.

• “Husband to the beautiful and talented @scarassem. Mid Wales sheep and beef farmer. Graduate of Aberystwyth Uni. Interested in learning more every day.” (Andrew Meredith @Merry_Meredith) Located Wales.

Seriously, great stuff. (Of course, Gerry noted drily the next morning that I have always had a soft spot for sheep.) Me, I know sheep-with-white-faces and sheep-with-black-faces. That’s pretty much the extent of it. But these guys know their sheep. (And cows.)

Our Stealth Sheep, in front of the kissing gate.

Our Stealth Sheep, in front of the kissing gate.

And there is a lot of, you know, farm-talk (ahem, farming industry) in their tweets:

• Tweet: Asst. manager position available on a progressive and expanding dairy farm, would suit an ambitious and driven person. All RT’s appreciated

• Tweet: Don’t forget it’s #BuyBritishDay on 3rd October pls make that extra effort to buy something produced here in UK #buybritishbrands

• Tweet: We are looking for an assistant shepherd for large sheep flock. Check out http://{etc.} livestock followers please retweet!!

• Tweet: Dear Tesco. Not very nice having your expected profits completely evaporate is it? Yours. UK Farming.

• Tweet: #pretupping continues today. Finishing fluke drenching after positive muck sample and two rams to fertility test #rathemthemthanme #sheep

• Tweet: Lamb freezer packs ready for collection as of Sunday afternoon from #GlenBeary Staffordshires finest lamb also available @EssingtonFarm

… but also a lot of current events—the Scotland referendum, Ryder Cup play, local politics about which I know nothing, ISIS, Emma Watson’s UN #heforshe speech—as well as, well, drinking, football (soccer to some of us), kids, and much more.

So if I still harbored stereotypes—I like to think I didn’t—they were well and truly busted this week. The farmers I met—in person and in Twitter feeds—are educated, smart, outward-looking and forward-thinking … and working the land. Makes me feel like maybe there’s hope for this planet after all.

The Butterfly Garden

We’ve had a very warm and very wet spring, which means everyone’s garden is just sparkling right now. I was reminded of this when I got out to go to the Rutherford County Farmers Market early this morning at the Lane Agri-Park.

First look at the Butterfly Garden in 2014.

First look at the Butterfly Garden in 2014.

It was cool (for June) and a bity rainy, and as I pulled up I noticed the Master Gardeners’ (of Rutherford County) butterfly garden was looking very fresh, so when I was done shopping, I stopped and had a look at what’s going on there.

Looks like they’ve installed rain barrels this year!

Looks like they’ve installed rain barrels this year!

Another rain barrel.

Another rain barrel.

It’s a very pretty tableau.

It’s a very pretty tableau.

I always keep a little snapshot camera in the car for spur-of-the-moment photo ops. So these are just that—snapshots. If I remember, I’d like to come back with one of my Canons.

A friend of mine recently gave me some rue for my birthday, so I was interested to see what’s in store.

A friend of mine recently gave me some rue for my birthday, so I was interested to see what’s in store.

The lacey foliage is very pretty, but it looks like I’ll get some flowers too!

The lacey foliage is very pretty, but it looks like I’ll get some flowers too.

The yarrow is looking lovely.

The yarrow is looking lovely.

Yarrow up close.

Yarrow up close.

This is kniphofia (red hot poker) and Echinacea (coneflower). In the distance another rain barrel, at the site of the vegetable garden.

This is kniphofia (red hot poker) and echinacea (coneflower). In the distance another rain barrel, at the site of the vegetable garden.

I think this is just spectacular.

I think this is just spectacular.

These are a favorite in my garden; they're hardy plants and the flowers are long-lasting when cut for an arrangement.

These are a favorite in my garden; they’re hardy plants and the flowers are long-lasting when cut for an arrangement.

Because I really wasn’t quite awake yet, I failed to get shots of all the ID tags. But I believe this is a pale lavender veronica.

Veronica.

Veronica.

Dill.

Dill.

Shasta daisies.

Shasta daisies.

Phlox.

Phlox.

Phlox.

Phlox.

Asciepias tuberosa (was also labeled “butterfly weed”).

Asciepias tuberosa (was also labeled “butterfly weed”).

Another project on this site is a rain garden, which was implemented last year. I didn’t know what I was looking at, so I didn’t walk out there …

But you can see it in the distance, beyond the red bushes.

But you can see it in the distance, beyond the red bushes.

So pretty!

So pretty!

I have seen small weddings, receptions, even private dinners and photo shoots held here at the little pavilion. It’s a pretty view overlooking a pond.

View from the pavilion. Can you see the duck and her ducklings (lower left)?

View from the pavilion. Can you see the duck and her ducklings (lower left)? Remember, you can click on the image to enlarge, then click again to zoom in.

Here’s a closeup. The ducklings were headed for the swampy area (we’ve had a lot of rain, but this area isn’t always submerged) and became difficult to pick out.

Here’s a closeup. The ducklings were headed for the swampy area (we’ve had a lot of rain, but this area isn’t always submerged) and became difficult to pick out.

Two males. You can see the raindrops on the water.

Two males. You can see the raindrops on the water.

I really needed to get home to breakfast and work, though, so I took a last look …

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OK, a couple last looks. :)

OK, a couple last looks. 🙂

Oh! The farmers market! Everything looked so good!

Bell peppers, lettuce, yellow squash, cucumbers, and cabbage.

Bell peppers, lettuce, yellow squash, cucumbers, and cabbage.

 

So You Want to Go to Ireland! (Part 7): Eating, Drinking … and Music

This series started with an introduction, and here are parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6.

Now, let’s talk about those to-do categories we skipped earlier, shall we? I haven’t forgotten them.

10 Have a drink in a traditional Irish pub
11 Hear traditional Irish music
18 Shop for uniquely Irish items
19 Enjoy the food

I’m going to put off the post on shopping, since this one has already gotten longish. So let’s discuss food, drink, and music! Here’s a little bit of background that will help when you’re planning your trip.

Traditional Music
What you may be calling Celtic is called traditional in Ireland. “Trad.” More than likely, you’re going to find traditional sessions in a pub—look for signs in pub windows. Don’t look for a stage so you can sit close—the musicians will most likely sit at a table somewhere in the room. If you’re an old fogey like me, do be prepared to stay up late: the musicians won’t show up until after 9:00 or even 10:00 pm.

If you love this music—and who doesn’t!—look for music stores in larger towns, where you can pick up CDs by local musicians to take home.

Public Houses
Ireland is the only place I know that exports its pub culture. You can go just about anywhere in the world—even my little town here in Tennessee—and find an Irish pub. (Authenticity is another story. About a dozen years ago I visited one such establishment in Nashville—now defunct—and was dismayed to find the wait staff dressed in caps and vests and short pants, looking like they’d just stepped out of the 1840s. Oh dear.)

You can search the Web or travel guides for well-known pubs in Ireland, but as far as I’m concerned, you can stop into any pub on your route, enjoy the ambience of the moment, and it will be an authentic experience. In his wonderful book, McCarthy’s Bar: A Journey of Discovery in the West of Ireland, Pete McCarthy has a series of travel rules, the first of which is Never pass a bar with your name on it … and this works for me. 🙂 Tourists have subtly influenced authenticity, though, so the further out you get, the real-er they’ll feel. (No pressure to look like an Irish pub for the tourists, you see.)

Unlike England, where you find pubs with names like Red Lion, Goose and Cloud, or Saracens Head, many Irish pubs are named after the owner or a previous owner. (There are exceptions, of course: the Bleeding Horse and the Confession Box, both long-lived pubs in Dublin, are just two.) A lot of social life happens in pubs—celebrations of all sorts, meet-ups, and general relaxation. We have nothing in the United States that approximates Irish pub culture.

With that in mind, here are a few things you should know:

• Belly up to the bar, there may not be a waiter.
• No need to tip the bartender.
• Don’t run a tab. Drinks are bought (and paid for) in rounds; that is, you buy a round for the entire table. And then someone else does.
• It’s pronounced JEM-i-sun (short e), not JAY-mi-sun.
• Remove your hat, young sir.
• Don’t ask for an Irish Car Bomb or a Black and Tan. Please.

Pubs in the larger cities and towns probably offer food—pub grub—throughout the day. More than likely it will be casual comfort food—soups, stews, hot sandwiches and fries—but some city pubs chase the business lunch crowd with expanded menus; in smaller towns you might be lucky to get a cold sandwich. Still, if you’re on a budget, a pub’s a good place to eat.

The local—a good place to meet new friends!

The local—a good place to meet new friends!

Eating
Let’s talk about what to eat. Don’t worry about “traditional” food and forget any jokes you may have heard about the quality of Irish cuisine. Some of the best meals I’ve had in my life I had in Ireland.

These, then, are the things that will always be good:

• fish and seafood
• lamb
• potatoes
• pork: chops, sausages, bacon
• brown bread
• dairy: cheese, butter, buttermilk
• fresh fruits and vegetables
• soups and stews: Guinness stew
• breakfast: white and black pudding

Some things are just obvious: you are never far from the sea in Ireland, so fish and seafood are fresh, fresh, fresh. By now you’ve seen the sheep everywhere, so it makes sense that the lamb will be good. Pork too—the locavore movement is in full swing here as in the States; the demand for organic and local foodstuffs supports farmers across the nation. Gerry gets delicious sausage from his local butcher, made to the butcher’s family recipe and available nowhere else.

Speaking of pork, be sure to enjoy the “full Irish” breakfast, wherever you find one; pay particular attention to the black and white pudding, which are really coarse sausages stuffed with oats or barley and pork (pig’s blood, in the case of black pudding). Seriously delicious. And the best B&Bs will be patronizing a local butcher for bacon, sausages, and puddings. Yum. Oh, and about breakfast: you’re not going to find a Denny’s or an IHOP in every town, so if you’re not staying in a B&B or otherwise find yourself in need of breakfast some morning and don’t know where to go, step into the local hotel, where the dining room will bring you a pot of tea and a menu right away. 🙂

Potatoes are served with just about everything in Ireland—fried, boiled, mashed, you name it. They are more flavorful than the potatoes you’re used to, so be sure to sample them. A decade ago we stopped at a pub for lunch and I ordered Guinness stew (a favorite of mine, and always a safe bet if you’re looking for comfort food); when the bowl of stew (beef, onions, and carrots swimming in gravy) arrived it was accompanied by a serving bowl of boiled, peeled potatoes. It was explained to me I should add one potato at a time to my stew bowl. Oh my. I felt like I was tasting potatoes for the first time, tasting ur-potatoes. I’ll never forget that meal. (Oh, and don’t you forget that french fries are called chips, and potato chips are called crisps!)

As noted, you can’t go wrong with a Guinness stew. And soup … OMG. Cooks across Ireland are stirring up the most imaginative pots of soup you’ve ever put in your mouth. I still fantasize about that bowl of parsnip and blue cheese I had in Glandore. Great pub food. You’ll also find delicious fried food in pubs—fish-n-chips, for example, and lovely fried chicken.

Parsnip and blue cheese soup with brown bread. OMG.

Parsnip and blue cheese soup with brown bread. OMG.

You can always count on these types of meals to be served with hearty brown bread and butter. By all means, set your diet aside (you’re going to walk it off anyway) and sample the bread, kids. Heaven!

Or put a slab of cheese on that bread. If your’re a cheese-lover like me, you’re going to love your stay in Ireland; artisan cheeses abound. Be sure to order that cheese tray from the dessert menu, or duck into a farm shop or grocer to pick up cheese to snack on later. (If you’re in Dublin, go to Sheridan’s Cheesemongers and they’ll take fine care of you. Try the English Market in Cork.) I could go on and on about this—one of the magic moments you’ll read about in the next post has to do with cheese—but just trust me: try the cheese.

One last thing: give tea a try, even if you’re a coffee drinker. The Irish drink a lot of tea, and they know how to do it right. And for a special treat, you should consider taking in a “high tea” (or call it “afternoon tea”) at an upscale hotel. (This will include sandwiches and baked goods in addition to your teapot full of joy.) We enjoyed this experience at the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin (read about it here) and have already decided to do it again. It was special—and delicious—and it’s a quintessential Irish experience, so you should consider putting it on your itinerary.

Up next: Let’s go shopping!

Worth Getting Out of Bed Early! The Last Saturday Market of 2013

It was 24° when I got up this morning at 6am. That’s darn cold, considering it was in the seventies well into November last year (and we may still have some of those nice days coming). But I hustled into clothes and out the door, because the Saturday Market ends in October … and this is the last Saturday in October.

Actually, I love this time of day—the market opens at 8am—although the light isn’t good for photos. So I did my shopping first. When I got back to the car I looked up at the courthouse—one of my absolute favorite sights in my little town—and realized I had a camera with me. Well, well.

Not your typical view of the courthouse.

Not your typical view of the courthouse.

(Here’s something a little more typical of the views you see of our Greek Revival-style courthouse. It’s a beauty.)

Too chilly for anyone to be sitting in the shade today.

Too chilly for anyone to be sitting in the shade today.

So I walked back around the courthouse park and took a few photos. I love this town.

A yard sale sign does double duty. On the other side it says MUMS.

A yard sale sign does double duty. On the other side it says MUMS.

I don’t know this man’s name, but he is definitely one of my preferred vendors, here at the Saturday Market and at the Rutherford County Farmers Market on Tuesdays and Fridays too.

I don’t know this man’s name, but he is definitely one of my preferred vendors, here at the Saturday Market and at the Rutherford County Farmers Market on Tuesdays and Fridays too.

Lots of pumpkins and apples at the market today.

Lots of pumpkins and apples at the market today.

This is THE Marcy of Marcy Jams (small batch jams and jellies). I am a sucker for fruity things to spread on toast, and have tried a lot of vendors. Marcy is preferred. :)

This is THE Marcy of Marcy Jams (small batch jams and jellies). I am a sucker for fruity things to spread on toast, and have tried a lot of vendors. Marcy is preferred. 🙂

By the way, Marcy has a website; you should check it out.

You’ll see a lot of the Pick Tennessee Products signs. And I do.

You’ll see a lot of the Pick Tennessee Products signs. And I do.

Did you know October is National Pork Month? I didn’t until I went to the Pick Tennessee Products website. My brother and his wife are farmers—Purple Tree Farm, Shelbyville—so that’s another good reason I care passionately about supporting local vendors. It’s my community, y’all.

I come to the square most Saturdays to buy eggs from Rock Hill Road Farm. “The Girls thank you,” they say. :)

I come to the square most Saturdays to buy eggs from Rock Hill Road Farm. “The Girls thank you,” they say. 🙂

Rock Hill Road Farm participates in the Stones River Market, which means I can buy eggs year ’round. So if you’re from the area, you can go here, create an account (which costs nothing) so that you get an email on Sundays, telling you what’s available. Unlike other co-ops, buying clubs, or CSAs where everyone gets the same box of stuff (and you don’t know what you’re getting until you get it), with the Stones River Market you order what you want, in the quantities you want, from the farms you want. The weekly email lists the produce, milled products, fresh flowers, and artisan goods available that week. Then you pick up the products on Wednesdays in downtown Murfreesboro.

Cortney is in the October spirit. I also love love love her jams and sauces.

Cortney is in the October spirit. I also love love love her jams and sauces.

I particularly enjoy the interesting combinations, like peach-brandy jam, and interesting sauces like jalapeño honey mustard and habañero ketchup. Check them out here.

I always wondered …! I think this is brilliant marketing.

I always wondered …! I think this is brilliant marketing.

I buy up fresh blackberries and blueberries in season and pop them right into the freezer. Then I dole them out a handful at a time in breakfast oatmeal and fruit salads. My latest experiment is to roll six berries in individual dough squares (i.e. readymade) with a little raw sugar and bake for twelve minutes at 350°. You could glaze them, I guess, but they never last that long. 🙂

So that was it. There were only about half as many vendors today as there are, say, in July and August. And there were a little fewer than last week. Already I can’t wait for next year! The carillon played the quarter hour (in this case, 8:45am) as I took the last photo.

Another of my favorite views. I can see the tower from the old First United Methodist Church as I approach the square. And that’s a Civil War monument, of course.

Another of my favorite views. I can see the tower from the old First United Methodist Church as I approach the square. And that’s a Civil War monument, of course.

What’d I buy? Oh, good stuff. Some fresh garlic, yellow squash, and bell peppers (I’m in the mood for some stuffed peppers). I just finished my small jar of Marcy’s cherry jam last week, so I bought a big jar to see me through the winter … though Marcy assures me if I run out I should call her. A scone to have with tea when I get home. A dozen of the Girls’ best. And some pumpkin “jam”—though you and I might call it pumpkin butter. I found a recipe in Southern Living for bread pudding that calls for pumpkin, and I think I’m going to make it for Thanksgiving. Maybe for dessert. Maybe for Thanksgiving Day breakfast, to get us in the spirit. We shall see.

My treasure on the last day of the Saturday Market.

My treasure on the last day of the Saturday Market.

Don’t forget, you can zoom in on any photo by clicking, then clicking again. You’ll see.