To Market, To Market

8 06 2009

fruitAh summertime. Not your favorite time of year if you live in Arizona, like I used to. But if you live in Oregon, you can’t wait for May Day to roll around. Seasonally, May 1st is the beginning of Summer. If you live on a farm, your summer crops should, for the most part be in the ground. You’re early crops are ready for the farmer’s market. If you live in a city, you can’t wait for the market season to start.

 In Portland, if you’re looking for great seasonal food, you go to a farmer’s market. Every city in the Portland metropolitan area has a farmer’s market, and in Portland proper, almost every neighborhood has one as well. You can go to a different one every week all summer long and never hit the same one twice.


PDX Sat Mkt1On the other hand, if you are looking for non-food finds, the place to go is the Portland Saturday Market. From May through October, hundreds of artisans and other sellers ply their wares every Saturday and Sunday on the Portland waterfront. You can find almost anything there, from soap to small furnishing, jewelry to long bows. Artwork, herbs, silk dresses, metalwork, henna tattoos, almost anything you can think of, you’ll find it at the Saturday Market.


Well into the nineteenth century, the market used to be a place where people met and socialized as well as sold or traded their products and services. Even today, I see the most interesting people at the outdoor markets. Yes there are moms with kids and guys trailing along behind their girlfriends, but there are also, sword swallowers, gypsy dancers, women with fabulous recipes for soap and men who can tell you how to shape a strong bow. The summer markets have provided me with all kinds of information and characters that have ended up in my writing. Great stuff!


Here’s a market excerpt from Book Two of my Scorpion Moon Trilogy, Kissed by a Rose. Jamie Barnard, a knight visiting his mother, has decided he wants to pursue Sela de Crecy, his mother’s lady-in-waiting, but for reasons unbeknownst to him, she seems dead set against it. He finally gets her to agree to spend some time with him by asking her to show him the local village.


Jamie sat on the steps of the great hall. When Sela had come to get little Marie after dinner, he had reminded her of her afternoon appointment with him and she had promised to be there. He had managed to find a few flowers in what looked to be a small garden along the west wall. Genevieve had produced a blue ribbon of silk and showed him how to tie them into a posy. She had told him it was as easy as tying one’s own lacings, but his large fingers had fumbled with the delicate fabric. Now he nervously played with the awkward looking bow.

“Sir James.”

Jamie jumped to his feet as Sela hurried toward the steps.

“Please forgive my tardiness, my lord.”

“I was beginning to think you changed your mind,” Jamie chuckled as he fingered the silk ribbon.

“I promised to come. I keep my promises. Brother Jacob was a bit late today.”

“I see.” Jamie held out the small bunch of yellow and white flowers. “Un bouquet pour un fleur.

Sela blushed as she took the offering. “Merci, mon seigneur.” Her voice took on a rich tone as if speaking her natural tongue.

He knew for certain she had come from Normandy. “Are you native to France?”

Oui, mon seigneur. Je suis nee en France, mais Cymru dw I’n sydd cartref rŵan.

Jamie was surprised when she switched to the guttural sounding Welsh tongue. She was as fluent as the guards he heard around the keep. No wonder she had been able to go amongst the traitors so easily.

“Shall we go, my lord?” She easily slipped back into English as she put the flowers in the basket she carried.

“Aye, mistress.” Jamie offered his arm.

Sela smiled and laid her hand lightly upon it. “Thank you, my lord.”

“Thank you, mistress, for your time.” No longer quite so nervous, Jamie turned toward the front gate, wondering if the day could get any more pleasant.

* * *

Sela waved as they passed her friends in the village. They made their way through the winding streets and she introduced Sir James to all who stopped her. Most showed due respect to “Lady Cilgerran’s son,” but a few of the more common spoke as familiars. No matter how he was greeted, the knight took it well and each person was left on good terms. Finally they reached the village center.

Sellers packed the wide, open space around the well, leaving just enough room for prospective customers to see their wares. Farmers brought food they had grown on their plots. Men plied their trade, fixing a cauldron or mending a boot. Sela searched for her friend Maudwyn, the village weaver.

From a distance, Sela spotted the tall, thin, woman showing a customer a piece of green wool. “Wyn!” She smiled and waved.

Maudwyn looked up and smiled. “I shall be right wit’ ya.”

Sela smiled excitedly and looked over her shoulder at Sir James. “If you mind not, I have a special errand from my lady.”

“Please. Whatever you need do, mistress. I meant not to disrupt your customary day.”

  They wove through the crowd to Wyn’s cart. Sela looked over the lengths of cloth laid out in the back while the weaver collected payment from the woman who had decided to buy the green wool.

“Hello, my girl.” Wyn kissed both Sela’s cheeks. She turned to Sir James and looked from head to toe and back again. “Well, then. Who be your fine looking companion, dear?”

Sela blushed at the tease in her friend’s voice. “My lord, Sir James Barnard, might I introduce Maudwyn merch Griffydd.”

“Oh!” Wyn clumsily dropped to one knee.

The din around them fell silent as everyone nearby turned to stare.

“I beg yer pardon m’lord.”

As he had done to at least a dozen times that day, Sir James took the hand draped across her knee and lifted it to his lips.

Sela hid a smile behind her hand—it was now Wyn’s turn to blush.

“A pleasure.” Sir James helped the weaver to stand and the noise closed about them as everyone turned back to their own business.

“Wyn is the best weaver in the shire,” Sela bragged.  The red-haired weaver could make any kind of cloth, from a sturdy wool, so tightly woven as to shed water, to the finest linen, so soft it felt like silk.

Wyn laughed at the compliment. “Mi Da’ would have somethin’ to say ‘bout tha’.”

“Your father has not worked in almost two years now.” Sela said. “ I am sure he would not have given his loom over to you if you were not good enough.”

“He did na’ have much choice in the matter. His hands said no to the loom, so now he just stands over me jawin’ while I work. But, I know you did na’ come to hear me wailin’.”

“Did you complete it?” Sela asked as she leaned closer to the stall.

“Indeed I did.” From the bottom of a pile at the back of the cart, Wyn pulled a bundle wrapped in linen and tied with un-dyed wool yarn. The weaver handed her the package.

Sela could hardly wait as she undid the yarn and folded back the linen, revealing a stunning length of brocade.

“Oh, Wyn! ‘Tis the most beautiful piece I have ever seen.”

Sela rubbed her hand over the cream-colored cloth. Intricately woven embossed flowers had been hand painted golden yellow with green centers.

“Indeed ‘tis very pretty.” Sir James’ deep voice interrupted her reverie. “I cannot say that I have ever seen better, even at the King’s court.”

“Thank ye, m’lord.” Wyn’s wobbled through a curtsey, but her smile was big enough to bridge a moat.

“Should you ever wish to make your fortune, I know several court ladies who would pay very well to have you as their exclusive cloth maker.”

“I do na think I shall be leavin’ Cilgerran, m’lord, but I thank ye for the offer.”

Sela re-wrapped the beautiful fabric. She could never afford such an exquisite piece. Aside from which she had no reason to wear such a dress. Perhaps Lady Amye would like it. Sela made note to mention it when they returned to the castle. She sighed and handed the bundle back to Wyn.

“This one is beautiful, but I need another piece. Lady Marie’s birthday is coming soon. My lady would like for her to have her first surcoat.”

“Aye.”  Wyn searched the stacks of cloth until she found what she was looking for. “This be just the thing.”  She held up a piece of finely textured dark green cloth with yellow and white Lilies sewn into the borders.

 “Your weaving ever amazes me, Wyn. How do you make it so fine yet so tight?”

“Tis the thread. The batch was very special. Delwin wanted to try spinning linen fibers with the wool. The threads were wonderful’ smooth, easy to bend into this heavy damask. ”

“The family Gryffydd are all involved with clothmaking.” Sela explained to Sir James as she looked over the piece. “The two oldest brothers grow flax and sheep. Delwin is a master spinner. Wyn here weaves the threads into cloth and her twin brother Lyn makes the most wonderful dyes.” Sela ran her fingers over the cloth. It was soft like silk, yet heavy like wool. “What think you, my lord?”

When he did not answer Sela looked back to find him staring attentively at her. She repeated her question. “My lord, think you this will suit Marie?”

He smiled at her and the dimple appeared on his cheek. He glanced at the piece as Wyn held it outstretched at arm’s length. “Yes, ‘tis fine work.” He started to reach for his pouch. “How much do you want for it?”

“Nay, my lord.” The weaver shook her head. “‘Twould be an honor to make this gift.”


Jamie could hardly believe what he heard. A merchant giving away her wares.

She folded the piece and Jamie noted the look of pure joy in her eyes as she handed it to him. “For Lady Marie.”

His mother had said something about how the village folk adored Marie, and now, here was proof. “The house of Cilgerran thanks you.” Jamie turned to Sela. “Perhaps Mistress Sela could select something that my mother would like?”

Sela nodded and began to look through the bolts of fabric. Jamie watched as she bent over the cart. Her hips stood out nicely rounded against her tunic. He wanted to reach out and touch her, but knowing he could not, he imagined a creamy white bottom beneath the offending cloth. His cock stiffed and he looked away, glad he had worn the long tunic.

She stood, holding two bolts of fabric. “My lady would like either of these very much.”

“Excellent.” He reached in the pouch and pulled out two silver sovereigns. He handed them and Marie’s gift back to the weaver. “Have everything delivered to the keep when the market day is done.” He offered his arm to Sela. “Come, mistress. I promised to have you back by supper and we have barely begun.”


You never know what might be going on at a market stall. Did you ever meet someone enchanting at a summer market? Ever meet a stranger at a faire and have that one magical day. Did you fall in love with your honey when he bought you the thing you saw at the artisan show that you loved, but would never buy for yourself? Share some of your market adventures for a chance to win our great Summer Fun prize package.

 Our Summer Fun contest is going on all through the month of June. In addition to Estelle’s fun read, The Texas Twins, I’m adding a nice reusable shopping bag that you can take to the farmer’s market (or the supermarket) in your area, some nice sunglasses, so you don’t get caught people-watching (unless you want to get caught), and some sun screen so you can stay out long enough to see everything and everyone in the market. We’ll be adding more to the tote each week and at the end of the month, one lucky commenter will win it all.  Stop back throughout the month and comment on additional June blog posts to increase your chances to win.



7 responses

8 06 2009

I love going to the markets too, they merchandise is so fresh. We go every week.

8 06 2009

I love going to farmer’s markets…unfortunately we don’t have many well organized ones around where I live. The markets in the northwest sound terrific. I’d love to visit up there someday. 🙂

8 06 2009
Emma Lai

We’ve never made it to Portland, but it’s on our list. We love markets…Seattle’s Pike Place Market, San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf, Richmond’s Saturday Farmer’s Market…it’s always nice to see local people with their products.

16 06 2009
Reid Decker

Portland Saturday Market is chalk full on amazing hand crafted finds. With over 350 vendors there is truly something for everyone. The Market is open the first weekend of March through Christmas Eve. The Market is open the entire week before Christmas and is called the “Festival of the Last Minute”. It is a must see on any holiday adventure in Stumptown.

26 06 2009
Chris J.

Going to Seattle, and that whole area is on our list. We watched a show on the fish market, where they throw the fish and all and the markets and it’s become a place we all want to go as a family. 🙂
How much fun do all the markets sound from your blog and all the interesting people! That would be a blast!
Great tease for Kissed by a Rose!
Thanks for the fun blog!

26 06 2009
Afshan N

It sounds like your very lucky, we don’t have markets like that here in nyc. We have farmers markets around the city on certain days of the week, And it is nice to go to them when their in your neighborhood because everything is so much better and fresher when you buy it at the farmers markets.

26 06 2009

What a great excerpt. I could definitely imagine the buzzing of the crowd in a market like that. I’ve never actually been to a farmer’s market or fair, unless you count the fair my elementary school had when I was in sixth grade. I tend to get a touch nervous in large crowds, but I may have to find a market to go to where I can sit a little away from the crowd and just watch.

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