Posts Tagged ‘farmer’s market’

Fiddling Around

I try not to brag on our son too much or I might sound like a broken record, but with Father’s day coming up, I can play the proud father for awhile. Aidan impresses us in all kinds of ways, but one way is with music. He’s played violin since he was four and is working his way through the Suzuki repertoire. Since he was 8, he’s taken fiddle lessons from Jim Brock, a local fiddler who played with Bill Monroe, Jim and Jesse, and the Salzman Brothers, among others. They sit around and play music, which I get to record. Mr. Brock teaches Aidan old-time fiddle tunes, country songs, bluegrass, jazz, Western Swing, etc., and since he doesn’t read music, they do it all by ear. Mr. Brock has also introduced us to a number of great old fiddlers — Kenny Baker is one of Aidan’s favorites, as are Tommy Jackson, Benny Martin, Arthur Smith, and Charlie Stripling. So Aidan has developed a wide range of styles and a sizable repertoire. At one count, they were up to nearly 200 songs, though some aren’t full songs — just the fiddle licks to songs Mr. Brock plays with his band. Some are ones we learned and haven’t kept up on, but many are ones that Aidan has played at Pilgrimage or that he continues to play, and a few are ones he picked up off of a CD.

This year, we decided it was time to get Aidan to play in public. He’s done performances with the Suzuki groups and orchestra, of course, and he plays now and then with Mr. Brock, lately at the senior dance in New Hope, but then he’s not on his own, and he often just plays on a few songs with Mr. Brock. So we signed him up to play at the Columbus MS Hitching Lot Farmer’s Market. To prepare, we went through his extensive list and pulled out the songs he thought he could have ready. We came up with 6 sets of about 110 songs total. It was ambitious, but he was up for the task. For the past two weeks or more, he’s been practicing over an hour a day to get his sets ready to go.

This morning, he played his three hour gig, and did a marvelous job. In that time, he took a couple of longer breaks to refuel with a pastry from one of the vendors, and he only repeated a couple of songs near the very end. He played from 7:00 a.m. until about 9:45, when everyone was packing up their wares. And he hardly missed a beat, even when Mother Goose showed up and danced with kids to his songs. (If you’re not from Columbus, then you won’t know Edwina Williams, this Columbus institution — the town’s child librarian who has performed as MG for decades. Let’s just say she’s flamboyant, esp. in full costume with flowered hat and stuffed goose.) Here are links to three of the songs he played (If you look close, you can just see Mother Goose in the first one behind the tent pole): Methodist PreacherOrange Blossom Special, and Scotland.

All he had to work with was his set list with the titles and the note each song starts on. He had come up with this idea as a way to help him keep them all straight, though in the end, I don’t think he even needed it! This morning was a lovely morning. Lots of people stopped by to listen, and the weather was grand, actually fairly cool for June in Mississippi. I couldn’t have asked for a better start to the weekend.

Tribute to Jean C. Lee

Jean Lee was an amazing artist, writer, editor, and human being. I first met her when I was a student at Knox College and she was the technical advisor for Catch, the student literary magazine. She taught me most everything I know about editing and design. Later, after I had worked in Chicago for a couple of years and was returning to reality after an extended European trip one summer and fall, Jean and Robin Metz took me in. Jean offered me a job typesetting the mammoth Siwasher/Catch Alumni Edition and helping with typesetting and layout of Farmer’s Market, a regional literary magazine that had developed quite a reputation after she took it over. That is when I became acquainted with Jean’s graphic arts work on the covers. The series was to extend through the alphabet, though unfortunately I never collected more than the ones I’ve posted here as a tribute to her life and creative genius. I would love to see more of those covers, if anyone has them. I’m not positive whether she was able to complete the series of linoleum block prints before circumstances caused her to give up the magazine and leave Galesburg. I regret that I didn’t maintain contact with Jean in recent years. She was a wonderful person and a gifted artist. Our world is poorer for her passing.

Fruits of Summer

Indian PeachesTime to leave the poetry biz aside for awhile and write a little about food. Our local farmer’s market has kept us awash in fresh local produce all summer (when we’ve been in town), but the thing we love most are the peaches — well, those and the tomatoes and thai eggplant and corn and blueberries and eggs and… you understand (I hope!). There is one farmer who keeps us supplied with our favorite summer fruit from June to August, maybe even into September, thanks to the many varieties in his orchard. We’ve had white peaches and yellow ones, cling and freestone, but the latest are blood-red Indian peaches.

Though they are typically used for pickling, canning, or baking, we love to eat them raw. They are very fuzzy outside and a little firm and tart like a nectarine, but as long as you don’t think they ought to look and taste like a regular old grocery-store peach (often firm and flavorless if they’re shipped in from California), then they are absolutely delicious. And after months of sweeter, juicier fare, we revel in the dark red meat and the tangy flavor. We don’t even mind that they are a cling variety, having gotten a little bored with peaches that come right off the pit.

Growing up in Iowa, I never ate peaches like this. We had a peach tree in our back yard for awhile, though I don’t remember it ever producing very much. Our apricot tree did better for awhile, then died a noble death. Iowa winters were much better suited to apples, pears, and tart pie cherries. My parents also grew grapes, raspberries, and rhubarb–a fruit that’s hard to find in the South–so I’m used to a sweet summer bounty in the yard. Something was in season from June to October, and we always had enough to eat, freeze, and give to the neighbors.

We used to have a peach tree in our yard in Mississippi that did pretty well, until Katrina uprooted it. It produced one more harvest the next year, then died. It took us another year to give up hope entirely, and awhile longer to decide what and where to plant next. Now we have two peach trees that should bear in another year or two. We also have blueberries, quince, and figs, along with our garden full of tomatoes and peppers that don’t get enough sun to really do too well, but supply us with a little home grown produce now and then. And of course we have a forest of basil for the pesto we couldn’t live without.

And we’re very happy to have access to so many local varieties of heirloom peaches and other fruit. We’ve found a good farm for blueberries and picked a freezer full. We’ve bought blackberries and pears. Last year we even bought persimmons at the market and may try to pick some this year. And compared to grocery-store prices, the peaches and other produce we’ve bought at our local market have been dirt cheap — $3 – $5 depending on the size of the basket we choose, and a basket will easily last us a week, unless we decide to freeze some. And the flavor of locally grown, tree ripened fruit can’t be beat. So, if you’re near a local market and you see a strange-looking summer fruit, give it a try! It might be the best thing you’ve eaten in ages.