Shauna Thomas: I studied surface design at Bloomsburg University. In 2006 I attended a Surface Design Conference in Kansas City with my professor, which is when I truly realized my love for the medium. I began working on wearable art with the intent of just making beautiful fabrics. All of my fabrics are designed by hand. April 2007 I won Best In Show at a local wearable art extravaganza. I now work from home, where I live with my husband and our beautiful son.
August, the eighth month; a time when there is no longer any denying that what stands just on the other side of these long, hot days is autumn. The year is two-thirds over. And, I loathe to admit, in many locales so is the growing season. Last week the ripening of my tomatoes came on in earnest. Just in time, as a sick and demented cosmic plot twist would have it, for me to leave town for 5 days. While it’s a time, as I mentioned in both On Inheritance and Cooking Up History recently, I look forward to with great gusto every year it’s also a time when I’m forced to face the truth. Unlike July when what awaited me on the other side of long, hot days was more long, hot days all that awaits me now is autumn. And, as much as I love falling leaves, back-to-school, pumpkin pie and knobby sweaters I hate — yes, I said hate — the dwindling period of yet another growing season. Even if it will be filled with some of the year’s most satisfying meal prospects.
Unfortunately for some areas — especially those in the deep south and the southwest — where the weather is too hot even for heat loving varieties this is already largely a reality. But before we go feeling too sorry for them, or them for themselves, remember those locales will have a second growing season just as the rest of the country is laboring the get the most out of the end of their first and only. So if you’re in a location where much of the summer’s bounty is taking a back seat to killer temperatures, hang in there and check back in next month when the availability of local produce will pick back up by leaps and bounds in your area. Just don’t stop visiting your farmer’s markets in the meantime, there is still plenty to find there.
And for the rest of us; what can we expect to find gracing farmer’s stands this month? Look for heat loving produce and those items that require a long growing season to be ripening by the bushels in August. Peaches, those tasty tomatoes we’ve been discussing and peppers of all varieties — the hotter the better if you ask me — as pictured will all be available in many places, but alongside them you’ll probably also find sweet corn, okra, plums, melons, cucumbers, figs, nectarines, eggplant and apricots.
Until next month, Happy Farmer’s Market Shopping!
This week Manchester Craft and Design Centre opened a new exhibition of neon light installations by artist Richard William Wheater. The Craft and Design Centre is a fantastic local venue for artists to showcase their work, and this latest exhibition is sure to bring new customers to the centre.
Richard works in print, performance and installation and has been creating since backpacking in Europe as a teenager, where he was inspired by the sights. Now, Richard gets inspiration from speaking to people and looking out for interesting sights on his commute to and from work.
Gaining enjoyment from sharing his work with others and hoping it will provide them with pleasure, the only thing he dislikes it that he can no longer see his pieces once they’re sold! Richard is lucky enough to have his ideal workspace – a bit, minimal white space just outside Wakefield in Yorkshire, UK, and works mostly to commission – though his artist books are available through Amazon.
“Not many artists work in neon, even less are developing it in a hands-on sense,” says Richard. “I benefit from being one of only a few artists that develop and make neon. Often it’s the idea that I promote, usually through a media story or in on-line forums and what’s on guides.”
“My concern [with the UK art scene] lies with the lack of funding for material-based arts courses in UK colleges and universities. It’s here where we should be inviting students to explore the creative possibilities of such materials, though apart from Neon Workshops, there is nowhere in Britain where one can even learn about or play with neon.”
“It’s crucial to have the support of exhibiting in spaces that not only have resources to help promote ones work but the ability to financially support an exhibitor to make and install new work. Without this support, less new inspired work is made, and therefore less chance for general public to become inspired by what they might see.”
I’m Electric You’re Electric runs at the Manchester Craft and Design Centre from February 12 to April 30. Visit www.craftanddesign.com for full details.
Here, last weekend marked the final Farmer’s Market of the year. While it’s a bittersweet passing of time for growers — the loss of convenient, weekly contact with customers is never a welcome thing, but the late fall and winter downtime that is a result of a lightened market schedule is imperative in the planning of the next year’s crop — it’s mostly just bitter for shoppers. Especially those new to eating local and those who are not accustomed to stocking up. Many will have few choices other than to turn back to their local chain supermarket to feed their families.
Last year in On Year-Round Appreciation, I briefly grazed the topic of keeping in touch with your local growers year round, and the advice there is still relevant and useful to this day, but if you’re committed to eating local even in the off-season you may need to dig deeper. The end of organized markets doesn’t necessarily mean the end of local food, but you may have to do a bit more homework to find it. And even if your local Farmer’s Markets are still open, doing your homework may yield you better sources of local food than you had before.
Most locales are still supporting some growth, though the variety will be less impressive than it has been. If your markets are still open be on the look out for those early spring vegetables that are making a comeback for a second season this year. Greens are huge — spinach, lettuce, kale, chard, collards — as are fast growing root crops. Think: radishes. Also keep your eyes peeled for long-season crops that are just now ripe, such as leeks, egg plant and winter squashes, as well as those crops that store well for winter like potatoes, onions and garlic. Those that store well can be stocked up on now, and eaten throughout the coming cold months. Just be sure to ask the grower to make sure the variety they’re selling is one that stores well; not all do.
While you’re out there also ask the vendors you frequent whether or not they’ll have limited crops available during the time when the market is no longer operational. You may be able to pick up local food on-farm all winter. If your market, like mine, has already closed for the winter search Local Harvest for growers near you and get on the phone to line up sources of your favorites for the whole winter season.
Of course the transition to the non-growing season also means a transition to those foods that have no season. Meats, soft dairy and hard cheeses can be produced and harvested year round and are excellent staples for hearty, warming winter meals. Canned products, if you didn’t can your own during the months of summer bounty, are also something you may want to be on the lookout for as December approaches. Think outside the box and even a simple jar of jam can go a long way. Raspberry, spread atop a pasture-raised pork loin is to die for.
However you choose to round out your winter pantry this November, happy local shopping!