Sunday, October 28, 2012

last farmers market (amid scraps of moonlight)

Saturday, October 27
5:20 a.m.
Today is the last farmers market, the official end to a summer that began mid-May. It’s hardly been summer-like these past few weeks—indeed, it is barely 30 degrees out there right now and the expected high is 41—but still, “farmers market” connotes “summer” and, for the most part, the weather conforms. Of course it’s always dicey, just a bit more so in October.

The house is warm. I loaded the woodstove shortly before 4 a.m.; I’ve been awake since 2:30 or so. Buster was restless, and as he sleeps next to me, if Buster is awake, most often I am awake. I got up and took him out three times, but his restlessness continued, so I decided to move us downstairs. He’s been known to fall off the bed and there was that time he tumbled down the stairs, so being downstairs in the pitch of night seemed safer. While Buster paced (was it last night’s popcorn?), I loaded the stove. Once the fire was going, I sat in my chair and held B for a bit, then fed him, let him out again, and now, he sleeps. For a while, I too slept.

The sun will not rise until 8:30. With the cold and the dark it is tempting to stay put, to not move, to not drive an hour and a half to set up a table and a display and candles in the cold ... but it’s the last market of the season. So I must get going. And B will come with, and hang his head out the window, and today, I suppose, freeze his butt off. Or, more likely, his nose.

6:25 a.m.
Oh. It’s snowing.

Sunday, October 28
6:35 a.m.
I awoke with the nearly full moon shining in the windows making two skewed rectangles of light on the sloping wall above my head. I reached over to scratch Buster and he shifted a bit, rearranging himself. I got up, leaving him be. Downstairs, I opened the door for Elliott and he raced out.

The house is chilly. Yesterday’s farmers market was, for the most part, cold. Maybe 40 degrees, cloudy, a bit of a north breeze. I set up outside thinking it would be sunny, as forecasted, but, fooled again ... The crowd was light, not keen on browsing. Sales were about a quarter of what they were last week. Spotted a couple of people in shorts and sandals.

Pumpkins await carving at the farmers market.
Buster is snoring. Elliott raced in, ate, went back out to hunt in the last shreds of moonlight. The fire is blazing, spreading its warmth. Last night’s embers were covered in ash, but after a raking, ready to spark a fire. While making a pyramid of three logs, I felt in my bones and muscles the memory of this routine that will repeat itself most mornings now through May.

Relief that the farmers market is done for the year and that the weather can do what it likes on Saturdays and B and I and the beeswax will stay snug and warm. But also I will miss the market—the people of it, the event of it, the music, the tarts and cinnamon rolls and lemon bread (a loaf of which is in the frig), the direct sales. There is nothing quite like handing something you have made to a person who appreciates it and who, to boot, hands you cash in return.

Tomorrow I will set up at Zero Degrees Gallery (back to Marquette!), and I have two work shifts there this month. After Thanksgiving, I hope to spend a Saturday or two at the Winter Market, which this year will be at the food co-op’s new, but yet to be remodeled space on Washington Street. This time of year always seems to go so quickly, despite the droning rhetoric of an election. Soon it will be Thanksgiving and snow every day and days so short we won't even be sure they’ve happened.

{Thanks to all of my customers at the this year's market. And to all those who just stopped by to talk or ask questions. I also enjoy selling on Etsy. This week's special, starting Monday, October 29 and running through November 4, is a free lip balm with each order. Tube or tin!}

Sunday, October 21, 2012

the cat has a twitter account (and other flashbacks)

It was a week of not much, like cats getting into Twitterverse, envelopes with chances to win millions of dollars, and anniversaries of big, life-changing, never-going-back, risking-it-all purchases.

The Cat Tweets
Whatever compelled Elliott to start with the tweeting I don't know. But certainly my father is behind it. Yes, my father passed away in 2005, but in December 2004 he sent me a letter informing me of a chat he had just had with Santa about my whereabouts. (That was the year I moved from the Chicago area, where my parents also lived, to Michigan's Upper Peninsula.) Now, I may never have written to Santa, but Santa wrote to me and my sisters quite often over the years, usually on Christmas Eve, when he'd take time from his travels to tap out an oddly spelled note thanking us for the cookies. Tapped out on my dad's typewriter and oddly spelled due to cold fingers, as he usually made it very clear just how br r rbrr! co o o ld1! his  finghers weere. It seems to me that if Santa is talking to my dad about me when my dad is 85 and I am 47, then my father must have something to do with my cat tweeting on Twitter at any age.

My Chance to Win a Million Dollars
I've mailed in my envelope with the potentially winning number to the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes. By November 30, I will know if I've won a million dollars or not. Oh, and, $5,000 a week for life. Wouldn't that be nice? Yes, stuff like this still happens through the mail. Searching through the sheets of colorful deals to find the entry confirmation stamp to affix here, and the who-knows-what stamp to place there, took me back to the kitchen table in the house where I grew up, spreading out all the bright pieces of paper, concentrating, making sure I got the right stamp in the right place because surely, if I followed the rules, I might very well be rewarded with a million dollars. Or more. (Or my parents would be. This was a good 45 or so years ago, after all.) You know what? I still think I have a good chance. Because I followed the rules. And the rules said I didn't have to order anything ...

An Anniversary
Pssst! Wanna buy a log cabin on the outskirts of nowhere? No plumbing, no water, no electricity, no worries. Yeah, needs a little work. Needs heat. Drafty. Beautiful little spot, though. Look at that view, look at that river ... brook trout, baby. The cabin? Solid foundation. Mice? Sure. Mosquitoes, flies. But, lookee that floor, girlie, yeah, the one that just stuck a two-inch sliver up your big toe. That floor's from a 120-year-old silo in Oconto Falls, yeah, looks like Douglas fir. See all those pock marks? The real thing. From pitchforks. Yeah. From people pitching around inside the silo 100 years ago. And all the logs are from an old barn in Pulaski, yeah, tore it down and hauled it up here. The porch is oak planks from old shipping crates, and all these doors piled up over here are from a cheese factory in Green Bay. Some even have knobs and hinges. This beadboard and kitchen cabinet? From a Catholic School. The stone? From a local quarry. Slate from Detroit. And these posts and rafters were cut by Sam, the guy down the road, yeah, the one with the cows and the sawmill ....

Hook, line, and sinker.
Thursday marked the second anniversary of my buying this log cabin built in the early 2000s of old, salvaged material and its surrounding 18 acres of untended fields. It was either the smartest or dumbest thing I've ever done.

Boards from a 120-year-old silo. The inside, with the scars.

{Thanks for visiting! If I win that million dollars, will I keep on doing this? Stay tuned. Meanwhile, weekly specials have begun at the Etsy shop. Specials are announced each Monday on Twitter. My account, not the cat's.}

Sunday, October 14, 2012

500 lbs. of beeswax: No. 5

I stand by the side of the road in downtown Pelkie singing softly while waiting for the truck that's bringing my fifth load of 500 lbs. of beeswax.
Oh oh the Wells Fargo Wagon is a'
comin' down the street
Oh please let it be for me
pelkie, michigan
Coming into downtown Pelkie.
I blame my parents for the musical upbringing and for having, at times, a show tune in my head and for imagining, at other times, if only, oh, if only we could all break into song and dance, wouldn't that be fun? And enduring the embarrassment of friends shunning me when I pop on Bye Bye Birdie, amazed they've never seen it, it's so good, so much fun, and I've revealed too much of myself once again, or maybe I'm with the wrong crowd.

The road is straight and narrow as a one-track mind and if there's a crowd it's purely apparitional. Downtown Pelkie has a post office, a credit union, a defunct co-op, a smattering of houses, a building for fire and rescue equipment, and Jerry's Auto Repair, which is usually open by late morning, but for some reason, not today.

pelkie, michigan
According to this sign, the co-op once provided food,
hardware, and clothing.
On the north end of town is the Baraga County Fairgrounds and the brick, two-story Pelkie Elementary School. Go another half-mile and there's the old schoolhouse, open for sightseeing on Sundays in the summer.

schoolhouse pelkie michigan
Pelkie's historic one-room schoolhouse.
In the past, I have driven to Beulah, Michigan, just south of Traverse City, to pick up the raw material I work with to make candles - the sweet beeswax from an apiary called Sleeping Bear Farms. But the last trip entailed an overnight stay in a cheap motel with my old dog, Buster. That was stressful, and then there's the expense. I asked about shipping the wax and found it would cost less than a road trip, but only if shipped to a commercial address.

So I'm standing on the side of the road by Jerry's Auto Repair in downtown Pelkie singing show tunes.
It could be curtains, or dishes, or a double boiler
Or it could be, yes it could be ...
Something special ...
Just for me!
Ever since my arrival in Pelkie a year ago, Jerry has been working on my 2004 Dodge Caravan. Last fall he got me into new snow tires, then, in the spring, a new set of summer tires. He's replaced the muffler and radiator and a broken tail light cover that I had kept together with duct tape since December 2010, but which blew apart one day this past summer along M-28 as I headed home from the farmers market. At that point I made a new cover from red duct tape and clear plastic, but soon I was struck dumb by my obsession with thriftiness and called Jerry. There's been a lot of brake work, including cleaning and replacing pads and things, and of course routine oil changes, a new headlight bulb, and now it looks like another radiator replacement. When I asked Jerry about using his shop's address for the beeswax drop, he said no problem.

upper peninsula michigan
Jerry's Auto Repair.
So I'm standing by the side of the road in downtown Pelkie and the truck with the beeswax arrives on schedule. It pulls off the road near my van and lets go a big gassy sigh. The driver hops down from the cab, rolls up the cargo door, dollies the plastic-wrapped boxes of wax over to the door, strips off the plastic, opens the boxes, and hands me blocks of beeswax. One box was light enough for him to carry, and another we moved together, into my van, after relieving it of a few pounds.

raw beeswax in van
Wax in the van.
Later, I think it was Friday, we had a nice sunset.

upper peninsula sunset
View from a porch.

Other Tales of Beeswax Acquisition
500 lbs. of beeswax
2,000 lbs. of beeswax

Sunday, October 7, 2012

just another pea picklin' week: a diary

Monday, October 1
What a great day at Saturday's farmers market! The turkey and happy bee pillar sold out, many little pine cones left the table, another Ball mason jar went to a new home, and one lucky customer walked away with every single charmer, including the psychics. The weather was perfect, and I ate some delicious cinnamon rolls. Now, lots of candles to make and this morning I'm expecting a visit from Alex, the new vendor liaison from MIUpperHand, and later in the week 500 pounds of fresh, raw beeswax should arrive from downstate.

What a turkey!

Tuesday, October 2
A new routine has developed: Mid-afternoon Elliott, Buster, and I walk to the river. We spread out along the trail (Elliott likes to lag, then catch up in a mad dash, and Buster's bound to stray off trail, getting lost in the tall grass), but eventually we come together at the top of the bank, by the balsams, where the trail zags down to the riverside. I pick up Buster and carry him halfway down, where we sit among the trees. Elliott explores, scratches tree trunks. I muse. Buster rests in my arms, his nose working autumn memories. Leaves drift down, float away.

I've settled on price changes and updated Etsy and made new price markers for my market display. Also got a couple dozen sheets made, ready to roll for charmers, and chopped up the remaining 30 or so pounds of raw wax in the shed. Right now, a hunk of that wax is melting in a pot in the kitchen.

Later,  Mr. Owl prepares to ship out.

Wednesday, October 3
The trees are crazy with color, and driving up to Houghton for my weekly shopping spree (anitfreeze! cheese! toilet paper! etc.!) I experienced transcendent moments of joyousness. Sounds flippy, I suppose, but I love autumn. The shortening days, the lowering arc of the sun, chilly nights. And yes, those riotous leaves.

Got a few candles made yesterday. The new thrift store vase candle continues to come out with cracks, so back in the pot it goes. And then suddenly, 16 tons of gravel arrived. Yes, I ordered it, but the idea only percolated a couple of days ago, and now the dang stuff is here, in two big piles, and I have to start shoveling it. One pile is right in Buster's path from "ah! relief!" area to the front door (he never comes in the back door, even though he goes out the back door, because out back is where he finds relief ... ), and he has stumbled into the gravel mound a number of times, coming up looking mighty confused. I need the gravel to raise the ground level along the west side of the house where the porch leaves off and the spring snow melt pools and freezes. The idea is to make this area a kind of gravelly patio. The second pile of gravel I'll use in the spring, to fill in holes in the driveway.

Making candles again today, and may take delivery of 500 pounds of beeswax, down at Jerry's Auto Repair, where it's being delivered, because it's $100 less to ship to a commercial rather than a residential address.  This will be the first time I have not picked up the wax, made that trip across the Mackinac Bridge with a dog or two in tow. It's cheaper, now, to have the wax delivered, and besides, overnight road trips with Buster have become an ordeal.

The gravelly patio project.
Thursday, October 4
No wax yet, but many candles made, close to 40 on the week. It got up to almost 80 degrees yesterday - and sunny. Now, this morning, in the forecast for tomorrow night and Saturday, snow. Doesn't bode well for the farmers market.

The thrift store vase candle is finally coming out sans cracks, and this makes me very happy. It's a  cool-looking candle and burns great. It will debut Saturday ... in the snow?

The beeswax vase burns.

Saturday, October 6
What a snowy drive to Marquette this morning! All day yesterday the wind blew from the west, and in the evening the rain started, a cold, dashing rain. Friday morning, after I got the fire going, I just wanted to stay in my chair, reading, drinking tea, listening to the wind howl, all day, maybe just once in a while opening the door for Elliott so he could sniff the cold air then retreat to his chair. But, I had all the charmers to roll, and I wanted to get my display board set up with more ornaments, and I'd had an email from a gallery downstate about applying to be in their holiday gift gallery, so I had to figure out if that would work, and then that beeswax might be delivered and I thought I might make more lip balm ... So I started designing new business cards on Vistaprint and eventually things got rolling.

I called the delivery company about the wax. Oh. They'll call me. No need to fuss that they might dump 500 pounds of beeswax by the side of the road in downtown Pelkie without telling me ...

As the day rolled on, the wind blew harder and colder and I considered not going to the farmers market - taking Saturday off! - but I had six pounds of wax to get to Colleen for her soapmaking, I wanted to get a couple of sympathy cards from Maggi, and anyway, I hate to miss a market. This morning, when I took off in a slush fall, oh boy, and by the time I hit Baraga, honest-to-goodness snow. The trees, now the pines, spruce, and cedar, catching the snow on their limbs and needles, were beautiful. (I took some videos while driving, posted one to YouTube.)

At the market, I was able to set up inside the Commons building, so all my long underwear just made me uncomfortable, but heck, that's OK. In Marquette it was rain rather than snow, and quite windy, so being inside a cozy building with a large stone fireplace suited me fine, and it ended up being another good day, eating cinnamon rolls, selling beeswax, and getting some nice honey soap for my bath tonight.

Received this picture of Mr. Owl in his new
home. Where, I assume, it's not snowing.

{Thanks for sharing the week with me. I usually do write on Sundays.}