Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Mark Lyons, a.k.a. The Garden Troubadour. I’d like to welcome you to my blog. For the next… oh, let’s say five years (that’s as good a length of time as any), I will be sharing my thoughts on a regular basis (i.e. whenever I can think of something to say) about three subjects dear to my heart – gardening, cheesemaking, and music, with occasional forays into anything else I feel a need to turn into bits and bytes and launch into the cyber-ether. My reason for blogging is to share the joy I feel for the aforementioned topics and to provide tips, information, and useful advice that readers can use in their own gardens, kitchens, and musical performances.
Gardening is something I’ve happily enjoyed ever since I was, pardon the cliché, “knee-high to a grasshopper.” My parents had a vegetable garden on the south side of our home in Arlington Heights, and every summer, my sister Susan and I would help my parents plant tomato plants. My folks would always allow Susan and me to “sharecrop” a section of the garden for our own use, and we would eagerly plant corn, carrots, onions, and even flowers. My favorite flower was the four o’clock. I loved the way the buds would always open around 4:00 in the afternoon (hence, the name), and I even tried my hand at cross-pollinating them. I was always thrilled when I collected the seeds at the end of the season; little did I know that the flowers would have produced seeds without my help. But that doesn’t tarnish the wonderful memories one iota.
Music – ahh, I could write volumes about the wide variety of music I enjoy and my second pastime as a musician and entertainer. But that would turn this into a bloated, voluminous soliloquy as well as leaving no material remaining for future blogs. So I’ll just present the executive summary and say that my tastes in music are wide and varied. I enjoy country-western; bluegrass; western swing; folk; 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s pop; 40’s and 50’s big band jazz; 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s rock ‘n’ roll; and Hawaiian. I also have a special love of novelty tunes, because they fit my dry and warped sense of humor. As a musician and entertainer, I perform at folk festivals, private parties, farmers markets, nursery schools, open mics, and miscellaneous places, sometimes with my singing partner Jean and sometimes solo. I play guitar, ukulele, jews-harp, kazoo, and I even have a washboard (I prefer the Stradivarius model.). It’s my fond ambition to someday be first washboard chair in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
Cheesemaking is a fairly new love of mine. I first developed an interest in cheesemaking while on a two-week vacation in Vermont in mid-July, 2005. I visited some of the farms that were open to the public, and while browsing through the gift shop at Sugarbush Farms in Woodstock, Vermont, I came upon a book entitled Home Cheesemaking, by Rikki Carroll. As my eyes fell on the cover and my fingers touched the spine, a spell came over me and a voice seemed to whisper, “Wouldn’t this be fun to try?” Next thing I knew, my hands were one book heavier and my wallet was a few dollars lighter. When I got home, I ordered the 30 Minute Mozzarella Kit from the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company and made my first batch of mozzarella. I’d love to be able to say that it was a smashing success that was enjoyed by one and all, but I’d be lying through my pearly whites. Let’s just say there was lots of room for improvement. But improve I did, and since then, I have made more (and better) batches of mozzarella, marscapone, quark, frommage blanc, manchego, feta, and several others. Last January, I made my first block of parmesan, which I aged for ten months, and shared with my family at Thanksgiving. I’m proud to say it was a hit!
I’ll wrap this up by mentioning that this is my first blog and my first time blogging. I sincerely hope that you’ll find my content interesting and exciting and will continue to stay tuned for more exciting episodes of The Garden Troubadour!