Archive for July, 2013

What I’d Been Missing

July 31, 2013

My family’s annual Tahoe trip has really changed for me over the last few years. Although I still enjoy getting some time in the sun (especially in July when SF is often gray and cold) and I still love swimming in the lake (especially taking evening swims under the stars), the trip has become a vacation I take each year, not the best vacation I take each year.

And this year at the lake, I felt like doing something new, so on Monday morning, after the chumps left, Mr. WholeHog, my dad and I headed around the lake to hike up Ellis Peak.

tahoe-ellishikeIt had been a very long time since I’d done any hiking in the mountains. The coast is easier for me to get to and it’s available year round, while the Sierra often feels inaccessible– cold and snowy in the winter, and dusty and buggy in the summer. But the Ellis Peak hike showed me what I’d been missing.

The six-mile out-and-back took us through the often-strange beauty of the Sierra. It took us through alpine meadows full of wildflowers and butterflies, alongside craggy rock formations and under the shade of tall lichen-covered pine trees. While so much of California is dry and yellow by July, the Sierra was still blooming.


We’d chosen this hike because we’d read that it offered memorable views of Tahoe, the views of the lake weren’t nearly as memorable as the views from a ridge we reached just a mile into the hike. We could see down into Desolation wilderness, with its granite slopes and its dark-green lakes. Beyond that, we could see a line of snow-touched peaks, which my mountaineer dad identified as the Crystal Range.

My dad has spent a lot of time in the Sierra and he pointed out Pyramid Peak and Price Peak. He told us how back in the 1970s, he and an old friend got snowed in at Loon Lake, one of the largest lakes we could see from the trail, and the rescue team showed up with a bottle of whisky and a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken.


From that first magnificent ridge, we descended into the forest again and soon ran into another new sight: dirt bikes. Thankfully we only had to dart out of the way of oncoming dirt bikes twice, but they were definitely a downside of this particular excursion.


But I’d wanted to do something new and this hike – even with its noisy, dust-spewing dirt bikes – fit the bill. It gave me some distance from the usual family Tahoe experience. It took me to a different side of the lake, up a new trail with new views. and it reminded me how beautiful hiking in the mountains can be.


Ready for Apples

July 26, 2013

I’ve been back at the farmers market every week basis for the last few months selling flowers. Selling flowers is generally pretty easy: there’s nothing to weigh; all bunches are priced at $5 or $8 so I don’t have to deal with loose change; and flowers make people really happy.

I’ve never really cared much about flowers, but selling them helped me appreciate flowers a bit more. I’ve really enjoyed having fresh flowers in the house each week, and I’ve learned a lot about the flowers I sold this year. I learned that sweet peas only like a little bit of water and that hydrangeas need to be picked when they’re fully open in order to last very long. I learned that godetia is part of the Clarkia family and grows on the west coast from British Columbia down to San Francisco. I’m still working on learning the 15 (!) sunflower varieties that the farm grows. (The ones pictured below are called Coconut Ice).


Along with the names of flowers, I’ve also learned the names of many of our regulars, since most buy their flowers when they first get to the market and then leave them with us (in water) while they finish their shopping. I also learned that one regular flower customer is an artist and went to see her stunning paintings of San Francisco at a downtown gallery last month. I ran into another regular in the elevator at my weekday job.

But despite all the lovely things about selling flowers, it’s still working with the public, which can be challenging at times, and it’s still at the market, which leads to some “This is a fucking farmers market” moments.

A few weeks ago, a customer wanted me to cut open four different bunches of flowers and arrange them for her (something we generally don’t do because we’re busy and, also, not florists) and was then upset that I only had brown paper to wrap her flowers in. “This is a gift!,” she said. (I kindly bit my tongue and didn’t tell her that this is a fucking farmers market.)


People also tend to buy flowers even when they probably shouldn’t – when they are heading to a Giants game or going a movie or will be sitting in a hot car for many hours. They look at me unhappily as if there’s something I can do (beyond simply giving them a refund). “But I’m going on the ferry!” one woman exclaimed last week, staring at her flowers as if she had to try to swim them back to Marin.

Working at the market also brings up the strangest questions, often questions that I can’t answer: Will my cat eat this flower? Will one bunch fill a vase? Can I grow this in Connecticut? Will these flowers survive a flight to Nebraska? Will these flowers bloom by Wednesday?

(My favorite question this year was a woman who asked for the farm’s business card, which includes contact information for Stan, the grower. The woman scanned the card, looked at me, and asked “Are you Stan?” Stan, who was standing nearby, was highly amused.)


On our way home from the market each week, Mr. WholeHog and I talk about the funny or aggravating moments from our day. We exchange market gossip and note any celebrity (or pseudo-celebrity) sightings (ie, Alice Waters, Nancy Pelosi, Henry Winkler).

But recently on the way home from the market, I did nothing but complain. I complained about the woman who insisted on wrapping her own flowers in brown paper (and how she still couldn’t get her flowers covered), and about the man who wanted us to deliver flowers to a woman wearing a teal tank top and carrying a black purse when she strolled by. I told him about the cranky old woman who criticized my math skills when I charged her an end-of-the-market discount, and I rolled my eyes as I recounted the person who asked me if we actually grew the flowers we sold or if we just bought them from somewhere in South America.

As I was unloading on Mr. WholeHog, though, I realized that my problem wasn’t irritating customers or unusual questions — that’s just an average day at the market. The problem was that I was tired of selling flowers. I was tired of the same questions, the same comments, the (seemingly) same tourists every week who use our stand as a colorful backdrop for their vacation pictures.

I’m ready to sell apples again – and I’ll get my chance this weekend when the first-pick of Gravensteins arrive.

Apple season isn’t perfect. It has its own loony customers (I saw my most-disliked apple customer at the market recently buying vegetables and I was delighted that I didn’t have to interact with her). And apple season brings its own assault of unanswerable questions (Why is this apple named Sierra Beauty? Why is this apple redder than that apple? Why does this apple have a waxy skin? Or my favorite from last season, Why don’t you grow bananas?). But apple season will bring new questions, new customers, new joys and new aggravations.

This was June

July 2, 2013

June was a busy month for work: I was busy at my weekday job and back to regular Saturdays at the farmers market selling flowers. (Pictured below are godetia, one of my favorite flowers. They look super delicate, but they are surprisingly hardy).

godetia (2)

Hiking & Beer at The Tourist Club
The first weekend in June my sister and I hiked to the Tourist Club. The Tourist Club is a pretty ideal outing, combining a neighborhood/stairway walk, an easy Mt. Tam hike and then picnicking and beer-drinking at an Alpine-style chalet in the woods, but this particular trip reminded me why I love the off-season. The Tourist Club was insanely packed and the trails and stairs were also busier than on past trips. And June is also not the prettiest time of year on Mt. Tam. By June, the hills are dry and yellow rather than lush and green.



Summer Fruit Overkill
Mr. WholeHog and I wanted to make sure to take advantage of all the early summer fruits we were bringing home from the market. (One of the perks about working at the market is that the grower I work for gets bags of fruit from another farmer and he shares it with me). And fruit desserts are my favorites. But we went a little overboard in June. It was a month of apricot jam (shown below), apricot pie, apricot-cherry cobbler, nectarine upside-down cake, strawberry-blueberry buckle, peach crumble, blueberry muffins, and rhubarb lemonade. We tried to balance our excess dessert intake with lots of evening walks around the neighborhood.


A Year In
June marked a year since we moved into our home. I’m still working on a few posts about our first year, but I often thought back to where we were a year ago and how we were living. Last year, we couldn’t do any cooking or baking since we didn’t have a kitchen until late July. Last year, I went to Santa Cruz for the weekend while Mr. WholeHog and his dad put in our kitchen floor last year. Last year, the back deck was full of construction equipment and all the windows in the kitchen were covered with plastic. But this year we’re cooking and eating in the kitchen, we’re picking herbs that we’re growing on our back deck and we’re watching the sunset out the back windows.