The Outdoor Season begins at Mansons Friday Market

Mansons Friday Market’s ‘Outdoor Season’ officially started on May 19.  

“I think it’s great. It’s a beautiful sunny day and long weekend and, but still mostly locals, which is really nice to have their support,” said Sara Stewart, of Reef Point Farms.

CC: Can I ask, where do you do most of your business? 

“I have a lot of different venues. There’s the farmer’s market. I also have the farm stand.  I sell to the co-op and to Hollyhock and the Gorge Store when it’s in the middle of the summer,” she replied.

Loretta from Tenant Farm and two customers – Roy L Hales photo

One of her customers, Judyth Weaver, interjected, “I go all the way down to this farm stand. Is it happening already?” 

“In a couple weeks,” said Stewart. 

“Okay. I was wondering, and I love it when she comes here. I’ve been buying her greens whenever she’s had them at the Co-op, so I’ve been eating off of you for a long time.”

CC:   How long have you been operating Reef Point Farms? 

“I have a business called Wildfire Produce, lease land there and started in 2020. So this is my fourth season,” explained Stewart. 

Rod Lee has been selling his cedar bird houses ever since he took up his perminant abode on Cortes Island, about 23 years ago.

 “I’m an amateur and birdhouses struck me as being something I could make out of small pieces of lumber that were available from mills in the reject pile, where I could cut defects out and create a usable piece of wood. So birdhouses and the boxes are a variety of sizes. I just simply wait till I get a number of pieces of a similar size, make a box or a birdhouse out of them,” he explained. 

CC: Are there specific houses for specific birds?

“There can be. For instance, I make a Swallow House because Swallows fly directly into the nesting area without using a perch. Whereas most of the other smaller birds, including Wrens, will use a perch before they climb into the nest box. Some of the ducks that use nests like Harlequin Wood Duck, have to be close to water. The young, when they come out just fall to the ground and then carry on. They use a different size box and often there’s a bit of a ramp built into the box to give the ducklings access to the opening. So yeah, there’s some differences.” 

CC: What do you use the boxes for?

RL: “I made up a little piece of paper that said ‘you can use them for anything you want.’ My wife told me my dresser top was messy, so I now have a wooden box with all my stuff in it. She’s happy and I’m happy. I know where everything is, but people will use them for anything. I’ve had people buy them for sunglasses. I’ve had people buy them to use in display areas. I’ve had people buy them with lids as jewelry boxes, key boxes. Some workers have kept special screws, nuts or bolts in them.”

CC: Where do you sell your boxes and birdhouses?

RL: I’ve been a salesman all my working life, so it’s a natural habit for me.

I enjoy it and I enjoy meeting people. As a member of the Cortes Island Craft Shop, located in Squirrel Cove, I get to meet people from all over that are holiday or coming off their boats. It’s always fun.” 

“I will sell here on the island at the Friday and Saturday markets, Mansons and the Gorge.  I do have one off island company, Shar-kare in Campbell River who take my bird houses.”

Loretta from Tenant Farm did not want to be recorded, but had no objection to my photographing her interaction with two customers examining a colorful hand spun toque.

Most of the action is still indoors, where there were about 17 booths set up in the hall and entrance foyer. That is far too many people to interview.

One of the first sights that greeted my eyes was a table filled with Barb Buffington’s delicious breads and baked goods.

The youngest market vendor was Liam Dow, who sat behind a table full of potted plants with his mother Corry. 

CC: Tell me about  your plants. Did you grow them? 

“I grew them myself.  That’s a Spider Plant. These are Aloes. These are some Purple Inch Plants, and there are Jades over there,” he answered.

The market had been open for about 45 minutes when Cortes Currents asked, “Have you sold any/“ 

“One or two,” he said. 

If you were listening very carefully to the podcast above, you might have heard Corry Dow’s whisper amidst the surrounding clamour of market voices. 

“Oh, we’ve sold three!” exclaimed Liam.

Being somewhat bookish, I was drawn to the table where Peter Smith from Heriot Bay, on Quadra Island, was selling his books. 

His wife is the Amanda Smith who was publlisher/editor of the Bird’s Eye for about six years.

Peter explained, “I was a crime reporter for 37 years, 16 years on the Calgary Sun.  I wrote true life murder stories first, and then I put  all the. experiences I had into a novel of a crime reporter and his life with police officers and murderers that he got involved in.  A New York publisher picked it up and decided they wanted to publish it. That’s my first novel ever.” 

CC: You also have  a book here called CSI Alberta and another one called Prairie Murders. 

PS: “These are all murders that I went to when I was working at the Calgary Sun. In each case there are 10 stories. Somebody had found a skeleton or human remains, so they had to do the forensic work to find out who the victim was before they could start trying to find out who the murderer was. In Prairie Murders, these are murders all across Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.”

Bonnie MacDonald, from the Cortes Island Museum, was perusing some volumes of local history. 

PS: “I found there were lots of books on the history of fishing and logging, but nobody had ever written the history of the post offices. There were seven post offices on Cortes, eight on Quadra Island, and a whole load on Read Island, Stuart Island and all the other islands.  I intended to write one big book. I had so much material in the end, I broke it into three books.” 

Smith also wrote a children’s book inspired by actual events when he was working in one of Quadra Island’s vineyards. 

PS: “We had just spent a long time putting a six and a half acre net over the vineyard to make sure no birds could get in. We went there one morning and the bear had ripped down about 20 square feet of it and to get at the grapes. So it’s my job to repair the net. I repaired it. The next day the bear, came in and smashed it all down again, and that happened 19 times.”

“So in the end, I decided we had so many adventures that it was worth writing a children’s book from the point of view of the bear, which is what I did. Nothing nasty happened to the bear, despite all our efforts to try to catch it. So it was okay for children to read it in a children’s book.”

CC: You mean the bear got away?

PS: “Oh yeah. We had conservation officers over and we had lots of efforts to try to get him.  We put traps down with grapes and we put out salmon and molasses. He came and ate all those things and never got caught. He was more canny than we were.”

Top image credit: Inside the hall during Mansons Friday Market – Roy L Hales photo

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