Early April is one of my favorite times of the year, filled with opening of the Major League Baseball season, the Masters golf tournament, the NCAA championship basketball game, plants and trees springing to life with new foliage, and, of course, the opening of the Olympia Farmers Market.
To cap it off, Friday was one of those blue-sky days that helps erase the memory of 41 straight days characterized by clouds and rain.
All through the winter and early spring, I miss my weekly walks from The Olympian’s office down to the farmers market for lunch, for a few new plants to add to my garden and for some lively conversation with friends and strangers alike.
So there I was Friday, strolling in the sunshine with a middle-age bounce in my step, looking forward to seeing the resident market cutup, better known as Craig Ricklick, proprietor of Dingey’s Puget Sound Cuisine.
He was a little too busy to joke around the other day, but that just means his cramped little kitchen was hopping to feed the market patrons who lined up a dozen deep at his and several other market eateries.
“We had a good opening day, too,” he said as he and his crew whipped together my crab melt sandwich on sourdough bread, adorned with a little cup of coleslaw.
I must admit, I’m a creature of habit when it comes to eating at the market. I usually order from Dingey’s or Los Tuleños, then sit on the picnic bench next to the native plant garden and take in the sights and sounds of the lunch-hour crowd.
I usually finish off the meal with a date bar from the Blue Heron Bakery. They are still $1.30 – the same price as last year. One thing different this year: the thermometer over the bakery counter read 62 degrees, aided by the sun striking it. Last year on the opening day of the market, it registered a chilly 49 degrees during the noon hour.
Across the aisle from the bakery, there was Kitty Bell, owner of Fossilwear, folding and arranging the hand-dyed clothing she offers for sale.
“You’re still here,” I said, stating the obvious.
“I’ll be here until the day I die,” she replied.
A few stalls down, Lynch Creek Dahlia had an array of dahlia tubers on display. I’ll probably be back in a week or two to buy some replacement tubers for mine that failed to overwinter in the garden at Horsefeathers Farm.
The garden is not a happening place yet this spring.
The soil is cold and clumpy, waiting for Mother Nature to string together a few 60-degree-plus days so I can work the soil. The peas and spinach I planted two weeks ago aren’t doing very well.
After I finished at the market, I wandered over to the edge of the Percival Landing reconstruction project, what’s billed as phase one of the ambitious redo of the Olympia waterfront. It’s hard to see the job site in its entirety from the ground level. Next week, I think I’ll check it out from the viewing platform in the Port of Olympia Plaza.
Incidentally, it appears the plaza is hosting bigger crowds than normal, probably because part of Percival Landing is off-limits during the $10.6 million reconstruction project.
I ran into retired state Department of Ecology engineer Darrel Anderson on what’s left of the Percival Landing boardwalk. We groused about the weather – Friday excluded – and I mentioned I was looking forward to an eight-day adventure in early May rafting on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.
His face lit up as he recalled an 18-day rafting trip he and some Ecology buddies took on the river two years ago.
“Some of the rapids, you hear them way before you see them,” he said. “You’re thinking, ‘I didn’t know they allowed railroad trains in the canyon.’”
We walked back past the market and parted ways. I continued my trek back to the office but got sidetracked by the sight of the historic tug Sand Man in dry dock at the Port of Olympia’s Swantown Marina and Boat Works. Volunteer crews were applying a coat of white paint to the giant hull.
The Port of Olympia donated the haul-out and dry-dock time to the nonprofit Sand Man Foundation, which provides free public tours of the tug most weekends from its moorage at the bottom of Percival Landing. It would have cost the foundation about $1,100 for those services, port officials said.
Suddenly, I realized it was 1:30 p.m. and time was running short to get this column ready for the paper. Luckily, Anderson drove by and offered me a ride back to work.
John Dodge: 360-754-5444 firstname.lastname@example.org