Support Your Local Farmers Market

Farmers Market


They show up every spring; they’re here through September or October; then they’re gone for the year. Nearly every town and city has one, and they are growing in popularity. I’m speaking, of course, about farmers markets, and, next to your own garden, they are one of the best sources of fresh fruits and vegetables you’ll find. In addition, you’ll find vendors that sell baked goods, meats, soaps, spices, eggs, and honey straight from the hive. Some even have live music provided by local talent.

Most farmers market vendors accept cash only as payment for their wares, but some will accept credit and debit cards. A few farmers markets are set up to accept food stamps and their equivalents — a wonderful way to provide good nutrition to lower income people.

But just as a movie theater needs butts in seats to survive, farmers markets need bodies in their booths to stay alive. So I encourage everyone to patronize their local farmers market. Yes, we should all plant our gardens and grow our own food. I encourage that; that’s what I’m all about. But a garden is merely a means to a goal — providing a consistent supply of fresh produce that hasn’t been tainted with potentially harmful chemicals. Farmers markets can be another means of helping you to reach that goal. Though you may have your own garden, your space for it is limited. As much as we may like to, we gardeners cannot grow everything. Furthermore, due to city ordinances, many of us cannot raise our own chickens or keep our own beehives. Farmers markets, with their wide array of fresh food offerings, can provide for us the items that we cannot produce for ourselves. And when you buy from a farmers market, you’re helping small family farm operations to stay in business.

So get yourself down to your local farmers market and avail yourself of all the wonderful fresh offerings. It’s good for you, good for your family, good for farmers, good for the economy, and good for America!

I’m The Garden Troubadour, and I approved this message!

Can You Play Some Simon and Garfunkel?

As a musician and entertainer, I’ve honed my act over many years, learning new songs and developing my own personal style. When I get offstage, I want people to remember that they were listening to Mark Lyons – warts, offbeat songs, bad jokes, and all.

And then, somewhere along the way, it happens. Somebody asks me, “Do you know any Simon and Garfunkel songs?” Or, “Do you play any Beatles tunes?”

No. I do not.

Okay, that’s only partially true. I actually do know a few Beatles songs and I could probably fake my way through a Simon and Garfunkel tune.  It’s just that I choose not to.

“What,” you say, “how dare you!” How can you not want to play any of those wonderful tunes by two of the world’s greatest bands/musical duos!? You must be some sort of – communist, socialist, fascist, Philistine – choose your epitaph.

No. I’m none of those. I’m just me, playing the music that resonates with me.

Undaunted, you try again. “But why won’t you play them,” you ask. “Everybody sings them, everybody knows them and everyone loves them.”


I don’t want to do what everybody else does and I don’t want to sing what everybody else sings. Yes, the Beatles were a dynamite band with wonderful songs. The same can also be said about Simon and Garfunkel. Lots of musicians and bands sing their songs. So one more guy with a guitar singing their songs is not about to make the audience look up – or remember you after the show is over.

So no, I don’t play any Simon and Garfunkel and I don’t play any Beatles. If you want to hear Simon and Garfunkel or the Beatles, there are plenty of other singers who will be happy to accommodate you. But if you want to hear something different, then stick around. You might be pleasantly surprised — or nauseatingly disgusted. But either way, you will remember me.

Get out your notebook and a pen and write this down.


That’s lesson number one in how to be an effective entertainer. If you do the things that everyone else is doing and sing the same songs by the same artists that everyone else is singing, then you’ll be just like everyone else. Answer me this. Why should I hire you as an entertainer? What makes you different? What do you have to offer that I can’t get anywhere else?

My friends, there is a whole world of good music out there that you won’t find on Top 40 radio, classic rock stations, or even satellite radio. You won’t find it at Wal-Mart, Target, or your local music store (do those still exist?). So how do you go about finding these songs?

I’ll discuss that in the next blog post.

Presenting – The Garden Troubadour!

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.

Me with Sue and Judy's Gardenmark-lyons-gardening-coachMe with Huge Zucchini

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.
fouroclock flower

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!