My summer mornings, when I have the time, start with a wonderful tradition: I make a cup of coffee while still in my PJ’s, grab a baseball hat, and sit in a big Adirondack chair with Jackson on my lap watching the birds or the clouds over Willapa Bay or whatever happens to be in my frame. Of late, my view has been that riot of blooming dynamism and liveliness called summer.
The crocosmia lucifer (Lucifer Montbretia), with their gorgeous scarlet-red flames, seems to be most beloved of the hummingbirds. (I have orange crocosmia too but the reds are favored.) The hummers buzz and whirl and jet by, sometimes in pairs (are they mating or vying for territory?) so near my head I feel like William Tell’s son with the apple — “Just sit still and be calm,” I say to myself. “They’ll navigate around you.”
I love crocosmia because they’re easy. Despite touring the awe-inspiring Music in the Gardens a couple weeks ago and ogling all the meticulously tended beds and pathways and exotic accouterments, I have to admit — I am not that kind of gardener. I buy plants I like the looks of, put them in the ground, water them, and hope they’ll figure things out on their own.
Crocosmia fit the bill perfectly. Those bulbs (corms really) just need decent soil, enough water, sun, and voila! You’ve got a perennial blooming mid-to-late summer with no other muss and fuss. Bonus — they’re also deer- and rabbit-proof.
The red fuchsia, another hummer-attractor, seem to grow almost wild all over my yard. Then there’s sweet honeysuckle that climbs into my pines and swarms my butterfly bush. I know a lot of gardeners consider buddleia to be weeds, but I love mine — I have blue, deep purple, and yellow. They’re drought resistant, can be trimmed and sculpted, and attract all sorts of flying lovelies, butterflies and birds.
My morning ritual provides a smorgasbord of plants and creatures all doing their thing while I slowly wake up with a front row seat on the action, and some good caffeine. Which leads me to one of the best aspects of these summer days — blooms! Produce! Berries! Fresh fruit!
Astoria’s Sunday Market
Our outdoor markets must be some of the best in the west. Not only do we have a plethora of farmers — organic and otherwise — producing stunningly beautiful flowers, berries, veggies and greens, you can also go right to the docks and get fresh fish. And with a couple new bakers in town, or across the river, providing bread and sweets, I ask you, “What more could a mortal need?”
So, a few notes on our neighborhood markets. The Sunday Market in Astoria is a mix of produce, flowers (both potted and cut), baked goods, art, crafts, eats, and live music (http://www.astoriasundaymarket.com). I don’t think you can beat that combination on a sunny summer day when the breeze along the Columbia River keeps things just cool enough to be comfortable.
I wandered over the river with a friend and had a marvelous couple hours of market meandering. Do you need CBD cream, a crocheted hat, dog clothes, spices, a handmade maple cutting board? You’re in luck! What about waffles, local honey, potholders, metal-mounted photographs, a locally designed hat or T-shirt, emu oil? Yep. Handmade dips and hummus, cigar-box guitars, specialty pasta, a unique birdhouse, cool aprons for the chefs in the family, maybe a rescue dog? Got it all. There was even a poet installed on the corner with her manual typewriter for impromptu literary creations handmade on the spot for a modest donation. You can’t beat that for Northwest quirky.
And I haven’t even mentioned the food court with savory and sweet selections of fish and chips, crab cakes, chowders, spring rolls, shave ice, and other yummies. My conclusion? Entrepreneurship is alive and well on the North Coast.
I might note that several of the vendors frequent all the weekend markets in our area. One of them — the Thai food truck — is not to be missed. This industrious couple has been doing the weekend markets for over 18 years. They offer succulent spring rolls with shrimp and peanut sauce — two for $5 — and a crunchy variety for $1 each. Either one of these choices, along with a cold soda, makes for a perfect market lunch. (Here’s a list of all the Astoria market vendors https://www.astoriasundaymarket.com/vendors.)
The Sunday Market goes from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. all up and down 12th Street from Marine Drive to Exchange. Parking can get a little hectic, but there’s a fairly large lot at 10th and Marine, or street parking if you can find it.
Ilwaco Saturday Market
Ilwaco Saturday Market was also hopping — the parking lot at the port was packed. As mentioned, some of the vendors participate in both the Astoria and Ilwaco markets, but there are some notable exceptions.
One is a new bakery in Ilwaco just east of the old Shorebank Building (now the At the Helm Hotel and Pub). It’s aptly named the Ilwaco Bakery and Café, and staffed by owner Valerie Perkins and Marcy Lindsey. They’ve been open only two months, but as Valeria says, “We’ve been busier than I ever thought we’d be, so I guess a bakery was really needed down here.” Right now they’re operating in a portable “tiny house” seven days a week from 7 a.m. until 2 p.m. But next door, Valerie’s husband is building what will be the permanent bakery. They hope to make the move by April 2020 and then they’ll have new hours.
Also in Ilwaco for the last couple weeks Al Malchow, owner of the fishing vessel Doreen, with the help of John Fasching, has been selling fresh halibut and rockfish off the dock. The Doreen, built in 1938, according to Al was, “the fastest and biggest boat in the marina for many years. My great grandfather bought it in ‘42 and I grew up on this boat.” (The Doreen is generally berthed in Chinook.)
Al, now a resident of Naselle, said, “This is our last run for halibut. We had a 10-hour opener and got our quota of about 2,300 pounds. But it’s getting harder and harder to make it fishing these days.”
I purchased a beautiful spiny rockfish that John fileted for me. I also asked for the head and bones for the stockpot — à la chef Jimella Lucas — though she always preferred salmon for fish stock. Maybe there’s a bouillabaisse in my future.
Long Beach’s Friday Market
And don’t forget Friday’s Columbia Pacific Farmer’s Market from noon to 5 p.m. at the Veterans Field downtown. There are more Washington-side farmers, artists and craft folks represented at the Long Beach market, including Veggie Girls and Glory B Farms, Don Nesbitt, and Rainy Day Farm’s lavender. (More info, including a vendor list, here: http://www.longbeachwa.gov/recreation/farmersmarket) Please also patronize these local purveyors of summer fun: Cranguyma U-pick blueberries (113th and Sandridge); and the Basket Case, Clarke Nursery, English Nursery, and the Planter Box.
In short, this is the season for fresh everything and for glorying in the array of products, produce and people our area is noted for.