My Trip to Wonderful
My friend Jean lives in Columbia Falls, Montana, and started “Sunday Market” in her community as way to bring people together, have fun, and inspire folks to create, grow, and sell things and services for added income. Jean gets stuff done! Several mountain ranges and one time zone away, I marveled at Jean’s hard work and hometown dream to make an outdoor market happen, so of course I wanted to go see her and experience the market for myself. The summer flew by and I finally had an opportunity to head over and help her make pies for the final Sunday Market of the season.
Jean is THE pie lady of Columbia Falls, a well-deserved and deliciously divine title for a woman who can make your mouth water merely by reciting a recipe or recounting her pie wares. Since I fancy myself as I’m a bit of a pie guy, I wanted to help her bake, see her place, and check out her small town and market in the shadow of Glacier National Park.
Prying Myself Off the Island
I must confess that leaving my farm and my island is like prying a barnacle off of a pier. For me, travel takes a bit of planning and managing the home-front; first, I need to find a capable and engaged soul to watch the farm, water the orchard and greenhouse, caretake the house, and parcel oodles of hugs, kisses, and butt rubs on my Buddy. Of all those things, loving Buddy is the main event. Fortunately the stars aligned, clouds opened up, and the angels sang. House-sitter and now friend Susan came into my life through a recommendation and was immediately smitten with Buddy and the farm (in that order). Job filled. Buddy spoiled. Tom happy. If I had stayed a few days longer in Montana, I fear Buddy would have traded me in for his kind, caring and fun-loving new pal. (Thank you Susan, Buddy is still raving about you!)
Baking My Way to Sunday Market
Jean started Sunday Market in Columbia Falls: spearheading and organizing the weekly summer event by getting permits; finding and organizing vendors; and basically getting the word out and making it happen. When I asked if I could come help her, she said, “of course!” So off I went to join my sister in pies for an intense and wonderful weekend of baking and laughing and sampling.
The Journey Begins Long Before the Airport
One of the jokes of living on an island with limited ferry service is that it takes longer to get to the airport than it does to fly to your destination. Flying east from Seattle to Kalispell, Montana takes about an hour and a half. Gaming late ferries, dicey parking options, unrelenting traffic and circuitous security lines usually takes at least four hours from island doorstep to Sea-Tac departure gate. Sometimes you feel like Indiana Jones in sweaty pursuit of a fabled destination–minus the poison darts and rolling boulders.
Making Pies, Cakes, Cookies and Scones!
We started prepping pastries on Friday, the day I got there, but only after a fine Montana steak at the Night Owl restaurant. Saturday morning started with a frothy cup of espresso and a lumberjack breakfast. Then, I awaited my baking orders. Jean is a model of efficiency and organization, so it was a pleasure to be part of her kitchen operation. And besides, she’s excellent company.
In a regular Santa’s workshop, these elves measured, mixed, kneaded, chopped, rolled, crimped, baked, cooled, portioned, and packed up some of the tastiest baked goods in the valley. We rewarded our efforts and full day of baking fun with a tasty Italian dinner in nearby Whitefish–a fancier version of Montana.
Big (and Little) Pie Country
On Sunday, a little after 7 a.m., we blocked off 6th Street West, in front of City Hall and the library, and begin to set up the market. So what did we sell at Jean’s booth, Prairie Girl Farms? From local farmers, we offered fresh corn, tomatoes, peppers, cabbages, squash, onions and plums. And on the pastry side, our marathon Saturday bake-a-rama produced Cutie-pies, Montana-shaped sugar cookies, Plum-Almond Cake, Shaker Lemon pie by the slice, Big Mountain peanut-butter cookies, Strawberry jam pop tarts, savory cheese pop tarts, cherry-lemon yogurt cake, and scones. And I’m delighted to say, we sold out of everything. I’ll be featuring some recipes and how-tos in the coming months on the blog, starting out with the pop tarts, which you can make and freeze for later, too.
Jean’s Sweet-on-all-levels Homestead
Jean Flynn is one of the most creative, skilled and energetic people I know. She conjures magic always and has transformed her homestead into a welcoming place of delight and hospitality. During the summer, she rents out her home on VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner) and lives in a teeny-tiny house on the property. The half-tent platform (shown below), one of her dreamy spots on the property, beckoned this baker for several quick breaks between bake times.
Jean is also an interior designer and maker of amazing textile products like custom window treatments, slipcovers and pillows. Here’s her site: jeanflynninteriors.com. She also makes Jeanie’s Beanies, wonderful beanies (as seen on the dashing chap below) made from cashmere sweaters she finds at thrift shops. But that is just a small thread of the quilt that has been Jean’s life. Here’s a fun article about her that gives you an idea of her creative chops: https://www.sfgate.com/homeandgarden/article/Stage-presence-Jean-Flynn-decorated-her-Seattle-2677246.php#photo-2150355
A Big Sky Thank You to the Hostess With the Mostess
It’s rare that I tear myself away from my island hideout, but my trip to wonderful to see and help Jean was a delicious respite and reconnection. And Jean tells me a pie shop may be in the works, so I’ll keep you posted. No one should be without pie. So thank you Jean for the best time and the most baking fun this man has had in a while! I love your slice of pie heaven, and I reveled at having been a part of the activities that make it and you so special.