Sunday, August 29, 2010

Tizer Gardens tea

Near Jefferson City -- about 20 miles south of Helena -- is an unusual botanical garden. Located in a mountainous area surrounded by evergreens, Tizer Botanic Gardens offers a series of events throughout the summer. I attended a High Tea (in fact, an Afternoon Tea) with a friend and her children.

Like all great teas, this one consisted of three courses of bite-sized tidbits that didn't look like they'd make an adequate meal but were in fact quite filling.

Savory sandwiches

Tasty scones with mouthwatering lemon curd

The dessert plate

While we ate, harp music filled the air.

Everyone was dressed up, including one lovely woman who decorated her own hat. She was celebrating an important birthday: hers.

Before tea was poured, Belva, one of the owners of the garden and our hostess, gave us a tour. With 28 places to explore, there is a corner of the garden for everyone. I couldn't take photos of everything, so you'll have to visit to see for yourself. Picnics are welcome.

Prickly Pear Creek

Vegetable patch with scarecrow

A corner of the herb garden

On Tonka Bridge

A place to rest

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Belgrade: beautiful vegetables

It was nice to spend a warm afternoon wandering through a small market that has lots of vegetables.

The Belgrade farmers market began only a few weeks ago and averages 10 to 12 vendors (there were 11 today), but there is a nice selection of things to buy.

Nonedibles included soap that filled the air with fragrance, hand sewn and crocheted items, and jewelry.

Amaltheia Organic Dairy offered samples of their fabulous goat cheeses.

Freshly grilled steak sandwiches were available, at just the right moment for hungry customers not quite ready to head home.

And, best of all, a beautiful assortment of vegetables. Two farms brought table-loads of produce, but you could also find a few lovely greens lying near cookies and brightening the goat cheese display.

Belgrade Farmers Market
Clarkin Park, front of Lee & Dad’s IGA,
at Jackrabbit Lane and Madison Avenue
August 12 - October 7
Thursday, 4 pm - 7 pm

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Blue skies in Big Sky

It was a beautiful sunny day for the afternoon farmers market in Big Sky. During winter, this resort area is swarming with energetic skiiers and snowboarders, but in summer, a lazy kind of insouciance predominates. There are plenty of energetic hikers enjoying numerous trails, but by the time they reach the market, they slow down.

It's time to enjoy looking at art, sip freshly squeezed lemonade or cold beer, and choose something to make for dinner (beef, lamb, vegetables, homebaked bread), put on the table (bouquets of sweet peas or sunflowers), or wear to a fancy restaurant (alpaca sweaters or tops).

Only a quarter of the vendors sell edible products. But you'll find plenty to eat, including cinnamon rolls, gluten-free baked goods, iced sugar cookies, Red Hen Preserves, meats, produce like beans, peas, and zucchini, and hot prepared dishes.

Boy (helping his mom buy beef and pointing to photo of cow grazing on ranchland): I want that one.
Rancher: I'm sorry, we've already eaten that one.

If you like art, you'll see some of the finest in the area. I enjoyed learning about the flattened bottles that were displayed as cheese boards. Courtney calls her business Fresh Squeezed ("Turning lemons into lemonade") and is on a quest to find as many uses as she creatively can for recycled materials. Along with reforming bottles, she has made attractive glass bracelets and glass tablecloth weights.

The llamas from Manhattan are fun to pet, and they also supplied the wool for handspun yarn and soft, warm, non-itchy clothing.

Other fun, practical items for sale included these darling tote bags made by a proud and happy vendor who calls her business "I Kissed a Toad."

Unlike a store, no two markets will offer the same merchandise, so do visit to see what's available next time.

Fire Pit Park, Big Sky Town Center
July 7 - September 1
Wednesday, 5 pm - 8 pm

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Hysham market

New in 2010, the Hysham market is a family affair, with children running everywhere and lots of cookies and cupcakes and bite-size tomatoes and other treats just right for eating out of hand. With only a weekly average of 4 vendors, there's still lots to look at.

Some markets may close when the weather gets rough, but this market goes inside or out. Today, as rain pelted down, vendors took refuge in the firehouse. There was plenty of room for both emergency vehicles and a small farmers market.

You'll have to excuse today's photos. I'm not used to taking them indoors, and so they seem to go between being blurry and over- or under-exposed. But take delight in what I saw.

Bright candles and beautiful etchings . . .

Delicious baked goods . . .

Lots of mouthwatering produce and jellies and syrups and relish . . .

Take time to visit this special little market.

And if you're wondering what there is to do in tiny Hysham, you can visit a museum or eat at the cafe or bar, or fish or take a walk at Hawreys Island just west of town. Or stroll around looking at statues made by a local artisan. There are a lot of statues! How many can you count?

Hysham Farmers Market
300 block of Elliott Avenue
May 22 - September 25
2nd & 4th Saturday, 9 am - 1 pm

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Setting up a market

If you arrive after the opening bell at a farmers market, you might get the impression that it is like a supermarket, with everything set out for everyone to look at and enjoy.

But consider that vendors arrive at the market at least 1 hour early each week to set up. That doesn't count the hours they spent even earlier in the day gathering together their goods, loading them into their car or truck, and then driving to the market. Then think about the vendors at the end of the day, repacking goods that didn't sell and taking them home again.

And besides all that, they must stand or sit at their booth for the duration of the market, chatting with customers or watching noncustomers walk by.

It's a whole lot of work being a market vendor.

Today I arrived an hour early to watch the Billings Wednesday market get going. There is an average of 10 vendors each week. Today I saw: 3 Hutterite colonies selling vegetables, bread, and canned items; 2 Asian hot-food vendors; kettle corn; take-and-bake pie (free samples -- yum!); and assorted produce, including cherries, peppers, and cucumbers.

The evening market begins with cars being towed to clear the market area.

Then the vendors move in. It's well-orchestrated choreography, with downtown city traffic amazingly patient.

Then the booths and awnings go up.

Gradually, customers appear, and the market is underway.

Yellowstone Valley Wednesday Farmers Market
Broadway, under the Skypoint
August 4th - 25th
Wednesday, 4 pm - 8 pm
Note: Vendors start selling as soon as set up; hot food ready about 4:30 pm.