Saturday, September 19, 2009

Camping, Farmer's Market, Fall

Yesterday around 4, I drove out of town for my annual girls camping trip. Every autumn for the last thirteen years or so, two close friends of mine from college days and I usually meet for a tenting overnight. This year only two of us could go. We set up our tent, hiked along a fall-foliaged river, and proudly built our own roaring fire. Food cooked over a campfire is delicious! This year, we cooked chicken, fresh green peppers from my neighbor, and purple onions wrapped in tinfoil over hot red embers. Drizzled in Italian dressing and fragrantly-crushed dry herbes de provence, it was moist and savory. It was dark by the time we grabbed our plates and settled onto the wooden picnic table to watch the fire. Marshmallows and chocolate smores were my next indulgence.

The next morning, we folded up the tent and drove to our traditional coffeeshop in town. Regulars hailed each other by name and swapped crossword puzzle clues over round tables. We bought our brew and headed out back to the flowery garden. I grinned at a small wooden sign next to the cash register that read, "Unaccompanied children will be served espresso and sent home with a new puppy."

Later on the way home, I stopped by my favorite small town farmer's market. Eight or nine stalls huddle together in a semi-circle. Balsawood honey was being sold by an older man and his wife next to a poster of various honey types and colors from around the nation, with a sign that said "Free honey recipes with purchase." A backed up pick up truck full of sweet corn was next with a simple scrawled handwritten note about freezing your fresh corn. Apparently water, salt and a bit of sugar are all that is needed.

"It's 50 cents for that basket of cherry tomatoes?" I ashed a cheerful young woman. "Yep, and if you say please I'll throw in the other basket as well!" she sang out. "Really?" I ran to get my money from the van. Walking down the circle, I saw green cardboard boxes of dusty crimson beets, taut red tomatoes, and dewey bunches of basil. I asked for advice about native prairie grasses, sampled a new variety of apple, and smiled to myself at the simple joy of being outside and seeing so many fresh vegetables and flowers.

One flower stall drew me back a few times, because of the beauty of her arrangements. "Feel free to say no," I said, after buying some flower bulbs from her, "but can I just take a picture of your site? It's so lovely." She agreed. Here it is. I walked away after some suggestions on how to winter my new bearded iris flower bulbs, hopped into my green van and drove home, biting into juicy cherry tomatoes.

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