Sunday, May 8, 2011

the first outdoor market

I don't think I had ever driven under more stress in my life. While drifting at a painstakingly conservative pace down Route 67 into Bennington, I kept looking into the rear-view mirror with wide eyes. The 80-year-old green farm trike was falling out of the back bed constantly. Not falling into the road, but knocking down the tailgate with a bang. I wanted to drive faster, but couldn't. If I sped up the old bike might fly into the road and the small cage of pullets might go with it. It was too early in the morning to have blood on my hands. So I just white knuckled the steering wheel while another angry driver passed me on the windy two-lane road. I was going 35 in a 55. People hated being behind me.

As I got closer to the state line I passed a large horse farm and took in a happy sight. A woman was driving a single pony in standard cart. They were coming down a dirt road at a trot, and against the green pastures and bright mountain it looked wonderful. I kept looking, wanting to pull over and ask the woman if she gave lessons, and another German car whizzed passed me. I don't think the people in the BMW saw, or cared about, the pony on the hill. I guess they don't worry about free-falling 1930's tricycle shrapnel either.

I was running late, really late, for merchant set-up time at the Walloomsac Farmer's Market. I thought it started at 11, but when checking the website at 9Am in my bathrobe, I realized I had it all wrong and it was starting in an hour. It must've been my post-turkey hunting doldrums that messed up my times. I stared at the screen of the kitchen's Emac. I was to be set up and at my table in half an hour. Oh, shit. It takes a half hour just to drive there. There was no way I could make it on time, and there was certainly no way I could make myself look presentable either. I through my hair up into a hat, braided my pigtails, through on a cowboy shirt and jumped into the poorly-loaded truck. I had an old folding table I found in the attic, an ancient EZ-UP tent, and my books and wool already loaded. For blatant showmanship and chick-book advertising I had planned to set up the old farm trike by my table with a small cage of pullets loaded in the back. I hoped people who stopped to see the chicks (or the bike) would consider a book.

I pulled into the train station with 15 minutes till the opening bell. In a panic, I searched for the market coordinator to ask where to go? She told me where to pull up my truck and I backed it into the very last spot. Talk about poor positioning... I was on the edge of the market, the spot for, well, the people who show up late. I sighed and ran to the truck to unload the tent and table. The table was easy enough to get upright, but the ancient tent (which had not been used in ten years), was stuck and myself and another woman who came to my rescue from the next booth, could not get it open. Disgusted. I threw it into the back of my truck. I should have tested it at home first, but had not. By this point I had missed a turkey, been late to the market, and now I was breaking the must-have-tent rule. I set up my sad little table fast as I could and ran to the truck to get my bike. In the rush I grabbed it wrong and cut open my hand with the old fender. Blood poured and I silently cursed, almost wanting to cry. I had been up since 4 and starving. Besides one thin slice of cold pizza I had nothing to eat.

The Joe showed up, who I knew from Izabella's in town, and as husband to my coworker Lucinda at the office. He saw this frumpy misfit trying to unload an old bicycle and in an act of kindness so selfless, he set down his snack and helped me get it out of my truck. It was an extremely decent thing to do, and in my state of exhaustion and frustration I was moved to canonize the man. I thanked him, and my mood instantly changed. Just like that. If there are still men kind enough to help a Hobbit woman get her stupid tricycle out of her pickup truck the world can't be that crappy of a place: dead turkeys or not.

(I think this is the only blog you will read that last sentence on...)

I was set up soon enough after that. I was handed a bandaid and then spent the next three hours taking in the scene. One of the woman from Polymeadow's farm brought a goat kid along. A little LaMancha cross with a black coat, tiny ears, and white socks. Kids played with the ten-day-old goat and asked me about my chickens. I saw some local folks, coworkers, and met a few vendors. The rain they were calling for held out, and for that, this tentless girl was grateful. I took the six dollars I had brought from home for change in my blue mason jar and spent them on a cookie and a croissant. I might be broke, late, and bleeding: but I wasn't going to be hungry. I ate them with gusto. People would just have to have correct change.

It was exciting to be sitting at my first outdoor market. Until that morning I was always on the other side of the table, walking around with a dog and a shopping bag, buying things. Now I was the one in the camp chair hoping someone was thinking about chickens or liked to knit. Sitting at a market table is a constant mantra of c'mom, c',mon, c'mon.....

The market was well attended, their largested opening day ever, but darn slow for me. I made a total of fifty-five dollars in book sales, but fifteen went to my table fee and the other 40 fell out of my pants pocket loading the truck. I realized this when I was at long gone from the grounds at the Tractor Supply check-out line, trying to pay for t-posts and 330 feet of field fencing and realized the cash I planned on putting towards it had slipped out of the pockets of my sister's hand-me-down jeans. That poor luck had made the entire day of work a monetary wash.

Well folks, I can tell you this, after yesterday will never aim a shotgun wrong or put cash in those shallow pockets again. Lessons come easy for some, and harder for others. I'm the later, and if you don't believe me just ask Sal how many times I got zinged by the electric fence. He won't answer you, but he will smile.


Blogger phaedra96 said...

There will never be a worse time than the first; from now on you will do your homework, won't you? So sorry things went so wrong but, hey, you did sell some stuff, right?

May 8, 2011 at 7:46 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

What a day Jenna!!! Oh, shit is right for sure! I hope your next outdoor market goes A LOT smoother. I feel so bad that your money fell out of your pocket, at that point I would have cried. I love that you don't romanticise farm life, you tell it like it is. Hope something comes along to cheer you up :)

May 8, 2011 at 7:49 PM  
Blogger Lynda Halliger-Otvos said...

Some days go that way. I remember looking vainly while at the check out of the grocery for 40 bucks I had stashed in the “Twin Titties Nat’l Bank” long before go-bank cards were ubiquitous. Hungry and broke and sad I stumbled away from that and Never Ever stowed anything in the cleavage. Lesson learned; hunger bites.

May 8, 2011 at 7:51 PM  
Blogger Odie Langley said...

Seems you had a day that paralleled the friday I posted about recently which I don't ever want to relive. Sorry it all went south for you Jenna but like you said you learned a good lesson and I am sure it will never happen again.

May 8, 2011 at 8:10 PM  
Blogger Sherrill said...

Holy smokes! That was a crap day that you came out of still being able to blog about it.

Here's to a much better upcoming week.

May 8, 2011 at 8:13 PM  
Blogger karen said...

My mantra for times like this is "Its always something" Life is not always rosy but you sure made me laugh with the telling of the tale! I'm sure next time will be a smoother go of it and hopefully you will make up for the money lost. At least is was just money. You are a wonderful writer Jenna-thanks for being so real and such an inspiration in the pursuit of passion. Peace to you-Karen from CT

May 8, 2011 at 8:22 PM  
Blogger Stargazer 2 said...


May 8, 2011 at 9:12 PM  
Blogger Sylvia said...

I am really, really sorry about your day. I am a first timer selling cheese for a friend at our farmer's market and I can tell you, if it will go wrong for a first timer, it will.
Even tents you try at home somehow only open to a midget's height (sorry, too embarrassed to be politically correct). The 20 ones you thought were plenty and no one will change you out. Everyone shows up with 20s and sales walk away.
I learned a lot 2 weeks ago and this week I was able to help the cross the way newbie set up her tent, run use the bathroom (also learned not to drink coffee that first morning, no matter how good it smells....), and figure out how to make the change go the right way.
The good news is, your learning curve is steep and fast. You will be an old pro next time and no one will be able to resist your chickens and trike.
P.S. I have learned to pack lots of bungee cords, zip ties, weights, and tape in my emergency box. With that, you can fix darn near anything including a 4 foot high tent! Don't ask. My farmer friend Mr. Bray fixed the d**n thing for me with those items.

May 8, 2011 at 9:17 PM  
Blogger MilkMaid09 said...

Hey, you gave it a shot! I'm trying my first Farmer's Market this year. I'm nervous and excited all at once. I don't mean any offense, but with my luck - if I have a first day even twice as exciting as yours, I'll consider it a victory. I wish our market allowed animals because I'd love to show people the goats that give the awesome milk for my soaps, but they aren't covered under the insurance.

May 8, 2011 at 9:22 PM  
Blogger Kimberlie Ott said...

Jenna,your humor and perspective made this OMG day one I giggled and shook my head too......your writing is priceless and your sooo gifted! I know that whatever the 2nd market throws at you, your gonna handle (remember the sunscreen, and extra snacks in your backpack, and lots of water :) YOu did it and it is done, so sorry that jeans failed you, what icing on that bitter cake! Go home and have a cold antler cider :) blessings~

May 8, 2011 at 9:32 PM  
Blogger Ruth @ Hope, Joy and Faith Farm said...

I am so happy to hear how your day went... Now please don't take that wrong, what I mean is that now I know there is someone who has luck like mine and who doesn't always pay attention to important things like starting times, etc.

I am truly sorry about the money loss... I do crap like that all the time and still have yet to learn from it. The money is the worst part about it, the rest you will use as a learning experience for your next market.

May 8, 2011 at 10:30 PM  
OpenID chickadeeworkshop said...

God bless you! I don't know how you got through the day without tears; I'm certain I would have cried very early on. You are one strong and steady broad. I certainly hope next time is better, both for the market and the hunting.

May 8, 2011 at 10:56 PM  
Blogger Kathleen Stoltzfus said...

This is my second year of going to market and have learned a few things along the way...
Invest in a cash box of some sort and keep and take $100 in change in it. I start out with 20 ones, 8 fives, and 4 tens. In addition, a roll each of quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies. The cash box also holds business cards, a pen or two, some paper clips, and rubber bands.
Get a tote bag to carry everything in. My cash box lives in it so I don't forget it. Then on the morning of market, I put in a thermos of coffee and a cup, breakfast and lunch, a book to read, bags for shoppers in case they don't have their own, and my banner. The tote bag is also a great place to keep a supplies kit of things such as duct tape, bungee cords, spring clamps, product signs, a scissors, a tablet, and anything else you can think of that you might need.
In addition to a tent and table, take a chair.
Best of luck to you!

May 8, 2011 at 11:06 PM  
Blogger Tora Consolo said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

May 8, 2011 at 11:29 PM  
Blogger Tora Consolo said...

Poor you - as my mom would say, "sometimes you get the bull, and sometimes the bull gets you." It'll be better next time.

May 8, 2011 at 11:30 PM  
Blogger Karen said...

I'm a cup half full kind of person.
All I can think of is that you might have been tentless, but at least it didn't rain. Just know that next time it will be much better.

It was the first outdoor market here on Saturday, and it poured rain for the first three hours. All I can say was that at least it wasn't windy.
Sales certainly weren't good, it was so miserable no-one wanted to hang around any longer than they had to.

The more markets you do, the more organized you'll be for everything that gets thrown at you.

May 9, 2011 at 3:04 AM  
Blogger Sarah Rachelle said...

Poor Jenna! We all have days like that where everything seems to go wrong - especially about your cash falling out! :-(
I do love your display, though! I love how you have your wool in the vintage suitcase. I hope your next day at the market goes better.

May 9, 2011 at 8:45 AM  
Blogger Tara said...

I go to my first market in two weeks, and I'm horrified it's going to go this way. I'm sorry your first day was so awful, but it can only go up from here, right? And thanks to the rest of you more seasoned folks for the tips - I'll be taking them to heart as well!

May 9, 2011 at 9:51 AM  
OpenID peihome said...

Tetanus shots up to date?


I just got my shot after hoiking boards around, and one, of course, had the proverbial rusty nail still attached.

May 9, 2011 at 10:41 AM  
Blogger Lavigne Photography said...

like :)

May 9, 2011 at 10:47 AM  
Blogger mdoe37 said...

You'll get it all organized soon. A cash box is an excellent idea. I understand about the escaping money. I don't carry a purse and, somewhere along the line, women's jean pockets shrank so much that my tiny wallet wouldn't fit. There was a farm woman from here that used to have a wallet on a chain in her back pocket - but you don't seem quite the type. I've resorted to a neck wallet/pouch slung across that way I have both hands free.

May 9, 2011 at 11:31 AM  
Blogger Flartus said...

A lot of the farmers at our market use those hardware-store pocket aprons...I'm sure there's a better name for them, but they tie around your waist and have a few pockets that hang down in front. That way you don't have to worry about having someone watch your cash box when you step out for a brownie!

May 9, 2011 at 1:17 PM  
Blogger Lorlee said...

Recently, I had the same shallow pocket problem and lost a $20 bill. I decided I needed to reframe how I thought about that and decided to focus on the joy someone got in finding an unexpected windfall. Helped.

May 10, 2011 at 12:57 PM  
Blogger Margie said...

Jenna, sounds like you had an awful day; but you made ours with the retelling.
Thanks for such a terrific blog.
If I ever find myself up you way, I'm calling and stopping by. You're got more courage than I have or will ever have.

May 10, 2011 at 1:12 PM  
Blogger kylieps said...

Oh Jenna! What a bummer. I was a vegetable vendor at 3 different farmer's markets last summer and for a few of those in the beginning I only made about $25- and if it had slipped out of my pocket after all that work, I would have melted into a little puddle of weeping snot right there in Tractor Supply. I admire your backbone, Girlfriend. it'll get better.

May 14, 2011 at 2:02 PM  
Blogger kylieps said...

I should also mention that my first market was on a blazing hot day, I didn't have a tent and the sun was beating down upon me like fire. I was put in a spot with no other vendors around me and did not make a single sale. Not one. Another vendor down aways took pity on me and lent me their bottle of sunscreen. New tents are about $100 at the evil Walmart and I went there immediately and invested. I like the hardware apron too over the cashbox for just the reason Flartus mentions. You can walk away with your cash strapped to you. Best of luck!

May 14, 2011 at 2:11 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home