It happened so much later in the season this year, probably because of the October rains. When a northerly front blasts through here with clouds and rain accompanying it, we don’t get quite so cold. A dry front, however, is usually deadly. Without moisture to warm the ground a little, or cloud cover to serve as an insulator, the temperature can sink like a stone.

We knew the cold front heading our way early last week was going to be a dry one. And because we’re in this valley – a “cold pocket” in the extreme – we’ve learned from experience what must be done. First, PVC hoops needed to be placed along the rows that would ultimately be draped with floating row covers.

Once the hoops were in place, wads of spun polyester were rolled out (most of them used for the second, third or eleventh time – showing their ages by how dirty they were, how riddled with holes, or both).

Only the row covers already pinned to the ground could handle that afternoon’s brisk north wind. The remainder of the covers would have to wait until early evening to be draped over the other crops, after the breeze died down. Davy, Dana and Mary graciously worked a little late helping to get everything ready…

…while Farmer John supervised.

Okay, to be fair, he did more than stand and watch. He also pointed.

Wait. Wait. Before John reads this, I have to come clean. After dark that evening, while I sipped a glass of wine and made a delicious, wholesome soup consisting of fresh greens (chard, in this case, but any of the varieties would do), potatoes and great northern (to coincide with the direction of the wind) beans, Farmer John trudged through the farm putting the row covers in place, his head lamp illuminating the way.

Prior to beginning that onerous chore, he and I first made some Important Executive Decisions. Although every/one had hooped up darn near every/thing, John and I snapped out of emergency mode and recognized that it wasn’t necessary to cover it all. Had we anticipated a low temperature of 17 degrees, it would have been a different story – but we were looking at probably more like the upper 20’s.

We started ticking off which crops were most needy: Peppers and eggplant, for sure. Lettuces and the most delicate leafy greens would benefit from row covers simply to avoid uglification by tip burn, while the rest – brussels greens, kale, cabbages and the like – were on their own.

I should know better than assume I’ll sleep well the night of the first freeze. Especially knowing some crops – important crops – hadn’t been covered. The logical side of my brain assured me cabbages can handle the cold. Then, in the middle of the night, the irrational side of my brain (the side that always shows itself in the middle of the night) whispered that the temperatures might be dropping into the teens at that very instant, damaging the rows of tender Farao cabbages we so hoped to harvest in abundance for the Thanksgiving markets.

The logical side reminded me that I could have staved off the irrational side’s intrusion into my dreams, had I allowed myself to dip into the anti-anxiety pills stashed away in the bathroom. The prescription bottle is a leftover from my surgery almost two years ago, but I’ll bet the stuff still works. By that time of night, though, it was too late to go rummaging through cabinets.

As it turned out, our low was 28 degrees, not 17. The Farao cabbage came through it unscathed. So did the immature savoy cabbage, also uncovered. The irrational side of my brain obviously forgot to murmur nocturnal warnings about these flawless beauties. That would have certainly – and needlessly – kept me awake until dawn.

I’m thinking when the next freeze hits, to silence that pesky irrational side and guarantee a good night’s sleep, I’m taking one of those pills.

***Here’s what we’ll be bringing to the stand this Wednesday:

LOTS of beautiful lettuces for your Thanksgiving salads – butterhead, red leaf, green leaf and romaine; tender & sweet Farao cabbages; Napa cabbages; the first Savoy cabbages; “Cheddar” orange cauliflower (we have our fingers crossed for a lot…we’ll have to wait and see how much is ready for harvest); lettuce mix; spinach; Provencal lettuce/chicory salad mix; arugula; bunches of chard; bunches of Asian greens; bunches of Brussels greens; broccoli greens; two varieties of kale – dinosaur kale and curly kale; collards; pink and purple radishes; lovely heads of escarole; bell peppers; eggplant; and some odds and ends.

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.