Monday, 10 January 2011

The Weekend Is Over And Now I Need A Rest

It was a very cold weekend here in Yorkshire, rainy, windy, then sunny, but still windy and COLD.  I braved the elements and set up shop at the farmers markets!

I am spoiled at the market on Saturday as it is inside the village hall with tables provided and even teas and coffees given to the stallholders by the very kind and hard working hall caretakers.  However, it was so ridiculously quiet.  Opening up at 9am, the first customer didn't walk into the market until a little after 10am.  All of the stallholders were just standing around doing nothing.  It's pretty soul destroying.  It picked up a little bit by 11, but still not sure it is really worthwhile to continue this market.  At noon the other stallholders and myself had a conversation with the organiser and gave him lots of suggestions for trying to reinvent this particular market.  For the first time he seemed to listen.

Suggestion one was to give new potential stallholders an incentive to take part.  Without stallholders, there is no market.  We suggested he give two free months and on the second month, if they are still interested in coming, they need to pay for the third month in advance.  Most markets charge their stallholders in advance.  This ensures them coming.  It makes sense!  He seemed open and keen to the idea.  The other suggestion was to have an incentive to get people to come and shop.  We thought maybe offer tea, coffee and a small bacon or sausage roll for 99 pence to get people through that door.  Maybe even tea and coffee for free with a cookie of mine thrown in for good measure.  It can't hurt giving a cookie, if they like it, perhaps they will buy more.  There is a method to my madness!  We don't want to create more work for the hall caretakers, so my husband will be in charge of the coffee and tea next month.  Bless his heart, I don't know what I would do without him.  Another suggestion was to have much better and clearer signage, placed in better positions.  I gave the organiser the name of the man who made my banners.  He does great work and is very reasonably priced.  And finally, pamphlets have to go through each and every door in the village.  Someone from the community actually said to the organiser that they didn't know there was a market here and it has been going on over 2 1/2 years.  That is nonsensical.  Finally we suggested to go look at the market that two of us do the following day in Burley and try and get some stallholders from there, being honest that the market is slow, but we are trying to revive it to its former glory.  Hopefully, this will all help and once again we can get my local village market thriving again. 

I have to admit, Saturday's market wasn't as bad as the previous month, but still really wasn't great at all.  Thankfully my regular customers were there to do their shop.  The best part of Saturday's market was when I got home, I received a text message from a couple I had never seen before.  They were a Spanish couple and they bought cheesecake from me.  The text said, " Best cheesecake ever :) We bought it this morning and we're loving it now!  Thanks (gracias!)"  There is no question that that text message made the Saturday market very worthwhile!  New customers loving my produce and letting me know from my contact details on the packaging.  That's the kind of feedback I love!

I did sell quite a few pecan pie bars and some other bars, so when I got home, I made more bars for Sunday's market.  More pecan pie bars and the ginger bars with white chocolate.  I also made the carrot cake with pumpkin cheesecake in the middle.  I decided to leave out the zucchini.  After those were baked, my husband, myself and our friend Pippa went to hear the local village band play in the village hall.  On Saturday morning and Saturday night, the hall was like my home away from home.   We got back and at midnight I cut my bars and frosted my cake.  Got to bed around 1am for an 8am set up the next morning.

Sunday morning was not very pleasant.  It was rainy and windy as I said.  Every stallholder still showed up at the market, despite the conditions.  That is the difference between the Burley market and my local market, stallholders just don't show up.  We set up the stall, erected the structure and put up the awning.  I couldn't really properly set out my desserts because they would have certainly got wet.  Luckily the rain did stop shortly before opening time at 10am and I could place out my samples and uncover the desserts.  The wind never let up.  It even blew over the stall next to me and so much of her product was ruined.  It was her own stall, not the ones the farmer provides.  Thank goodness nobody got hurt.  After that, she broke down the rest of her stall and went home.  My stall and all of the other stalls stayed intact.  I dressed for the occasion and looked like I weighed about 300 pounds when actually I am really quite small.  I don't really eat every single thing I bake despite the appearance.  I had on quite literally 6 layers on top and 5 on the bottom.  My toes and fingers were numb, but it was still great fun!

It was as I suspected, slower than usual, but there were still always people milling around and I sold quite a lot.  No, I didn't sell out, nor did anyone else, but I don't think we can complain considering the weather conditions.  The raffle in aid of Nepal disability still went on with every stallholder contributing to the prize of a beautiful hamper overflowing with fresh homegrown goodies.  Over £500 was raised.  There were even two actors from the local pantomime in costume (drag to be precise) walking around promoting the show. They were the ugly step-sisters.  I think you have to be British to understand what a pantomime is all about, but it is an annual tradition all over the country and such fun.  Even American actors come over to take part now.  Henry Winkler has been doing them, Mickey Rooney, and Pamela Anderson as well.  You have to see one to believe it, but if anyone outside of the UK is over here in December-January, you must try to see a pantomime.  You won't be disappointed, I promise you that!  There is just a buzz and enthusiasm at this market which makes it so nice!

Midway through the market, my local village hall caretakers came and went to speak to several stallholders to convince them to try and come to our second Saturday of the month market.  It seems like they were successful in getting a bread person who bakes fabulous organic sourdough breads, a mushroom person who has the most extraordinary wild mushrooms, looking at them is like looking at a piece of art, the ostrich meat person, the rapeseed oil person and hopefully the honey people.  We still need more, but this is a start.  Hopefully they won't let us down.  So the Sunday market also helped the Saturday market which is fantastic news!

This month there was a run on the pecan pie bars.  I sold out all bar one, no pun intended.  I even doubled up on these this month.  I let it be known that they are made with local honey and pointed out his stall two stalls away from me.  People loved them!  The supersize chocolate cake had a problem with the frosting cracking because of the cold.  It just hardened, so every time I cut a piece, I apologised that it wouldn't look as pretty as it should, but people didn't seem to mind.  It is a risk of being outside.  The Carrot/Pumpkin Cake Cheesecake was a huge hit.  It was such a nice flavour combination, very fresh tasting.  The other big hit were the Peanut Butter Brownies.  People loved them.  In fact, I received another text from another customer.  I have never received texts after a market before and I got two in one weekend.  It was an amazing feeling.  This text read, " Hey Yummy Yank. We (names were mentioned, but I am leaving them out) are currently devouring the last of today's brownies and have concluded that yours are frankly the most delicious we have ever tasted!"  How's that for praise?!

The organisers also are starting another market in the town of Ripon and asked me to take part. This will be the furthest one away for me, but I am very keen to do it.  The local council is very much behind this market happening.  They want to get a celebrity chef to open it and they plan on doing a lot of advertising.  The bonus for me is that it will be the day before the Otley market on the last Sunday of the month.  It is practical for me to do two markets in a row, so I will certainly give it a try.  It won't start until Easter time, so I have plenty of time!  Hopefully this will prove to be another successful market.  Ripon is a bustling town.

We got home on Sunday afternoon and after putting stuff away, cleaning etc, I had a much needed hot bath to thaw my fingers and toes.  We went for an early pub dinner and had a nice Sunday roast, went to visit a friend who isn't well and we were back home by 7 and in bed by 8.30.  My husband was asleep within seconds and I turned off the tv by 9!  I was exhausted and had a much needed 10 hour sleep.  I promised myself I would take today off and I pretty much have done just that!  I feel like I haven't stopped since early December!  I need a holiday from the holidays!

Now, I have a break from the markets until the last weekend in January.  I have an exhibition for my art business in a couple of weeks time, but don't have to really start baking for a little while.  I do want to try and pace myself, so I don't have to bake nonstop 24/7 for the lead up to the next market and hopefully things will go a little smoother than this last time.  Saying that however, it all worked out in the end and I had two reasonably successful markets with compliments that made everything very worthwhile!

Keep on reading folks and as always, y'all have a nice day!

Lisa AKA The Yummy Yank

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