A peach of a day

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My wife wanted more blueberries.

She and the two younger kids picked an astonishing amount (18 gallons?) a few weeks ago at Thunderbird Berry Farm east of Broken Arrow. Nevertheless there didn't seem to be enough to cover pie baking, freezing for later, and random noshing. She wanted more, if we could get them.

Saturday she thought perhaps we could go and pick some more. Nope: Thunderbird's Facebook page said they ended the season June 30. Getting too hot for the berries. Owasso Tree Farm's website said they were done, too, not just blueberries but blackberries, too. The early hot weather had ripened everything earlier than normal.

So Saturday morning the six-year-old and I headed to Cherry Street for the Farmer's Market. We kept our eyes out for blueberries but found none.

I have mixed feelings about farmer's markets. I love the concept: A weekly community gathering, farmers bringing fresh produce straight to the consumer, no middleman to boost the price to the consumer and lower the price to the farmer, supporting our community's ability to feed itself in the event of a disruption to national and international food distribution networks.

In practice, I find it uncomfortable and expensive. I never have a clear picture of what I need, so I either underbuy or overbuy. I find myself tempted to make aspirational purchases -- buying food without a realistic idea of when we'll cook and eat it. It's awkward to look at produce at one booth, under the watchful eye of the farmer, only to excuse myself to see if the tomatoes are better or cheaper at any of the other booths. I rarely know what the price of the item is at the supermarket, and even if I did, the farmers tend to use a different standard to price each item than the supermarket does. Reasor's prices peaches by the piece, one farmer prices them by dry measure, another prices by the pound. So I leave feeling glad that I helped support a local farmer (particularly if it's someone I know), glad that I bought some fresh food, but frustrated with myself for not being a good steward of the family food budget.

Lomah Dairy had a sign at its booth that explained that their cows have names and are treated with love and respect. It brought to mind that Portlandia sketch where a hipster couple at a restaurant grills the waitress about the living conditions of the chicken they were about to eat for dinner. ("His name was Colin. Here are his papers.") Unsatisfied with the waitress's claims, they go to the chicken farm to investigate for themselves.

One booth sold us a bag of pickle cucumbers for $4 and 6 ears of corn for $5. (The pickle cucumbers were the six-year-old's idea.) The ears were a bit scrawny (already picked over toward the end of the market, I expect), so the farmer threw in a couple more on the house.

I stopped at the Bootstrap Farm booth because I recognized one of the farmers as a friend who is a philosopher and erstwhile barista. We were given a sample of golden, sweet cherry tomatoes, and we bought a quart container of them, plus a few pounds of vine-ripened, regular-sized tomatoes -- $11. (I had one of the big tomatoes that night with a little bit of salt -- wonderful!) Then a stop by the Council Creek Farm pickup, its bed loaded with fresh cantaloupe and watermelon. We bought one big watermelon ($6) and two canteloupe (@ $4) -- $14. I struggled up the hill to the car cradling the melon in the crook of my arm, carrying a plastic shopping bag with the corn, cucumbers, and tomatoes by the handle, and carrying a partly torn plastic bag with a cantaloupe. The six-year-old managed to carry the other cantaloupe in his arms.

We dropped off the goods, then headed back down the hill for a cup of coffee (for me) and a cup of fruit (for him, although I ate the pineapple, kiwi, and orange bits he didn't want).

Next stop: Hardscape Materials in Bixby. We've got a small pond, bequeathed to us by the previous owners, and I've tried to keep it in shape, but because of the big freeze of 2011 and a 15-month stretch when work had me out of town half the time, things got out of hand. Tall flowering plants, joined by a thick mat of roots, had completely taken over the pond. (We were told they were water hyacinth, but they aren't.) I cleaned all of them out, leaving the water lilies, but in the clean out process I apparently made a couple of small tears in the liner.

So we went to Hardscape Materials, which has an entire building devoted to pond equipment and supplies and several large demonstration ponds with waterfalls, fountains, rocks, and gigantic koi. Hardscape has developed many of the pond products they sell.

They had the patch kit we needed, and after we bought it, the six-year-old led me around the grounds for a while. (There are few more interesting ways to spend time than to follow the whims of a six-year-old.) Hardscape has acres of stone, rock, and gravel of all types. They even sell basalt columns. They come from naturally hexagonal rock formations, the most famous of which is Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland.

Back in the car and south on US 64. Next stop was Carmichael's produce stand, on the west side of the road just south of the river. They had plenty of Bixby corn, much healthier-looking than what we bought on Cherry Street -- a dozen ears for $6, cheaper than $7.50 for the same amount at the supermarket. Cucumbers were two for a dollar, sweet potatoes were 89 cents a pound (same price as the supermarket), so we bought some of those.

And they had blueberries from Nacogdoches, Texas -- $32 for a flat of 12 pints. That was much cheaper than the supermarket, where we would have paid about $48 for the same amount. Via text message, I was told to buy two flats.

They had peaches, too, but I intended to buy some peaches straight from the orchard in Porter, so we headed south again, but not before a quick drive around downtown Bixby. We noticed the removal of an ugly facade from a historic retail building in progress, a steeple for sale, and an interesting two-story gas station that now belongs to the local historical society.

South and east again along US 64 through Leonard and Stone Bluff, which reminded the six-year-old of Route 66, which led to questions about when towns were bypassed by highways and why the interstate highway system was built, followed by answers about pre-interstate bypasses and Eisenhower's post-World War I convoy across America and his experience with autobahns in Germany and how some bypasses (like Tulsa's Skelly Bypass) don't bypass anything any more.

Downtown Haskell has lovely new streetscaping, some interesting buildings with potential, and a couple of blocks where most of the buildings are gone, the result of a fires some years ago. (The Google street view imagery from February 2008 shows how much is now missing.) We stopped at Family Style Barbecue, in one of the old buildings, for lunch. The ribs were pretty good, a bit fattier than I like, but good flavor and no need for sauce. The beans had a nice smoky flavor. I tried a bit of their barbecue sauce but didn't care for it. The six-year-old enjoyed his ham sandwich, but not as much as he enjoyed the funny animal-video show on the TV in the corner.

After lunch we walked around a bit, noticing a sign ("HOME AND AUTO STORE") that had belonged to the OTASCO that once had been there, across the street from a building bearing the name ADELMAN (which, if memory serves, was the name of the family that built the Delman Theater at 15th and Lewis -- they dropped the initial A), an exposed native stone wall, a hexagonal tile floor (the only remnant of Broadway Cleaners), a pig statue in front of a butcher's shop and a mid-century modern facade on a defunct bank building. The six-year-old noted the irony of the painting on Family Style Barbecue's window: three walking pigs -- dad, mom, and son -- carrying balloons, one of which read "LET'S EAT!" "They shouldn't go in there. They'll be butchered!" he said with a grin.

East on 104 across the Arkansas River at Choska, then on to 231st Street, a gravel road between sod farms. We'd have probably been better off to go a couple of miles north, then east and back south, but I was following Google's directions. The six-year-old was grateful to get back on a paved road after two or three miles.

Livesay Orchards had lots and lots of fresh peaches, at least three different varieties, and a lady at a booth offered samples on toothpicks of each. They had a special on Scarlet Prince -- a half bushel for $18 (other varieties were $27 for a half bushel). They also grow apples. We drove past the orchards heading east, north on the first paved road into Porter proper, where the east-west streets are named for peach varieties. Porter is a town that could use some serious TLC. The town's famed Porter Peach Festival is July 19 - 21, 2012. This year they'll have carnival rides, mud races, a 5k run, and a car show, in addition to the peaches.

Home the easy way, on 51, and then the hard part -- finding some place to put 20 ears of corn, a big bag of cucumbers, a half-bushel of peaches, five pounds of sweet potatoes, two flats of blueberries, two cantaloupes, and a watermelon. I baked all the sweet potatoes, and we had watermelon, peaches, and tomatoes with a little bit of leftover ham for dinner that night.

My wife gently reminded me that the fresh produce is perishable, is best when you buy it, and you want to use it before it goes bad. So we are going to be gorging ourselves on fruit and vegetables for a week or so.

P. S. Anyone have a good pickle recipe? I'm thinking half-sour or maybe bread-and-butter.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on July 9, 2012 11:58 PM.

"Come to Me All Who Labor" was the previous entry in this blog.

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