honey sweetened currant syrup // Wayward Spark

As promised (better late than never), I’m going to talk a little about what I did with all those beautiful Ribes specimens from the Germplasm Repository.

Last year, I cooked up a heckuva lot of jam and jelly, and though I have so far made a pretty impressive effort to eat and give away a fair amount of my 2013 stash, I still have quite a bit left. When faced with a big ol’ bowl of weird and wonderful fruits a couple weeks ago, I decided that I didn’t really want to make it into jam. Instead, I turned toward beverages and then pie, like you do.

(If you are interested in making currant jam, my go-to preserver, David Lebovitz, has recipes for red currant jam and black currant jam.)

black currants

I did up the black currants first using this method:

Black Currant Liquid Concentrate

Rinse the fruit.

Throw it in a pot with a splash of water, and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, and cook the fruit until the skins burst, about 10 minutes.

Run the mixture through a basic food mill to remove the stems, skins, and some of the seeds.

Let the liquid cool down a bit, and then add honey to taste. (Cooling off the liquid before adding the sweetener preserves the raw-ness of the honey.)

honey sweetened black currant syrup // Wayward Spark

I’ve never tasted Ribena, a black currant-based beverage popular in the UK, Canada, and other countries, but Henry and I  have been really enjoying our homemade black currant drink. It’s just black currant concentrate mixed with water, but somehow the tartness of the black currants makes it a thirst-quenching powerhouse.

Simply add 1/2 to 1 cup of black currant liquid concentrate to a half-gallon jar and fill the rest with cold water. Top with a water-tight lid and give the mixture a good shake. Strain into glasses with or without ice, and enjoy immediately.

red currants // Wayward Spark

I did up the red currants and white/pink currants the same way as the black currants, but the end syrup wasn’t nearly as thick nor quite so seedy as the black currant concentrate.

honey sweetened red currant syrup // Wayward Sparkwhite currants // Wayward Sparkhoney sweetened white currant syrup // Wayward Sparkred currant switchel recipe // Wayward Spark

Our new favorite way to consume the red and white currant syrup is in a spin on the American traditional beverage called switchel. Switchel is a drink with wide variability, but it usually contains some kind of vinegar (usually cider vinegar), some kind of sweetener (usually molasses or honey), and ginger (either fresh or ground).

This summer, we’ve been trying keep a jar of switchel mixture in the fridge at all times for easy refreshment. The Kitchn has a basic switchl recipe here, but here’s our take:

Red Currant Switchel

fresh ginger
cider vinegar
red currant concentrate (optional)
lemon wedges for garnish (optional)

Use a microplane grater to grate a couple tablespoons of fresh ginger (no need to peel it first) into a bowl. Add the grated ginger, several tablespoons of honey, and 1/2 to 1 cup of cider vinegar to a glass jar. Top the jar with a water-tight lid, and give it a good shake. Let this mixture sit in the refrigerator for at least two hours or up to two weeks.

To mix a switchel drink, spoon a few tablespoons of the switchel mixture and a few tablespoons of red currant concentrate (if desired) into a quart jar and fill it the rest of the way up with water. Top it with a water-tight lid, and give it a good shake. Taste it to see if it needs more switchel mixture, red currant concentrate, vinegar, honey, or water. Strain the liquid into ice-filled glasses. Garnish with lemon wedges if desired. Serve and enjoy.

gooseberries // Wayward Spark

black caps // Wayward Spark

Shortly after my visit to the Germplasm Repository, I made another trip out to Red Barn Berry Farm to pick boysenberries and other blackberry crosses to freeze for winter pies, jams, and such. At the U-pick farm, there was a short row of black cap canes that was loaded with fruit. It took a good long while to pick a whole bowl full because they’re so small, but the reward was pretty sweet.

black caps // Wayward Sparkgooseberry-blackcap pie // Wayward Spark

I decided that the perfect way to use up the rest of the gooseberries from the Germplasm Repository and the über-special black caps was to make a colossal deep-dish, lattice-topped, barbecue-baked skillet pie. The result was a sweet-tart mess of fruity, buttery-crusted goodness.

Gooseberry-Black Cap Skillet Pie Baked in a Barbecue

a batch of double-crust pie dough (I will forever and always use Heidi Swanson/Chez Pim’s Flakey Rye Crust.)
gooseberries, de-stemmed and rinsed
black caps, rinsed
brown sugar
white flour
runny apricot jam (optional)

Preheat the barbecue with several fire brick on the grill and preferably this Lodge cast iron pizza pan or other insulating device on top. (Photo of this arrangement here.)

Roll out the bottom crust of pie dough and line a cast iron skillet with it.

In a large bowl, stir together gooseberries, black caps, a healthy dose of brown sugar, and a few tablespoons of flour. Dump the mixture into the bottom crust. There should be enough filling so that it’s mounded up over the edge of the skillet in the middle.

Roll out and arrange the top crust in a lattice (optional). (Yossy has a good latttice-crust tutorial here.) Brush the top crust with runny apricot jam for extra browning if desired.

Load the skillet into the preheated barbecue. Bake on medium for about an hour until the pie juices start to run over. If you basted the crust with apricot jam, it will darken up fairly quickly, but that’s just the sugars caramelizing not the crust burning, so don’t worry unless things start to smell bad.

Cool, serve, and enjoy.

gooseberry-black cap pie // Wayward Spark



red currants // Wayward Spark

The USDA National Clonal Germplasm Repository in Corvallis, Oregon maintains, among other things, the world collection of Ribes cultivars as well as their wild counterparts. The genus Ribes includes currants, gooseberries, and jostaberries (a black currant-gooseberry cross). Ribes species are native to the Northern Hemisphere, and in cooler, shorter-growing-season climates such as Canada, the United Kingdom, Northern Europe, and Russia, black currants have been especially prevalent in cuisine and culture through the ages. While the collection in Corvallis may not contain every Ribes variety known to humanity, it comes pretty darn close with rows and rows filled with hundreds of bushes.

Nine germplasm repositories in the US are publicly-funded operations with a mandate to preserve and protect clonal plant materials for the benefit of farmers and citizens around the world. The folks working at the repository farms in Corvallis spend most of their time doing routine orchard work (planting, irrigating, pruning, weeding, grafting, etc.), but they also dedicate a portion of their time to documenting yeild, vigor, disease resistance, cold hardiness, and other characteristics of the different varieties, and they work to educate researchers, farmers, and the general public in small and large groups.

The living plant material stored in these collections is available worldwide in the event of a disease outbreak or harsh-weather die off that leaves farmers in need of stock to replant economically and culturally significant food crops. It’s also a great resource for folks that want to revive heirloom varieties of crops. In fact a couple weeks ago, an organic farmer spent a few hours touring and tasting the Ribes collection in an effort to identify varieties that might be viable for the local market.

red currant bush // Wayward Spark

I’ve visited the Corvallis repository twice before in the fall to admire and pick quince (see archived posts here and here), but I hadn’t ever see the Ribes collection in it’s full, fruiting glory. Last week was probably the height of the season for most of the plants, so I called up my friend and neighbor, Joseph Postman, who’s a plant pathologist at the facility, and he graciously met me at the gate and gave me a quick tour of the collection.

The rows were organized by type: ornamentals, jostaberries, gooseberries, red currants, white currants, black currants, and wild species (that I didn’t get a chance to photograph because the bushes were being irrigated). There were usually three bushes of each cultivar with a marker that provides the variety name, geographic origin, and other information. The diversity even among bushes in the same broad categories was staggering.

world collection of currants and gooseberries at the USDA National Clonal Germplasm Repository // Wayward Sparkthe world collection of gooseberries and currants at the USDA National Clonal Germplasm Repository // Wayward Sparkred currants // Wayward Sparkred currants // Wayward Spark

My parents have a couple of red currant bushes in their yard that have never really amounted to much, so when I saw plants in the Ribes collection with huge, dangly, pearly strands of fruit, my eyes about popped out of my head. Obviously, these varieties must have been bred over the years to enhance the currant clusters for easier, more efficient harvest.

My favorite of the red currants was ‘Tatran’ because of it’s long, fruity dangles and beautiful, large, almost purplish leaves.

red currants // Wayward Spark

There were also plenty of bushes that only had a few currants hanging on each little thread of a stem, the kind that would take a good long while to accumulate a decent amount.

red currants // Wayward Sparkpink currants // Wayward Sparkwhite currants // Wayward Sparkblack currants // Wayward Spark

Black currants were new to me. As Joseph and I wandered through the many rows full of these dark beauties, we sampled quite a few. I really wish I had a finer palette and/or a better flavor vocabulary because try as I might, I couldn’t find the words to describe that black currant taste. (Some of you have probably tried the black currant-based beverage called Ribena that’s apparently popular in northern parts of North America and Europe.) Texture-wise, black currants are much meatier and less moist than their red and white cousins.

black currants // Wayward Sparkgiant black currants // Wayward Spark

I didn’t document which variety this bush was, but the fruits were huge!

gooseberries // Wayward Spark

The gooseberries in the collection came in many different colors (wine, blush, pale green, and overripe yellowish), shapes (perfectly round to elongated watermelons), and sizes (smaller than a dime to bigger than a quarter). Some of the fruits were spiked with visible little “hairs”, and others appeared to be totally smooth.  Some of the bushes were adorned with really gnarly thorns.

gooseberries // Wayward Sparkgooseberries // Wayward Sparkgooseberries // Wayward Sparkgooseberries // Wayward Sparkgooseberries and currants // Wayward Spark

Joseph let me pick more or less whatever I wanted, so I spent about an hour gathering a little of this and a little of that. In the end, my big bowl was nothing if not colorful. I’ll be posting more about what I cooked up with this bounty soon.

gooseberries and currants // Wayward Spark

The USDA Clonal Germplasm Repository in Corvallis is having an open house on Thursday, July 17, 2014 from 1-4 pm during which time anyone can tour and sample their way through the world collection (!) of blueberry cultivars. Sounds pretty great, right? I would love to be there, but I’ll be embarking on a road trip the next day, so I’m not sure if I’ll be able to swing it. For more information about the open house or anything else, feel free to call the front desk 541-738-4200.


clary sage // Wayward Spark

Henry has contracted with growers to do a handful of local crop pollinations this year (blueberries for Radke’s Blueberries and Gibson Farms plus raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries for Sunset Valley Organics), but the one crop pollination that he’s been most excited about is clary sage. Clary sage is known for its medicinal properties and for its usefulness in cosmetics, and the purple or white blooms can be seen in fields around the Willamette Valley.

Mike Hathaway is a young grass seed and filbert farmer in Corvallis, Oregon (more about Mike in this article in the local newspaper), and he’s growing a small field of clary sage for the first time this year. Henry knows Mike from their college days when they were both studying agriculture. They’ve crossed paths a few times over the years and have chatted about beekeeping, so when Mike needed bees for pollination for the first time (grass seed and filberts are both wind pollinated), he gave Henry a call.

Henry moved several pallets of bees to the edge of the field around Memorial Day just as the sage started to bloom. The photos in this post were taken on June 22 when the bloom was on the decline. In the month prior, the bees worked the clary sage pretty hard, but they also probably brought in nectar and pollen from nearby hairy vetch and blackberries.

clary sage field // Wayward Sparkclary sage honeybee pollination // Wayward Sparkpulling frames of clary sage honey with Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

As the clary sage bloom died down, Henry wanted to pull frames of honey in order to keep this varietal batch separate from the later season valley nectar flows. Unlike the frames containing our earlier varietals, these frames of honey were mostly capped already, and because he knew the end result would only be four or five buckets of honey, he decided to extract on-site.pulling frames of clary sage honey with Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Sparkpulling frames of clary sage honey with Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

Full frames of honey are too heavy to shake to remove the bees, so Henry used a special beekeeping brush to sweep them off the frames he wanted to extract.

pulling frames of clary sage honey with Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Sparkclary sage honeybee pollination with Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

Mike the grower, came out to help and stayed the whole time. He was very curious to learn more about both honeybee pollination and honey extraction. Mike and his wife are big honey fans, and he actually traded 100 pounds of filberts in-shell with us for honey last fall. We’re still working our way through the filberts, but Mike and his wife had eaten all their honey and were ready for more.

clary sage honeybee pollination // Wayward Sparkpulling frames of clary sage honey with Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

Henry pulled any frames from the top box of each hive that had capped honey.

clary sage // Wayward Sparkextracting clary sage honey on-site with Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

We have a four-frame, hand-crank extractor that can be set up on the back of Henry’s flatbed truck. It’s not ideal, but it’s pretty efficient for small-batch extractions, and we had a hand washing station there as well to keep things as clean as possible. With farm-direct laws in Oregon, honey sold direct to consumers does not necessarily need to be extracted in a licensed facility. We do, however, hold ourselves to a high standard of sanitation when working on this messy task.

extracting honey with Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Sparkhoney extraction // Wayward Spark

Extracting on-site works pretty well when there’s still a lot of nectar resources available for bees. We hardly noticed the few bees buzzing around the truck. Later in the season when food is scarce, bees will actively rob any honey they can find and are significantly more aggressive. An operation like this would be a honeybee mob scene in another month.

One of the biggest benefits of extracting on-site is that the wets (empty or nearly empty frames of extracted comb) can go immediately back into the hives to be refilled with incoming nectar. Because he’s been focusing on increasing his number of hives for the past couple years, Henry doesn’t have a surplus of frames of drawn comb. Swapping full frames of honey out for frames with only foundation can slow honey production because the bees have to draw comb before they can fill it.

extracting clary sage honey on-site with Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

We also got a little help from the kids.

Old Blue Raw Honey's clary sage honey // Wayward Spark

The resulting honey (unfiltered in the photo above) is light in color and bright in flavor. We STILL haven’t bottled any for sale yet, but we’ll be getting there soon.

Mike is planning on growing a much larger field of clary sage next summer, so hopefully, Henry and his bees will be back out here a year from now.


dandelion greens  // Wayward Spark

Boy, the Corvallis Saturday Farmers’ Market sure is getting pretty. After taking a bunch of photos, I was even tempted into buying a cabbage, some carrots, a couple onions, two packs of bratwurst (from Northwest Natural Beef because they’re super nice), and a few kohlrabis. I’m kind of a kohlrabi evangelist. On Saturday afternoon, I was trying to explain to some friends that kohlrabi should be everyone’s favorite vegetable because it’s so crisp, sweet, and delicious, but they weren’t too convinced. “It’s just like broccoli stem!” I insisted, but apparently, not everyone is as into broccoli stems as I am. Ugh. I can’t get enough of that stuff.

I know the posting around these parts has been a little light lately, but I’ve got a couple of bee/farm-y topics in the Wayward Spark pipeline that I’m really looking forward to sharing with you. Now I just have to find the time and motivation to write them up at the end of these long, full days.

cherries // Wayward Spark beets // Wayward Spark cherry tomatoes // Wayward Spark

Corvallis Farmers' Market // Wayward Spark

kohlrabi // Wayward Spark

Corvallis Farmers' Market // Wayward Spark

Corvallis Farmers' Market // Wayward Spark

basil // Wayward Spark

mushrooms // Wayward Spark

Corvallis Farmers' Market // Wayward Spark

berries at the Corvallis Farmers' Market // Wayward Spark

kale // Wayward Spark

Corvallis Farmers' Market // Wayward Spark

tomatoes // Wayward Spark

zucchini // Wayward Spark

berries at the farmers' market // Wayward Spark

padron peppers // Wayward Spark

blueberries // Wayward Spark

broccoli // Wayward Spark

garlic // Wayward Spark


{this moment}

June 27, 2014 · 1 comment

Wayward Spark

{this moment} A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, moment. ~ Amanda Soule

**inspired by Soule Mama’s (and Erin of Floret‘s) Friday reflections

{ 1 comment }

blueberries // Wayward Spark

Ahhh…It’s blueberry season again. I feel a little guilty, like I’m cheating on my beloved Radke’s Blueberries, but I was getting desperate for fresh fruit that the kids and I headed to Anderson’s Blues on Aboretum Road in North Corvallis. Anderson’s is a pretty huge U-pick place with many different varieties of berries from early to late, small to big. Yesterday, we worked on ‘Earliblue’ bushes that were positively loaded with fruit for super easy picking.

The thing that amazed and delighted me most about this foraging expedition was that my kids, ages 4 1/2 and 6 1/2, actually picked more berries into their buckets than into their mouths for the first time ever. I’ve been waiting for this day for a long, long time. I was talking to my mom yesterday, and we started rehashing all the U-pick trips we took together when my kids were little. We’d have to take turns doing stroller laps around the farms to keep crying babies appeased for just a little longer, and as they got a older, we’d pack bags full of toys and snacks to entertain them while we attempted to fill up our buckets. This new productive, non-whiney phase is such a welcome development. Between the two of them, they picked over five pounds in about an hour, and then they played nicely for another hour while I kept picking. We brought home about 25 pounds total, which should mostly tide us over until Radke’s opens in a couple weeks.

Even though my kids were being awesome, I had a moment of frustration when some random adult pickers failed to adhere to basic U-pick etiquette by deciding that the best place to start their harvest was five feet down the row from me when they had acres and acres of bushes to choose from. I guess some people are just never gonna get it. Otherwise, it was a great morning, so if you’re in the area, now’s the time. Happy picking!


chard at Oven & Earth Farm // Wayward Spark

I snapped a few photos of my parents huge garden/small farm on Saturday. It’s kinda fun to compare them with this post from almost exactly a year ago. My mom has almost everything planted, and my dad’s been attacking the robust, early-summer weeds. Unlike last year, I’ve barely helped out at all this spring, so I can’t take any credit for the beauty. The kids and I have, however, been taking advantage of the first ripening peas, those gorgeous heads of butter lettuce, and some plump zucchinis.

On April 7, my mom was rushing through some landscaping in a parking lot, trying to get to her volunteer shift on time when she tripped, put her hand out to break her fall on the sidewalk, and broke a small but important bone in her left hand (the scaphoid). She’s had her forearm in a cast for over two months since, and though she’ll hopefully get out of it soon, the whole experience has put quite a damper on her busy schedule. Though many of her usual activities (baking, swimming, rowing) have been off the table, she’s been making an impressively good show of gardening one-and-a-half handed. I mowed my parents’ lawn about once a week for six weeks (which takes about 3 1/2 hours to get through it all and according to the pedometer app on my phone is between 10 and 11 miles of walking), but my mom is insisting on doing it herself again now that her hand is healed enough not to hurt when jarred by the mower. She is one tough lady. That’s for sure.

Because of the break, my mom has only been present at the Corvallis Saturday Farmers’ Market sporadically in the last two months. She missed last week, but she’ll be there on Saturday with snap peas, basil starts, chard, zucchini, garlic, probably some lettuce, and maybe some of our rhubarb and eggs. It won’t be a huge display, but she doesn’t want all her customers to forget about her.

Looking ahead, there will be an awful lot of food produced in this garden for us as well as for farmers’ market customers. I sure am excited to see and eat all the bounty.

brussels sprouts at Oven & Earth Farm // Wayward Spark

brussels sprouts

Oven & Earth Farm // Wayward Sparkparsley and lettuce at Oven & Earth Farm // Wayward Spark

parsley and lettuce

unripe blueberries at Oven & Earth Farm // Wayward Spark

a few unripe blueberries on Oven and Earth’s one bush

honeysuckle at Oven & Earth Farm // Wayward Spark


Oven & Earth Farm // Wayward Sparkstrawberry plants and lettuce at Oven & Earth Farm // Wayward Spark

a few new strawberry plants and lettuce

savoy cabbage at Oven & Earth Farm // Wayward Spark

savoy cabbage

celery starts at Oven & Earth Farm // Wayward Spark


planting leeks at Oven & Earth Farm // Wayward Spark

planting leeks at Oven & Earth Farm // Wayward Spark

planting leeks

broccoli at Oven & Earth Farm // Wayward Spark


broccoli at Oven & Earth Farm // Wayward Spark


corn plants at Oven & Earth Farm // Wayward Spark


peas at Oven & Earth Farm // Wayward Spark


shelling peas at Oven & Earth Farm // Wayward Spark


red butter lettuce at Oven & Earth Farm // Wayward Spark

red butter lettuce

cucumber plants at Oven & Earth Farm // Wayward Spark


zucchini plants at Oven & Earth Farm // Wayward Spark

zucchini plants

zucchini at Oven & Earth Farm // Wayward Spark



Corvallis Saturday Farmers' Market // Wayward Spark

It was another beautiful market day on Saturday. It seems crazy early for cherries, raspberries, and some of the other fruits and vegetables seen on the waterfront, but I guess it’s just a crazy year (plus some local farmers have significant acreage under greenhouses). It was a morning full of colors, textures, flavors, aromas, live music (good and bad), and friendly faces.

This end-of-the-school-year hectic schedule has been really causing chaos in our house, but we’ve managed to keep weekends for doing some work, some cooking, some relaxing, and some socializing in a balanced sort of way. I hope you, too, are starting the summer in good spirits.

Corvallis Saturday Farmers' Market // Wayward SparkCorvallis Saturday Farmers' Market // Wayward SparkCorvallis Saturday Farmers' Market // Wayward SparkCorvallis Saturday Farmers' Market // Wayward SparkCorvallis Saturday Farmers' Market // Wayward SparkCorvallis Saturday Farmers' Market // Wayward SparkCorvallis Saturday Farmers' Market // Wayward Spark Corvallis Saturday Farmers' Market // Wayward SparkCorvallis Saturday Farmers' Market // Wayward SparkCorvallis Saturday Farmers' Market // Wayward SparkCorvallis Saturday Farmers' Market // Wayward SparkCorvallis Saturday Farmers' Market // Wayward SparkCorvallis Saturday Farmers' Market // Wayward SparkCorvallis Saturday Farmers' Market // Wayward Spark


open nectar // Wayward Spark

Henry and I extracted nearly 40 gallons of honey on Sunday. The early honey varietals that the bees produced are quite different from main season flows in many ways. First off, they taste different. As you can see in the photo above, early season honey contains a significant amount of pollen that we don’t filter out of the final product. The bees have been nectaring on species such as maple, chittum, native trailing blackberry, and poison-oak plus the hives that have been out on farms for pollination purposes serviced blueberries and raspberries. The flavors and colors of our five varietals from different seasonal apiaries vary quite a bit because of the nectar resources available in each of the locations, but they are all intense and distinct. As we were working away in the extraction room, the air became thick with an earthy, herbal smell that made me feel like I was getting some kind of health benefits just by huffing the aroma. If you’re looking for real, raw honey made from the nectar (and pollen) of Pacific Northwest native plants, this is the stuff you want.

Another way that this extraction is different than the ones we did last summer and the ones we will do later this summer is in the yield. When I pulled up my post on extraction from last summer to look at, Henry and I gasped at the top photo showing a beautiful, full frame of capped honey. The frames we were working with on Sunday were only ever partially full, and much of the honey was barely done curing and not yet capped. Many beekeepers don’t even bother extracting early honey because of the extra effort it takes to boost springtime honey production and the much lower yields per frame. With each frame being only 10% to maybe 80% full, each gallon of honey probably took twice as much handling and twice as much time invested as main-season honey.

One issue that can come up when extracting early honey, particularly uncapped honey, is too high of a moisture content. Honey must be cured to 18% (or less) water or else it can spoil over time. We tested out honey with a refractometer, and it came in at 16%, so we’re good.

Our beekeeper friend Ethan Bennett, owner of Honey Tree Apiaries, was generous enough to let us use his certified extraction facility again. We went through all the same steps as last year except we only scratched off the caps instead of using the flail uncapper.

In a trade like beekeeping, it’s hard to make it on your own as an owner/operator, so it really helps to have the support of fellow beekeepers. Henry and Ethan are able to share some resources and infrastructure, go in together on bulk orders, and help each other out in the field every once in a while. Ethan is also currently borrowing one of our flatbed trucks temporarily while he gets some work done on his.

In the end, we will have just six to ten gallons of honey from each of Henry’s spring apiaries. While extracting, we did our best to keep the very small batches separate by draining the extractor between loads and being diligent about labeling the origins of frames and buckets of honey. We’ll begin bottling and selling the varietals hopefully within a month. This early honey will not be available in bulk quantities (though later honeys might be depending on our yield this year). I will be sure to make an announcement about when and where you can get your hands on this stuff. (Please be patient and refrain from emailing me with schemes about how I could sell you some early.)


extraction day for Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark extraction day for Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Sparkextraction day for Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Sparkextraction day for Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Sparkextraction day for Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Sparkextraction day for Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark


Corvallis Farmers' Market // Wayward Spark

My history with farmers’ markets goes way back…all the way back to the beginning. When I was a year old, my mom started selling apples and vegetables and bread at the Corvallis Wednesday Farmers’ Market (the second longest running farmers’ market in the state I believe), so basically I grew up at and around the market. When I was little, my mom would pack half her van with toys to keep my brother and I occupied. I remember making myself wake up super early and crying/begging my mom (who was trying to sneak off without me) to let me come with her to the Albany Saturday Market. (There was a doughnut store around the corner from the market, and I’m pretty sure some of my enthusiasm for the market was doughnut-related.) During my days at the market, I would mostly play around the van and occasionally help out a little by stocking up bins of greens and baskets of garlic. I loved seeing regular customers every week and listening in on adult conversations on all kinds of subjects but mostly food and families.

One time when I was eleven, my mom needed to drive my brother to Eugene (about an hour away) on a Saturday, so instead of forfeiting a week at the farmers’ market, she went to the site early in the morning, set everything up, and then left me (somewhat supervised by the neighboring vendors) to run the booth by myself for the next several hours. I remember being nervous about my responsibilities but super proud when my mom came back to collect me and the goods. I managed to dole out her wares, collect the money, and give proper change without any major mishaps.

At seventeen, I got my first real summer job working for Denison Farms. I did some general farm laboring but I also staffed their farmers’ market booth twice a week. My experience kinda sorta working for my mom had prepared me well for the job, and I also got great instruction and constructive criticism from my supervisor Doug (who still works the Denison market booth in Corvallis). From seventeen through 23, I spent nearly every Saturday of the spring, summer, and fall (and occasional Saturdays during the winter) waking up super early, setting up the booth, stocking produce, chatting with customers, collecting money, giving change, and then tearing everything down and packing it away at the end of the day. Even after my official career as a farmers’ market vendor ended around the time Levi was born, I still subbed occasionally at the Gathering Together Farm booth, and nowadays, you’ll often find me helping out my mom at the Oven & Earth table.

At this point, some of my mom’s customers have known me for thirty years. They’ve watched me grow up and have kids of my own. Some of the customers I formed relationships with as a vegetable-savvy teenager still come by to chat with me, and I’ve seen other vendors’ and coworkers’ kids enter and then graduate from high school. Though the weeks and the seasons seemed to pass in a blur, when I stop to think about it, I have so many specific farmers’ market memories that hold fast to special times and special people.

The weird thing about my relationship to the local farmers’ market is that it has very little to do with being a customer myself. Sure I’ll buy a lemonade, a loaf of bread, or a couple bunches of spring carrots on occasion, but so few of my thousands of hours in that space have been spent shopping. Even now when I want to move through the crowds, I’ll cut out to the sidewalk and zoom past the booths that don’t interest me and the leisurely strollers that are window shopping until I can cut back in at my destination. Yellow watermelon and purple cauliflower don’t awe me anymore, and I’m definitely over Gathering Together Farm‘s famous potato doughnuts. I still love the farmers’ market, but I love it as an insider not as a consumer.

For the next few weeks, I’m going to be doing some photography and social media work for the Corvallis Saturday Farmers’ Market, and just like that, I’ve found another way to move behind the scenes in a productive way after being out of the loop for a while. This past Saturday, I had a really good time trying to see the market from unbiased customers’ eyes, and I felt like having a legit job made it a lot easier to get acquainted with some of the vendors I’d never talked to before.

I usually think of late spring markets as being somewhat sparse. In the nice weather, everyone wants to be gorging on tomatoes and melons, but instead there are only tomato plants and preserves made from last summer’s fruit. That said, the berries are starting to come in, and the flowers are gorgeous, so the displays are pretty bountiful. Here’s some of what I saw…

Corvallis Farmers' Market // Wayward Spark

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