The sky was a crime scene.

That is what is called a “hook.” I was reminded of the term by Mary’s 9-year-old son when we were all gathered near the salad sinks at the close of a recent work day. As I’m sure most of you know, a hook is a leading sentence designed to intrigue the reader into wanting to continue on.

That isn’t where our grammar lesson began. It started with a question to the young boy, specifically asking him to describe a simile. He knew immediately that a simile is a figure of speech in which two essentially different things are compared using the words “like” or “as.” Pretty impressive for a 9-year-old, yes? This little guy is a smart one. He did, however, get a bit flummoxed when asked how a simile differs from a metaphor — volunteering the meaning of “hook” instead — yet he was no more confounded than Farmer John.

No offense to my dear husband, of course. While grammar isn’t his strong suit, he’s one heck of a vegetable grower (and honestly, I’ll take that over a linguistics expert any day). Which made it all the more remarkable that after a brief explanation of metaphor versus simile, and after the rest of us tried to think of metaphorical sentences to illustrate its definition — each of our attempts fairly lame — it was John who blurted out:

“The sky was a crime scene.”

We all fell silent for a moment. I jotted it down on a piece of paper. When asked what made him consider such an interesting analogy, John admitted it was because of the weather forecast (once a vegetable grower, always a vegetable grower). There was a 40% chance of rain in the near future, supposedly coming with the passage of the latest cold front, and his metaphor was in actuality wishful thinking.

Fortunately, we have a deep well and have never wanted for irrigation water. We know other local farmers whose wells went dry during the drought of 2011, a dire situation if there ever was one, particularly for those of us who depend on irrigation water for our livelihoods. Still, even though we’ve never had to go without it, well water doesn’t compare to water from the sky.

Since our well is deep and the pump rate is somewhat low, we can only irrigate small sections of the farm at any one time. Plus, we have only so much drip tape (though plenty enough if only it would occasionally rain) and almost all of it is busy quenching the thirst of our vegetable crops. The problem lies on the acreage not currently dedicated to vegetables, where we grow cover crops — oats and oilseed radish, to name a couple we’ve used this season — in order to maintain soil health. We plant these covers with the hope of rain to keep them alive. When rain eludes us like it did the entire month of November, emergency action is required.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday Farmer John spent many hours dragging our last available lengths of drip tape to parched cover crops. The oilseed radish was especially in need.

oilseed radish

It appears oats can handle drought somewhat better, although there’s a marked difference between oats planted in late September (the two rows on the right in the following picture) that received at least one good downpour shortly after they were seeded, as compared to cover crop planted in October (on the left).

oats

John will now include this 200-foot long section in his weekly irrigation schedule. The 400-foot cover cropped beds aren’t so lucky.

400 foot cover crop

Only a couple of these oilseed radish rows are equipped with drip tape right now, as we don’t have enough to stretch along the remainder. I don’t know whether John plans to move the tape from row-to-row-to-row to try to keep them going or not. I don’t want to ask.

All we can do, really, drip tape or no drip tape, is hope for a crime scene in the sky — one filled with dark, menacing clouds punctuated by blinding flashes of lightning and crashing, house-rattling thunder. We came so close to experiencing that very thing soon after John coined his impressive metaphor. He and I watched radar anxiously as a blob of yellow and red moved closer and closer to our area…only to drift north just as the storm was poised to hit.

Afterwards, we felt as blue as the November sky.

blue sky

For anyone keeping score, that’s a simile. And truthfully, we weren’t quite that blue. Disappointed, sure, but we’ve come to expect as much, and do at least have a source of water to take the place of the magical moisture that sometimes falls from above. (We’ve heard rumors of such occurrences, anyway.)

It’ll rain again one day, probably violently with water gushing down in bucketfuls. Storms like those usually scare the bejeebers out of me, but I’d welcome that kind of criminal activity right about now.

* * *

For the farm stand this Wednesday, we’ll have:

romanesco

Romanesco cauliflower, orange “Cheddar” cauliflower and white cauliflower, along with lots of broccoli, lettuce mix, Euro salad mix, spinach, sweet white turnips, bulk purple and golden beets, bunches of chard, Dinosaur kale, Brussels greens, bags of arugula, purple and green kohlrabi, watermelon radishes, cilantro, Cubanelle peppers, maybe savoy cabbages (if they’re ready!), and some of this and that.

watermelon radishes

Thanks!
Jo Dwyer
Angel Valley Organic Farm
Farm stands:
Saturdays 9:00-1:00 in Jonestown on FM 1431 at the blinking yellow light; and
Wednesdays 10:00-2:00 in NW Austin at the Asian American Center, 11713 Jollyville Road (1-1/2 blocks north of the intersection of Jollyville and Duval)

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