Saturday, September 24, 2011

Farmers market bash

Big Timber was rockin' today during the Montana Farmers Market Season's End Bazaar and Concert.

Welcoming you at the door was Basha, whose smile is as big as the state of Montana. In the photo she is holding a heaping helping of her hospitality, which in this case was a yummy pile of nachos with all the fixings.

Basha was solely responsible for this extravaganza. Oh, she had help from local merchants, who donated door prizes, and of course no market is complete without vendors. But this event was Basha's idea. Plus, she made the nachos, set up the chairs, coordinated the vendors and entertainers, made the signs, placed advertising, and all in all created a wonderful atmosphere of joy.

When Basha does something, she throws her whole heart and soul into it. No wonder everyone who came had fun.

This was foremost a celebration of farmers markets -- the event poster put up around town invited people to "Meet your favorite market vendor!" Thus, when people entered the auditorium today they first saw a montage of market photos taken throughout several seasons. I supplied many photos, but Basha did all the creative work.

There were only three vendors. But size isn't everything. Enthusiasm counts for a lot. (Think of the Wibaux farmers market.)

The first vendor I talked to came from Livingston with handmade blankets and hair decorations. Sandra, in business as Bo Blankets LLC, described how she carefully chooses coordinating fleecy fabrics, hand-ties the knots, and creates charming care tags from the fabric scraps. Some scraps also brighten up headbands and pony tail elastics. I bought a large blanket and expect to be very warm this winter!

Tom and his wife, Melanie, offered made-in-Montana items they buy at discount and often refurbish. There were a lot of things to look at on their tables, but this belt studded with beer bottle caps particularly caught my eye. There was definitely something for everyone!

And, lucky for everyone who came, Riza made an appearance with samples of her Tumblewood Teas.

New flavors have arrived: Chico Cherry (rooibos tea with natural flavors), Paradise Valley (black tea with real vanilla bean pieces), and Mountain Mint Chocolate, a black pu'erh with bits of spearmint and peppermint leaves, as well as chocolate shavings, which make up a rich tea that could replace an afternoon pick-me-up candy bar. I'm just sayin'.

My favorite new blend was Montana Almond Joy, green tea (which makes it especially smooth), along with almond slices and coconut shavings (see photo below). Riza has served this blend as a mocha latte and plans to convince a Big Timber coffee shop to offer this latte, too. Now that will draw in a lot of customers, I'm sure!

When you see Riza at a farmers market, first taste the tea, but then look for other items she sells to help make the tea-drinking experience more pleasant. She has glass teapots and cups, wool cup cozies (which may soon be made from alpaca), and much more. As her sign indicates, the "tumblebees" of Sweet Grass County are very busy helping to supply her customers with honey.

And last but by no means least, while shopping, customers enjoyed a free concert, featuring Dave Christensen, who delighted the audience with foot-tapping songs . . .

cowboy poet June Elges, who started out with a sober-minded poem (not written by her) as a memorial to the victims of 9/11, but then had everyone laughing with hilarious descriptions of ranch life (Ranchin' Grandma, who helps her grandson round up a bull; Doc's Advice, wherein a ranch woman spends the day chasing sheep, calving, and fixing a fence, but then worries that she didn't have time to take her doctor's advice to get on that treadmill to get some exercise; and Horse Sense, which describes June's granddaughter when she was first asked to herd sheep in fog) . . .

and Basha herself, a talented musician who delights Big Timber every time she sings.

A good time was had by all.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Go figure: these clay animals are delightful

When you are at farmers markets be sure to watch for -- and buy from -- young entrepreneurs. They might be selling homemade cookies or homegrown vegetables. Some will be budding artists. All of them will be eager to talk about their products.

Eleven-year-old Emma Phipps is a particularly talented artist, who has created a collection of clay figurines that will delight anyone.

You can buy individual sculptures, which are about 2 to 3 inches high, but they are available in several groupings. Emma's wildlife set includes a moose, deer, elk, antelope, bear, and, upon request, buffalo. Her country set comprises a pig, cow, horse, and cowboy. And many varieties of cats of course form their own independent group.

Although you won't see them displayed at farmers markets, Emma also creates oil and acrylic paintings and especially enjoys using watercolors: "I love watercolor because it blends so easily, and you can do lovely skies."

For a 4-H project, she recently made a large (5-inch) Chinese dragon. Her general entrepreneurial endeavors can also be applied toward 4-H experience.

Emma has been forming these adorable figures since she was old enough, at age four, to play with the clay she makes them with. She learned the technique from her mother, Lynn, whose own style, which she calls the Funny Farm, is more whimsical. Says Lynn: "Emma definitely has her own style."

Homeschooled on a ranch 19 miles north of Reed Point, Emma sells at farmers markets throughout the area: Absarokee, Big Timber, Columbus, Red Lodge, and sometimes Billings. You can also find her at the Reed Point Sheep Drive over Labor Day weekend, where she sells sheep figures in keeping with the general theme of the event.

In addition, Emma does special orders for the same price as her ready-made figures.

To find Montana farmers markets, visit Yummy Montana.

PS --It's Saturday, September 24, and I have a couple of new photos of things Emma made.

First was a special order of unicorns (not for me, unfortunately!). Aren't they neat?

Then, a special order for me: figures of my cats. First, the real ones.

Now, the clay ones. Can you tell them apart from the real ones? :) They are made to be grouped together like this, but they can also stand as separate figures. I love them! Thanks, Emma!