Michele Grgas Thomas The Triplicate

Once in my adult life I took a two-year hiatus from a paying job. When I moved from Hawaii to Grants Pass, Ore., I became a stay-at-home mom. After living in apartments, condos and a home in a subdivision, I moved onto 3 acres and filled them with chickens, sheep, pigs, two mares, a milking cow named Blossom and a pony named Taffy.

In the spring of 1982, I planted my first vegetable garden. It had every kind of vegetable you can imagine. I even grew scarlet runner beans on the wire fence that enclosed the garden.

Like other novice gardeners, I planted too much of everything, especially tomatoes. That summer, with my infant son on my hip and twin boys under foot, I tried to keep up with tomatoes that multiplied overnight. I cooked sauces, I canned, I gave away, but I couldn't stay ahead of the tomatoes.

My neighbor Millie suggested that I sell them at the local grower's market that had just started in a downtown parking lot. She volunteered to help me. We packed several boxes of tomatoes and the boys in my car. The market was small then with maybe 10 vendors. Market manager Ed charged me $4 for a spot. My tomatoes sold out in two hours! The experience was exhilarating. Besides netting about $12, I enjoyed the social element of getting to know people in the community.

My entrepreneurial spirit craved more products to sell. I added some zucchini that were multiplying in the garden. Then Millie and I got the bright idea to make noodles. My chickens provided "free" eggs, flour was inexpensive, water came from the well, and the Kitchen Aid mixer Mom gave me had a cool noodle-maker attachment. We made the dough, cut it into noodle strips, let them dry and then packaged 8-ounce bags labeled "Homemade Noodles." We charged a dollar a bag.

Soon we were producing a hundred bags per week. We became known as "The Noodle Ladies." I've got the photo to prove it! After three months of intense noodle production, Millie and I retired when the market closed in the fall. Soon afterwards I went back work for the newspaper.

At our local Farmers Market now, I particularly enjoy eavesdropping on the chatter between consumer and vendor. "Do you make these yourself?" "How long do you cook them?" "Will you be here next week?"

It's reminiscent of the Saturday mornings I stood on the other side of the card table so many years ago. One update that's certain if I were still in the same business today: I'd be called "The Pasta Lady."