One thing for sure, plants have a will to live. After having been beaten, battered and drowned, the farm is showing more signs of life than we’d ever imagined. The tiny escarole and chard starts that were flattened by hail have mostly picked themselves up, dried themselves off and pushed out new leaves. The Napa cabbages, ripped to shreds during the storm, are forming heads deep inside the tattered exterior leaves. Even the mature chard that was all but destroyed just three weeks ago (as Katherine phrased it, “The chards turned into shards”)


is now in good enough shape to begin to harvest again. Granted, it required quite a lot of clean-up, yet once the ruined leaves were cut off and the plants were treated to multiple days of sunshine they’re almost good as new.


Sadly, the same can’t be said for all the crops. Some are suffering a serious chlorosis problem, the most glaring example being the bed of purple kohlrabi. While we prefer to sell our kohlrabi with the nutritious leaves attached,


these “greens” would more accurately be described as “yellows.” (Notice, though, the weeds surrounding the kohlrabi are green, green, green!) Oddly, the white kohlrabi adjacent to this bed kept its color nicely, despite enduring identical torture as the purple variety.


Go figure.

Then there’s the broccoli. Oh dear, the broccoli. The first rows of Packman came down with a terminal case of fungal rot – a condition caused by too much rain, for too long a period.


Earlier this week, I walked through the rows and cut off the diseased heads. Maybe we’ll at least get some side shoots from those plants eventually. Luckily, the later broccoli (Gypsy, our favorite) is starting to head up.


We have our fingers and toes crossed that they’ll be able to grow to fruition without succumbing to the same fate as the Packman.

Maybe the smudge stick will help.

Dana told Farmer John about the stick while the two of them were busy cutting away storm-ravaged arugula. John had confessed that he’s willing to try anything to turn our luck around, as it seems our farm is a target lately. He’s convinced it’s our own fault. Karma, perhaps. I’d suggested it might be retribution for all the insects we’ve murdered in cold blood…but as John pointed out, we’ve been doing that for so long, you’d think our payback would have come before now.

As the story goes, shortly after Dana and her partner bought a lovely older home in Central Austin, a series of disasters occurred: their new bamboo flooring buckled; the beautiful retro turquoise stove caught fire; and a contractor drilled a hole through the foundation and into their plumbing, to name just a few. Fearing evil spirits or a curse set upon the house by the previous owners (or at the very least, bad cosmic vibes) they bought a smudge stick.

Farmer John and I knew nothing of smudge sticks. Smudge pots, however, we were familiar with. I remember in the first year of the farm, we were faced with a late April frost. This was well before we invested in roll upon roll of row cover – before we realized our valley was such a cold spot.

In an attempt to protect the young tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers that April night several years ago, John devised his own version of smudge pots. The afternoon prior to the arrival of the cold front, he stacked small piles of wood in strategic spots within the three acres that comprised the farm at the time. After dark he went out and lit them, hoping the smoke would envelope the plants and stave off the frost. As an added protection, while he kept watch over the burning piles, he dragged hoses along the rows and sprayed the crops with water throughout the night.

Around 5 a.m. he noticed icicles hanging from the tomato plants. He used the hoses to put out the fires, came inside, and went to bed.

We’re hoping for a little better luck with the smudge stick. In case you’re unacquainted, a smudge stick is a tightly-bound wand of herbs about the size of a collapsible umbrella. You light the end of it, blow out the flame when it starts to smoke, and walk through the affected area while waving it around. According to the package, the magical smoke cleanses and blesses “yourselves [and] your surroundings to create an atmosphere of peace and healing….”


Farmer John and I aren’t usually ones to give much credence to mystical hoohaw. We’re more the practical types, for the most part. But what if our skepticism caused our troubles in the first place? After Dana carried a smoldering smudge stick through their house, the disasters ceased. If the same happens with the farm, maybe it’ll make believers out of us once and for all.

***Even though we haven’t tried out the smudge stick yet, we find ourselves with a pretty darn nice produce list this week! Here’s what we’ll be bringing to the farm stand on Wednesday:

Butternut squash; bunches of slender green onions; arugula; bunches of chard; bunches of Asian greens; zucchini and Zephyr squash; bell peppers; Cubanelle peppers; purple eggplant, heirloom Rosa Bianca eggplant, Apple Green eggplant and white Japanese eggplant; lettuce mix; Provencal lettuce/chicory salad mix; the first of the head lettuces (red leaf and green leaf, for sure, and perhaps romaine); pink, purple and red radishes; and maybe a few other goodies, if we can get to them between downpours!


Jo Dwyer
Angel Valley Organic Farm
Farm stands:
In Jonestown on FM1431 at the blinking yellow light, Saturdays beginning at 10 a.m.;
In NW Austin on Jollyville Road between Oak Knoll and Duval (at the Asian American Cultural Center), Wednesdays beginning at 10 a.m.