I hate the cold. So much so, I’ve lately thought back nostalgically to the summer months, recalling the sweat-soaked weeks with a secret, bittersweet smile. The 103-degree afternoons, one after the other after the other. The relentless sun. Feeling as if it would never ever rain again. Watching the crops, the grass, even the weeds wither to brown, disintegrate before our very eyes. Oh, but for the good old days….

That’s how much I hate the cold.

There’s an interesting phenomenon that happens this time of year at the farm stands. While I’ve seen people who grew up in, say, Chicago standing at the check-out table bundled to the gills yet shivering violently when it’s 46 degrees, the folks who handle the cold weather – who relish it, really – are the ones who’ve grown up around here. I suppose it only makes sense. Like a customer said yesterday, the cold only lasts a few minutes in this part of the country, relative to the duration of the heat.

Customers often express their sympathies about our having to stay out in the cold during farm stand hours. We appreciate their concern very much, but another interesting phenomenon occurs when we remind them that we also froze half to death both days prior to market. We can see the light bulb go on in their heads – the “aha!” moment when they realize that, of course, the harvest takes place outdoors too.

The very worst is when it’s cold and wet on harvest days. For those tortuous occasions, Farmer John and I keep a few sets of waterproof Frog Togs on hand. They’re ridiculous looking outfits, made of some hideously unnatural substance like polyethylene, or polyolefin, or polynucleotide, or burned tractor/trailer tires. To make them more palatable (not in the culinary sense, mind you) they do at least come in a variety of colors. Each time we buy a new set, we try to get a different hue.

Consequently, after everyone has grabbed a top from this set and a bottom from that, this is how it plays out.

Notice how Farmer John’s jacket matches Dana’s pants; Dana’s jacket matches Mary’s pants; and Mary’s jacket matches Davy’s pants. It’s as if they’re no longer individuals – as if they’ve been forever intertwined, somehow fused into a single polyurethane being. (Even our car, seen in the background here, has succumbed to a similar sort of polyestrous wrapping.)

Luckily, I’m able to escape the polycarbonate clutches of Frog Togs. Three years ago, as a birthday gift John gave me a spiffy rain jacket from REI. Although it surely wasn’t intended as farm gear, I do wear it on rainy harvest days. Compared to my poly-clad cohorts, it makes me look like I’m off to Vale for a ski vacation…if in fact the skiers in Vale dress themselves in maroon plastic pants.

Well, I am the princess. Part of the “deal” John made with me back in 1996 when he brought up the idea of starting a farm, was that I would get special treatment. I was a lady of leisure at the time, after all, so he knew he had to sweeten the pot a little in order for me to agree to such a lifestyle change. (He’s a smart, smart man.)

By the way, the photo above wasn’t the first one taken. Originally, I held my right hand thusly:

Mary was quick to point out that due to my royal status (ahem), my initial wave was improper. I adjusted my gesture to one more appropriately aristocratic, more befitting the queen as she greets her subjects.

Come to think of it, though, were I really the queen, I wouldn’t require a rain jacket – even a special one – at all. Shouldn’t I be indoors snacking on tea and crumpets while the peasants work outside? I’m going to need to have a talk with Farmer John about making some changes to our “deal.” At least until next May rolls around.

***Here’s what we’ll have for you at the farm stand this Wednesday (when the forecast calls for a balmy 60 degree day!):

Five varieties of cabbage (perfect for hot soup on cold nights!) – tender & sweet Farao cabbage, Napa cabbage, purple cabbage, green storage cabbage and crinkly savoy cabbage; lettuce mix; Provencal lettuce/chicory mix; some heads of red leaf/green leaf lettuces bound together; arugula; bunches of chard; dinosaur kale and curly kale; bunches of collards; purple and golden beets; sweet white turnips w/greens; big heads of escarole; bundles of green onions; cilantro; and anything else that might be ready to harvest.

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.