Day in the Life of a Farmer’s Market Person, part 1

Day in the Life of a Farmer’s Market Person, part 1

We are a good month into working with our local farmer’s market, and we’ve got the kinks out of our routine, kind of, I think, well . . . maybe. We’ve officially gone from crazybusy on farmer’s market day to just-send-us-to-the-loony-bin-now-nutsbusy. Know what I mean?

Here’s what happens: at the first of the season, Amalia and I have a nice routine–she gets most of her things (mostly quick breads, which actually benefit from being baked the day before) baked on Tuesday, intentionally leaving the kitchen free for me on Wednesday. I bump elbows with her in our kitchen on Tuesday afternoon for a couple of hours, since I make my buckets of dough then and sock them away into the basement ‘fridge (which I cleaned out several weeks ago, a fact of which I am quite proud) and then get the heck out of there.

Why do I hurry out, you may wonder? Simply put, my lovely daughter is an extroverted cook–she turns on the loud music, she flings chocolate chips and flour around like nobody’s business, she sings quite loudly, and she leaves all her mess to be cleaned up for the end of the day. Or–the next day. If then. πŸ˜‰ Apparently it would hamper her creative process, say, if she paused for 5 minutes now and then to clean up a flour spill or wash a bowl. Or a spoon. Or a mixer beater. We work together in the kitchen a lot, and we get along just fine, but we have wildly different* baking styles. And truth is, both of us are a bit bossy πŸ™‚ and prefer to have the kitchen to ourselves. (Well, Amalia, it’s true . . . ) πŸ˜‰

But all this, I don’t mind. That is–if I’m out in the garden. Or helping little Mack clean his room. Or am on a bike ride three miles from home. BUT . . . if I’m in the kitchen with her, on the other hand, I find myself eying the rapidly-growing pile of dishes and thinking that it would take only a few minutes, for example, to clean them all up. I notice the rugs on the floor getting rather gritty-looking and really wanting to sweep the floor, now. I’m not compulsive at all about cleaning (at all)Β but there is a line that I am uncomfortable crossing. You know the line. The line from “comfortably lived-in” to “yikes! Is this place condemned?” in keeping house.

Here’s a picture of my granola, to break up all this text: πŸ˜‰

New type of granola: roasted pecan and chocolate chip. Ooo, it's goood.

New type of granola: roasted pecan and chocolate chip. Ooo, it’s goood.

Anyway. Amalia is comfortable with the latter, while she’s in the fever of culinary creation. And it works for her. So she bakes on Tuesday, and I stay out of her way. On Wednesday, the kitchen is mine and I sock the bread into the oven one batch after another, listen to the classical music station, sweep up flour spills as I go, and keep the dishes washed. Well. On a good day. Last week, when I took lots of pictures, (I’m writing an e-book, you know, about how to create a farmer’s market business by baking artisan bread) it wasn’t a good day. I mean it was an atypical baking day, in that when I got up to start it all, the oven was dead. On a good baking day, of course, your oven actually works like it’s supposed to. Here’s how it went.

First: the day before, I’ve made a careful list of what I’m going to bake, I’ve made sure that I’ve got everything I need, I’ve got around a dozen buckets of dough chillin’ in the basement refrigerator, and I’ve made a batch of granola. I’ve got a few cookbooks laid out on the countertop, along with my cookie sheets and parchment. I’m ready.

5:50 I’m up early and I get dressed, pull on an apron, and haul three buckets of dough up from the basement ‘fridge. (I also run out and let the chickens out, so I don’t have to hurry out to do that later, when, say, there’s bread in the oven.) *I love this first hour or two of quiet in the kitchen, and I get lots done when I’m the only one in there. I shape one sheet of baguettes, and two sheets of baby baguettes, and one sheet of Wisconsin cheese bread, in just a few minutes. I put my coffee on, and punch the button to preheat the stove. Nothing happens. Our shiny new oven–only two months old–appears to not be working. I blanch. I gasp. I rub my eyes. I play with the controls. I fight back tears. I also fight the impulse to go back to bed, because my coffee is ready and I dearly love my morning cup of bulletproof coffee. What am I going to do without an oven? I consider calling Josh, the appliance repairman from Seward, reminding myself that he probably wouldn’t be able to come in time to save my baking day, anyway. Maybe we just blew a breaker?

6:15 Bryan trudges in, on his way to the shower. I share my dilemma, and he stumbles down to the basement to check the breaker box. He returns, shaking his head, and goes to the stove and pushes buttons, and slams the oven door about twenty times. Oh yeah, think I, darkly. That’s gonna help. I wish Timmy were here, he’d re-wire the thing or whatever, and it would be fixed . . .

6:20 The oven clicks on. I repent (inwardly) of my dark thoughts and kiss my good husband thank you, pray that it stays on, and turn it to preheat. 450ΒΊ. It’s gonna be a hot day in the kitchen. I fetch more buckets of dough and shape braided Challah. Rise time of 90 minutes. I slide the baguettes and one sheet of baby baguettes into the now-hot oven.

7:00 Baguettes are done, and they are beautiful. More so than usual, since they almost didn’t happen at all. I pull them out and put them out on the cooling racks on our sun porch. I slide the cheese bread in. The oven is still working.

These are especially lovely to eat when they are hot.

These are especially lovely to eat when they are hot.

When the cheese bread is done, I pull it out and slide in two more sheets of baguettes. I continue in this way, bringing up buckets of dough as I need them, shaping, baking, pulling out, putting on racks to cool.

Wisconsin cheese bread is always so pretty.

Wisconsin cheese bread always turns out so pretty.

7:15 Bryan leaves for work, and wishes me luck, casting an anxious eye on the temperamental oven.

8:35 Little Mack is up, and (of course) hungry. I am, too. I’ve been baking for two hours without a break. My cooling racks are already full of bread. I break a baguette into chunks and pull out some good cheese from the refrig’ to eat with it, and a couple of apples, and some yogurt. We sit down together and we talk for a few minutes. He wants to make no-bake cookies for market, and I ask Amalia if she has the time to do this. She says that she will, but later. She’s already at work wrapping up her muffins that she made yesterday. Meals on farmer’s market day are easy and quick (if we get to them at all!). I consult my list. The timer goes off. Break is over, and I go back into the kitchen to pull another batch of bread out of the oven. I remind Mack to get his chores done. He blanches. I remind him more sternly. He lingers over his breakfast and a book.

I’m making lots of different kinds of cheese breads today. My one standard–Wisconsin Cheese bread–is always so popular, I’m going to branch out and do a few more kinds.

This is a new recipe: bleu cheese bread, with a buttery crust.

This is a new recipe: bleu cheese bread, with real butter slathered on the crust.


Since it is a new recipe, I have to slice open one of the loaves and try it: oh gosh, I love it.

Since it is a new recipe, I have to slice open one of the loaves and try it: oh gosh, I love it. Maybe these loaves should just stay home?

Bleu cheese has such a powerful flavor that it doesn’t take much to transform an ordinary loaf of artisan bread. Wow, it’s good.

This spinach feta bread needed more space on the pan, it got so big.

This spinach feta bread needed more space on the pan, it got so big.

10:10: I turn the oven down to 350ΒΊ, since all the high-temperature breads are finished baking. The focaccias and Challahs and caramel monkey breads take a lower temperature. My buckets are nearly all empty, so I put whole wheat flour (ground a few days ago and kept in the freezer), my 9-grain mix (ask me about it sometime and I’ll publish the recipe), yeast and water in the mixer bowl and let it sponge for 10 minutes while I do a little dish-washing. It’s kind of a pain to wash out all those doughy buckets, but it’s worse if I let them sit all day long and try to do it at the end of the day. I shape loaves of 9-grain bread and start a second batch sponging. I slide focaccia into the oven. I can never remember how to spell “focaccia.” Focaccia? Foccacia? Whatever.

The braided challah has risen and is ready to go into the oven.

The braided challah has risen and is ready to go into the oven.

I use the same dough–it’s a nice rich eggy and buttery dough–for the challah and the monkey bread, and I use an olive oil dough for all the focaccias. Foccacias. Flat breads.

This is a new favorite: blueberry focaccia with lemon sugar--yum!!

This is a new favorite: blueberry focaccia with lemon sugar–yum!!

10: 25 Mack has finally finished his chores--he unloaded the dishwasher, picked up his room, and fed the dogs and cats–and he has gone out to play. I hear him yelling from outside, and then he is running into the house “Mom! Mom! Mommmmm!” He has found a new friend, and wants to show it to me.


I admire this beautiful (really, it is a beautiful one) toad, and then I remind Mack to keep it far, far away from the kitchen . . . and then something happens, the toad struggles and jumps and is hopping across the sun porch. This is a good-sized toad and we are surprised at how fast it can hop.

Yikes! Head him off at the pass! Catch him!

Yikes! Head him off at the pass! Catch him!

10:35: I catch the toad handily, admire it for a moment; I really want to sit down and draw it, decide otherwise and hand it back to little Mack, and he takes his new friend back outside. I wash my hands for awhile, in hot soapy water, just for sport. I return to the kitchen. I find one last bucket of dough in the basement ‘fridge and I realize that I forgot to make the olive bread.

I open the cabinet to look for the new jar of olives that I bought for olive bread. They. Aren’t. There. “Where are the olives?” I wail to an empty kitchen. I’m starting to feel my early morning. I start digging into another cupboard. I find a bag of candy pumpkins leftover from post-Halloween sales, and I am temporarily mollified. I love those things, even though I know they are pure sugar. I eat a few and think about my son Matthew. He’s my oldest, and lives in St. Louis and he loves these candy pumpkins, like I do. At least he used to. I am so proud of him. Not for loving candy pumpkins, but for so many other reasons. At last! I find the olives. Somebody has opened the jar and they are in the refrigerator. There are still plenty left, and I dice up a cup of them to use in my olive bread. I shape the olive bread.

11:15: The olive bread is done, and the 9-grain bread is ready to go into the oven, and I mix up a batch of flaxseed bread, and then another batch of 9-grain. It is easily my best seller. I’ve got quite a lot of bread cooling now on the racks.

Everybody loves this caramel monkey bread and it is so easy: you just dip balls of dough into melted butter, and then cinnamon sugar, and then plop them in the pan.

Everybody loves this caramel monkey bread and it is so easy: you just dip balls of dough into melted butter, and then cinnamon sugar, and then plop them in the pan, let them rise for a bit, and then bake. Yumm.

It’s been a good baking day so far, even though it started out a bit rough.

Here are a few batches of bread on Farmer's Market day last summer. Doesn't it make you happy just looking at them?

This makes me happy.

12:45: The last batch of bread is in the oven.Β I wash dishes for a good twenty minutes or so. I know that if I wait until tonight to tackle the dishes, I will regret it bitterly, when I trudge in around 8:00 with the car to unload, footsore and happy and thoroughly spent. Amalia is wrapping up the cool breads and has all of her muffins and quick breads ready to go, wrapped and loaded into flats in the breezeway. I ask her to pull my bread out when it’s finished, and I go out to harvest bunches of kale and basil and a few late-season lettuces out of the hoophouse.

Tom Thumb on the right, and red leaf lettuce on the left.

Tom Thumb on the right, and red leaf lettuce on the left.

2:10: Little Mack is complaining about being hungry, and I realize that I’ve forgotten lunch altogether. I make him a couple of cheese sandwiches and cut up some melon, and grab an apple for myself. I help Amalia wrap up the cooled bread and we load boxes of bread, the cash box, the bag of bags and other supplies, into the breezeway.Β  “I’ll move the Trailblazer around to load, and you get into the shower,” she says to me. “Malachi–get the library books together if you want me to take you to the library!” she yells to little Mack, who is reading in the living room. (I told you she’s bossy.) She recently got her learner’s permit and will grab at any excuse to drive, even just in our own driveway.

2:45: We are ready to go: the Shimmy (that’s our name for our Trailblazer, and it’s another story) is loaded, little Mack has loaded up his library books, the dogs are put into their kennels, the chickens are let out of their yard, and we are leaving for market. We don’t set up until 4:00, but we have a couple of errands to run before time to set up. I have a bread order to drop off in town, and then Amalia dearly wants to stop at our favorite thrift store–the Etcetera shop in Seward–to look for a few things. I think we’re going to make it in time to do that.

All loaded up!

It looks messy, but it’s all in there like it’s supposed to be. We are ready to go!

Come back next week, Gentle Reader, if you want to hear about the second half of our busy farmer’s marketing day–unloading, setting up, and selling, and then loading up and coming back home.

Thanks for checking in, as always. See you later!


As is my wont, I’ll be linking this post up with the genial folks over at The Prairie Homestead’s weekly Barn Hop. C’mon on over!