**First of all, to those of you who subscribe to our blog via email, my apologies for the appearance in your inbox of an old post from back in October! Somehow, it sent itself out, without any prompting from me. I was surprised by it as much as anyone else was. What follows here is the real post for January 3rd.**

My favorite snippet of conversation during the holidays was while dining at a restaurant with friends and friends-of-friends, when the topic of chickens came up. Turned out, the friends-of-friends had two or three of their own several years ago, until the birds were finally taken out by predators. Farmer John and I shook our heads knowingly – we’re sadly familiar with the scenario – which prompted the male friend-of-friends to expound upon the story of the last casualty by saying, “He always perched up high in a juniper tree, and one morning all that was left of him was a pile of feathers.”

Noticing the pronoun the friend-of-friends used in reference to the bird, I asked, “So he was a rooster?”

“Nah,” he replied. “I think he was just a chicken.”

As opposed to a duck? Or an emu?

Oh, I knew what he meant. Obviously the unfortunate bird was a hen. I bit my tongue to keep from correcting his pronoun use, and came really, really close to clarifying that roosters and hens are both chickens – like men and women are both human beings – but thought better of it. Rather than risk embarrassing him in front of a table full of people, I remained mum. (It wasn’t easy.)

John and I recognize that most folks aren’t intimately familiar with farm-related issues, nor should they be. We often find ourselves having to explain some things, like when I bumped into a customer at Whole Foods Market last week, for example, and she asked me if it was true that the low temperature at our farm had hit 21 a few nights in a row. I realized then that she’d possibly never overheard our spiel about the “valley effect.”

I feel like such a broken record on this topic (every time someone initially hears about our farm’s particular climatological situation, we launch into the same diatribe) so I gave her the Reader’s Digest version, in case I was repeating myself. On Christmas Eve, the wind was blowing so violently that John took off whatever row covers hadn’t already been ripped from their hoops by sheer force of the gales. Late in the night, or early the next morning, the wind died, allowing the temperature to dive.

Had it stayed windy, or had there been clouds to insulate us from the cold, all would have been fine. As it happened, however, the frigid air sank smack into our valley. Just as it’s done so many times before.

This is how the chard looked on Christmas day. We didn’t cry over it. With our farm stands “officially” closed, we hadn’t been counting on maintaining a large chard crop anyway. Besides, it was Christmas. There were champagne toasts in our very near future, and we weren’t about to allow mushy chard to ruin them for us.

The bright side to the story is that a few other crops survived the freeze. The dinosaur kale, though burned a bit, remained upright and mostly green, as did the collards. Farmer John and Mary set to work last week building a hoop house to protect the majority of dino kale from future freezes.

Still, truth be told, in our minds we’ve already moved on to spring. While we do indeed want to keep some crops alive for now (more on that in a minute), we’re concentrating on planning and planting for the next season. Not long ago, we filled several flats of soil blocks with Early Girl tomato seeds.

They have a way to go yet.

Despite our declining interest in the winter season, we have indeed been anticipating one crop in particular: broccoli. The final fall planting of broccoli was set into the ground quite late due to the September rains, making a December harvest a little unlikely to begin with. Then adding insult to injury, almost the entire month of December – already the month with the fewest daylight hours – was cold and cloudy. The combination doesn’t inspire vigorous plant growth. We ended December with a harvest of only a fraction of that broccoli.

The broccoli rows are some of the few that remained covered during the Christmas Eve freeze, and we’ve been keeping a close watch over it. When we came across this a few days ago

we knew the time had come. The broccoli has spoken, and by golly, we’re listening.

We may not have as large a selection as usual, but we have enough to reopen the Jollyville Road farm stand this Wednesday (Jan. 6th). We’ll keep the farm stand open for only a couple hours, from 10 a.m. until noon. Here’s a list – albeit a brief one! – of what we’ll be bringing:

Broccoli; spinach; lettuce mix; cabbages (mainly green storage cabbage, and also some Napa, purple cabbage and Savoy); dinosaur kale; collards; broccoli greens; and whatever other odds and ends we find to harvest.

Jo Dwyer
Angel Valley Organic Farm

P.S. This is Daisy, one of our chickens. Daisy is a hen, as well as a “she.”

Just in case the topic ever comes up.