Saturday, August 29, 2009

Glendive Farm-to-Table market, flea market

Sometimes you have to look carefully, but there it is: tomato jelly, or something equally unusual. It never hurts to ask for a taste, and so I learned that this spicy jelly would be great on toast or (I think) with anything you'd put relish on.

This was a nice little market, with about 15 vendors selling lots of produce, baked goods, and other handmade items like birdhouses, quilts, and ponchos made from denim.

The Crisafulli kids were selling produce out of their garden, and they showed me the varieties of their patty pan squash. Very colorful. Another vendor told me that she poaches eggs in her small ones: hollow out the squash, put some chopped green pepper and onion in the bottom of the hollow, and place an egg on top. Simmer until the egg is cooked, at which time the squash will be cooked, too.

Since the market is sponsored by the Farm-to-Table Co-op, their Western Trail products were available, along with tasty samples of the bread mixes. It really is amazing how good barley can taste in any form -- at the next table (dominated by freshly baked biscotti and coffee), healthy barley sprouts were for sale.

Tomatillos made an appearance, something I haven't seen at any other market.

I chatted with Marvin and Betty Tweet, who run the Green Valley Campground. They raise lots of delicious potatoes in their garden space there.

And providing background music for a perfect morning was a group of musicians, among whom was a reporter (left) on the local paper.

On my way out of town, I stopped at the flea market. Flea markets are always fun to explore, and this one was highly recommended.

Along with the usual glorious collection of "one person's junk, another person's treasure," there were a few edibles, so I am counting this as a farmers market. How much produce or baked goods show up each week varies considerably, but you can generally count on them being there somewhere. Today they were on a neat little cart.

If you are driving by, you can't miss this market -- a groovy bus sits by the side of road urging people to come have a look. Inside the bus is a small wood-burning stove, where vendors have huddled together on cold days.

While I was snapping photos, an even groovier Volkswagen pulled up, hand-painted by the driver, who is seen here wearing a tie-dyed peace shirt. You never know who or what will be at the flea market!

One of the important features of this market is a portable toilet that costs $45 per weekly cleaning. Market manager (aka flea master) Neil Young told me that the $5 table fee is used solely for this expense. Sometimes only a few vendors show up and it's hard to meet the payment. So if you go to this market and use this facility, I suggest making a donation toward the cost.

Neil is a fun person to talk to, so make sure to find him and ask him anything. He is full of stories and ideas about almost everything.

Glendive Farm-to-Table Farmers Market
313 West Valentine
June - September
Saturday, 9 am - noon

Flea Market
From Glendive, 1 1/2 miles north on Highway 16
May to September (sort of)
First and third Saturday, 8 am to 6 pm

Friday, August 28, 2009

Glendive Friday market, Western Trails

The Glendive Friday morning market opens at the sound of a dinner triangle. Originally, the market manager blew a whistle, but one day a small boy decided he could blow a whistle, too, and when customers heard the sound, they descended on the vendors 10 minutes early, causing some chaos.

A strict opening time is observed in order to be fair to everyone. Buyers come early to pick out what they want, so when they hear the triangle, they know exactly where to go. Today you had to make a tough decision if you wanted Lou's bread at one end of the market and tomatoes and corn at the other. Both of these items sold out within minutes. (I opted for the bread, lucky me!)

In fact, everything sells out quickly. Within 20 minutes most of the good stuff was gone, and by 11 o'clock all the vendors were gone. It's an intense hour of shopping, but this tradition has been going on for 18 years, and actual fights rarely break out, the market manager, Maxie, told me.

As at any market there were many stories to be heard. I learned that bacteria can live in honey only a few seconds and so it is good to put on injuries. The man selling honey said he had suggested a cowboy use it on the thumb he burned (and nearly lost) while roping. The skin grew back bright and new after applications of honey.

Lou's Luscious Loaves were featured in a series of articles on market vendors appearing in the Glendive Ranger Review. Lou grinds his own flour and makes 2 dozen loaves each week for the market, using as many local ingredients as possible. People keep telling him to do this full time, but Lou wants to enjoy his retirement years. He does love making bread, though, and is continually experimenting to improve it. His next project is to figure out how to trap the best local yeast to make a sourdough bread to rival San Francisco's. Go, Lou!

Lou showed me how he "hugs" each loaf . . . to get the air out of the bag. A real personal touch that helps the bread stay fresher a bit longer. It might also make it taste better since Lou's secret ingredient seems to be love.

There were all kinds of things for sale at this market . . . even kittens!

I also stopped in at the Farm-to-Table Co-op, where they make Western Trails Food mixes from locally grown grains. This organization has ambitious projects for supporting local farmers and food producers, with profits from Western Trails products helping to support these.

I was lucky to have Peggy show me around the "factory" where the mixes are put together. This consists of several rooms where volunteers help put raw ingredients into storage, create labels, and package the products. These products are continually improved based on customer suggestions. I bought a "Hucklebuddy" pancake mix, made from purple barley, with dried huckleberries stirred in, and complete with a packet of huckleberry syrup. Purple rules!

Glendive Friday Farmers Market
Jaycee West Park
July 10 - October 2
Friday, 10 am - 11 am (or until sold out)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Wibaux market

Here (above) is the Wibaux farmers market a few minutes before opening at 11 am. Verna takes a stand.

Here (below) is the market a few minutes after 11 am. Larry has arrived with his corn.

There was a whole lot more action right after I took this photo, as if a wave of mental telepathy spread out over the town announcing Larry had corn in the trunk of his car. He didn't even have time to unload it. Within 10 minutes every ear was gone, and more people arrived to ask for some. At $2/dozen, it wasn't only the price. People murmured about how delicious his corn is. After he ran out, and at his suggestion, two women followed Larry home so he could pick some for them.

Before he left, Larry showed me how lovely the kernels look, and insisted on showing me his driver's license when I didn't believe he was 91 years old. Farming must keep you young!

I arrived early, having been told it would be a small market but that folks would be setting up around 10 am. So I was there as Verna pulled up in her sedan, set up her TV tray, and laid out her wares. This was her first market and she thought she'd give it a try.

Apart from corn, homemade sauerkraut, pickles, crabapple/ chokecherry syrup, and an assortment of vegetables were for sale this morning. I bought a lemon cucumber that lives up to its name in looks (though the taste was pure cucumber) and two bouquets of flourishing dill -- for a total of 50 cents. Verna considers the market a hobby of sorts since she'll be giving away any leftovers to her children and grandchildren.

Normally there are about 4 vendors at the market, but we decided that everyone must be at the county fair today. I was sorry to miss the baked goods that are often sold other weeks, but I enjoyed talking to Verna and Larry and the many customers who streamed past.

Wibaux (WEE-bo) has a population of about 300 and is located near the North Dakota border. Many Polish people live here, and they are proud of their annual Fourth of July Ski Festival, which honors everyone whose name ends in "ski."

The unique St. Peter's Catholic Church, built in 1895, is a wood-frame structure covered in lava rocks. Another landmark (in my opinion) is the Pony Espresso, whose owner Darlene was told no one would buy fancy lattes in this ranching community. During the first year she was selling as many as 60 cups a day and is still going strong.

St. Peter's Catholic Church

Pony Espresso

Wibaux main street

Back in Glendive, I stopped at the Frontier Gateway Museum, which contains a collection of memorabilia donated by local citizens.

The outside of the building is covered with a mural designed and painted by local high school students, whose teacher also led other classes to create murals elsewhere in town. I was fascinated by many of the items, an eclectic collection indeed, which included things like spats, a mounted white deer, suits of medieval armor, women's hats from the 40s and 50s, photographs, and shells from which pearl buttons had been made.

You might guess that there was also a dinosaur exhibit! One case was helpfully painted with lines depicting eras, with the shelves of items lined up at the right spot.

My suggestion is that when you visit a farmers market, make sure to check around to see if there are any other points of interest in the area. If you plan it right -- and sometimes you can even do this spontaneously -- you can spend a whole day or weekend enjoying the community that supports the market.

Wibaux Farmers Market
In front of the Beaver Creek Brewery
July 2 - September 24
Thursday, 11 am - 1 pm

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Circle market (and lots of dinosaurs!)

Along the Hi-Line and throughout northeast Montana, you will find dinosaurs in all kinds of places. Above is one beside my motel in Circle. When I asked why it was there, I was told that the man who made it just wanted to know if he could do it.

Circle is certainly the kind of town with a sly sense of humor, as highlighted in the town paper's slogan:

But the farmers market is no joke. It's small (4 vendors), but as I stood there at the 9 am opening, a steady stream of customers chatted and bought lots of produce. There was also blackberry jelly (and other flavors) and peaches (read more about the peach guy at the Glasgow market). When the Hutterites arrived, baked goods made their welcome appearance.

cherokee beans


smiles and peaches

After getting a simple recipe for rhubarb bread pudding, I headed to Glendive, where I will stay until I've visited the Wibaux market and the two Glendive markets.

Glendive has 3 dinosaur museums!

The one with the most impressive entrance has to be the Glendive Dinosaur and Fossil Museum. There's a fierce-looking T-Rex busting out!

This is a new museum and has really great-looking displays and videos that are worth spending at least half a day looking at. I watched a video on dragons -- totally cool! They'll stamp your hand so you can go out to lunch if you want to spend the whole day.

Right up front (literally) they'll explain that they do not believe in the theory of evolution, and each display will explain why. It's an education for anyone, if you can keep an open mind. But as I say, it's worth just looking at the exhibits without any explanation at all.

You will see Noah's Ark with dinosaurs wandering around it, a sight that may well be worth the price of admission all on its own. According to their idea, Noah took small young dinosaurs onboard.

I had plenty of questions and the museum curator answered them all, at least as far as I'm able to understand at this point.

In my opinion they have the best things for sale in their gift shop of any place I've been. You can even buy dino feet shoes!

back side of Noah's Ark, with dinosaurs

make your own dinosaur tracks

Next I drove to Makoshika State Park. Describing or even showing a photo of this place is like trying to describe the smell of a rose, but I can say it is magnificent. My favorite spot was Eyeful Vista, which comes complete with a bench so you can enjoy the view as long as you want. My only worry about staying there too long was a vulture circling overhead. There was a nice breeze for him to float on, but still, it's a big park, so why that particular spot?

At the visitors center, there is a small museum that will get larger as they obtain more funds. My favorite display showed a miniature dig.

Back in town I went to the Makoshika Dinosaur Museum, not related to the park. The word makoshika (mah-KO-shikka) is a Lakota word for "badlands." There are a number of explanations as to why this area was called that, but the one that makes sense to me is that it is dry and barren even of many animals, and so the Indians avoided it as being unlivable.

This museum is a work in progress and creates just the right exotic, mysterious atmosphere the second you walk in. As an example, to watch their video, I had to sit on a bench behind a fern plant. The photo below is bad, out of focus, and just plain scary, but it gives you an idea of the place.

I do recommend this museum, with the caveat that you understand the video is an hour and a half long (!). It is informative and clearly describes each major dinosaur type. But keep in mind there are over 500 genera of dinosaurs that have been discovered to date! I only watched for half an hour so I don't know how many they actually covered.

Circle Farmers Market
Exxon building on Highway 200
July 29 - September 19
Wednesday, 9 am - noon