Tag Archives: McMinnville

People Are What They Grow

I’ve been living in McMinnville for five and a half years now and when I first arrived I marveled at the obvious love this town had for: lawns, tiny stands of shrubs and/or perennials dwarfed by expanse of lawn, Japanese maple trees (the mini kind with red leaves), and the sameness.  All the mind numbing sameness from house to house, yard to yard.  I had just moved up from a northern California neighborhood filled with a wonderful diversity of garden styles so the sameness here struck me as being stark, sterile, and depressing.

Naturally I’m painting a broad picture.  I’m telling what my impressions as a newcomer were.  It is to be understood that all this time there have been a sprinkling of gardens that have not fit this standard mold, that have stood out with their more interesting styles.  But I promise that those gardens were (and still are) in the minority.

I have come to understand that the garden style here represents the people here very well.  This is a conservative town that likes things to be neat and tidy, likes the diversity of flowers to be corraled in liver shaped segregated (easily maintained) beds.  This is how it deals with people as well.  People are superficially friendly here but any outsider will tell you that it goes air deep.  People aren’t actually that friendly here.  They are not eager to let new people into their inner circles.  There is a hierarchy that, while it exists in all places where humans gather to live, is more strictly observed than it ever was in the city I moved here from.  This orderliness, this silent segregation of people into groups and cliques, this tight containment of plants reflects the people who grow them.

My own garden “style” very much reflects me as well, both my good qualities and my bad.  I rarely weed.  I put my mess of fruit and vegetables where people can see them.  I let my roses run riot.  I let my trees reach out too far.  I eschew order and encourage my plants to live together in a chaos of tangles.  Every once in a while I trim some things, weed a little, pretend to make order.  My garden reflects my mind, which is not an orderly place at all but constantly full of thoughts, of ideas, of questions, of anxiety, and of reflections – all of it in an untidy mess.  What you see is what you get.

I’ve been noticing gardens changing slowly over the last few years.  I’ve seen some lawns ripped out and vegetable beds put in in their place.  I’ve seen more gardens leaning towards permaculture ideals, and more daring combinations of perennials, some of them even edible.  Blueberries as shrubs in the front yard!  I’ve been seeing more herbs, more flowers, more fruit trees being planted.  I’ve seen those liver shaped beds expand, shrinking the obsessively clipped lawns surrounding them.  I’ve seen more lawns go brown in the summer.

Best of all of this is that I’m seeing more and more vegetable gardens being put in front yards.  I am seeing sidewalk strips turn into corn patches.  I am seeing squash plants spilling out toward curbs.  I am seeing more and more food being grown right there in front where all the neighbors can see.  I suppose in some ways this is a sad reflection of our deep recession.  Food prices constantly going upwards is forcing people to see the merit of growing their own food.  Letting lawns go brown in summer is a reflection of thinner pocketbooks creaking under the weight of water bills.  I’m not sad about this.  I hate that people are getting more and more strapped, myself included.  I hate that so many of my friends are enduring hard times, scrabbling for enough money to pay mortgages, some going on food stamps.  I’m not happy for the stress that financial distress is bringing to people but if this is what it takes for people to understand the value of growing food instead of lawns, I can’t do anything but cheer for the transformation.

The apartment building in these pictures is around the corner from my house.  For years it has favored institutionally low maintenance landscaping.  The people who live in it are mostly middle aged to old, no kids, and truthfully they seem a dour motley crowd that rarely smiles back at me.  When I saw these squash plants pop up in early summer I was taken completely off my guard.  I was absolutely charmed.  It gave me a glimmer of hope for all of mankind to see them plant tomatoes against the chain link.  Many tomato plants in the place of azaleas and useless stinky Pieris.  I ride my bicycle past this little patch often and every single time it makes me happy.  It reflects change in a stolid community.

I wonder if eventually most lawns will disappear and give way to a diversity of garden styles and garden plants.  I wonder if McMinnville will ever lose its crazy love for utilitarian shrubs in favor of more daphne, herbs, flowering quince (or even fruiting!), and free range wild flowers?  I doubt it, but a girl can hope.

The McMinnville Saturday Market

The Saturday Market in McMinnville runs all year long, unlike our week day farmer’s market that only runs from June through October.  This has been fantastic for me because I try to eat mostly local and mostly organic food and the winter, before this market, was especially tough for me to stick to my preferred way of eating.

There are only two farms that kept up stalls all winter long.  Denison Farms is a really huge farm in Corvallis that does several different farmer’s markets and this is the smallest one they do.  This means that they will only keep coming if it is profitable enough.  I promised myself to shop their stall every single weekend during the winter.  I only missed a couple.

They have had a surprisingly good diversity of vegetables throughout the winter.  They make use of greenhouses for certain, but this doesn’t bother me at all.  If I had a big enough property I’d have a big greenhouse myself.  They’re organic which is great.  Their prices aren’t cheap, but it’s been a long time since I have made food choices based solely on price.  We have made the choice to spend less money in other areas of our life so that we can buy good quality food.


We have eaten well all winter on the most lush dark greens and on their fennel, turnips, carrots (sometimes), leeks, potatoes (until they ran out of last year’s crop), and radishes.


I’m not a big fan of radishes but I’m learning to enjoy having them in salads.  Just don’t ask me to eat them whole dipped in salt and butter.  (Excuse me while I retch that thought out of my head.)  In spite of not loving to eat radishes, I have to admit that I think they’re beautiful and I never get tired of seeing them stacked up.

Growing Wild Farm is also organic.  It’s a small family owned farm here in McMinnville.  They had some good offerings for most of the winter but when it got slim at last, they brought out the cutting boards they make from fallen oak trees on their property.  They are also one of the few farms that offers fresh herbs.  I find it curious that so few farms here do that.  Basil is about the best you can find around here.  Growing Wild offers lovage, sage, rosemary, mint, and sometimes dill.

I’m not a big fan of rapini.  I want to be.  Just like with the radishes.  I don’t hate it.  There are honestly few vegetables that I hate.  But I never choose rapini if I can choose something else.  Still, it’s popular and it’s pretty.  See that cutting board?  Next picture shows more of them.  I bought two of them this year and I LOVE them!

I am notoriously hard on everything I use.  I have never waxed a cutting board in my life until I bought these handmade ones.  They’re gorgeous and sturdy and I’m trying to take good care of mine.  Next time you need a cutting board you should come and check these out.  Sometimes if you have a specific cutting board size you need and it’s not there Andre will make one to the size you need.  Always be sure to ask.

Ruby Cakes is new this year.  My friend Dominique started this business baking allergen free cupcakes and other baked goods.  She now has a partner whose name I have shamefully forgotten.  (I only met her once!)  The business has been doing very well and even my picky son likes the cupcakes.

Every weekend it seems they have some new treat for everyone to try.  I can’t keep up with everything these treats are free of but here’s what I know for sure: gluten free, dairy free, and soy free.  They also offer some sugar free treats.

Red Fox Bakery is also at the Saturday Market.  They have a counter inside where you can buy breads and pastries and the best macaroons in the entire world.  Outside they make pizzas in a cob oven which are also very good.

This miniature horse is a new attraction at the Saturday Market for the kids.  I’m a sucker for animals and can’t get over how small this horse is.  Maybe it’s really a pony?  I don’t know, but he’s cute.

Another recent addition to the Saturday Market is a stall full of handmade wooden spoons, bowls, and terrariums.  The day I took these pictures there were no terrariums so feast your eyes on the spoons!  This stall is run by Mitch and Ari (Mitch does the woodworking and Ari does the terrariums).  I have been in need of wooden spoons recently.  I lost the two I’ve been using for years.

I’m not sure a kitchen can have too many spoons.  I bought two cheap ones from the kitchen store downtown but that was before I saw these ones.  They aren’t cheap but they’re gorgeous and worth every penny.  Wooden spoons can last forever.  No lie.  There is no comparison between the ones Mitch makes and the cheap factory made ones.  Each spoon is different, he uses a variety of woods, so you have to test each one out to see how it feels in your hand, does the depth of the bowl please or do you want something shallower?  Is the handle the right thickness, does it taper where you want a handle to taper?  You don’t actually have to ask these questions like a dork.  You just pick up different spoons until you’re holding one that makes you want to rush home and start a pot of soup.  I bought a long handled spoon for soup but plan to buy a shorter handled one with a deeper bowl as soon as the budget allows.

These little walnut buttons completely charmed me.  For my book I was wondering what my character Cricket would do if she couldn’t get hold of containers for lip balm and I thought of walnuts with little hinges on them, sanded out inside, filled with balm, and closed with some twine.  When I saw these I was amazed to see that someone else had thought of something to do with walnut shells- I hadn’t considered that they could be used as buttons!

Other things you can get at the Saturday market: jewelry, soaps (sometimes), wild mushrooms, duck eggs, other baked goods, crafts, chocolates, knitted hats and scarves, and nursery plants and bulbs.  Not all of these things are there all the time but if you haven’t visited the Saturday Market and you live in McMinnville, you must come and see it!

I think every community needs a market like this year round.