Springtime is the worst. With each approaching spring storm comes the nervousness, the tenseness, the wrenching fear deep in our chests that takes hold like a fist. Farmer John normally isn’t nearly the worrywart that I am, but when the skies blacken and television radar shows yellow, then red, then purple, I watch his expression grow darker and darker – just like the sky – as a sense of defeat settles upon him. Upon us both.

I think back to our interview a little over a year ago when the Producer and camera crew from KLRU came to the farm to film a segment for Central Texas Gardener. During the course of the question-and-answer session (which goes on a whole lot longer than what ultimately ends up on the program) there’s a portion where I speak cavalierly about hail storms, and how quickly we and the farm recover from them.

It’s so easy to say, when a storm isn’t impending.

Last Monday’s clusters of storms captured our attention, but good. I was making dinner when the local news came on, the weather being its main story. The station’s radar screen lit up with a patchwork of colors corresponding to each severe storm warning – southwest of Austin, southeast of Austin, out in the western Hill Country. At first, it appeared we weren’t in any danger of being hit, so we watched on behalf of other farmers we know.

That’s how farmers observe these spring storms – which farm might get clobbered. When a possible hail storm heads toward Kyle, as one did on Monday, we think about the farmer we know there. And as soon as the severe thunderstorm warning went up for Milam County that same night, we looked closely to determine the storm’s path in the hope it wouldn’t hit our friend’s farm out that way.

Meanwhile, the on-air meteorologist was almost giddy. I get it. Weather is his thing, after all, and nothing is more exciting, or puts his profession more in the spotlight, than the threat (or hope?) of severe storms. As much as we hate to admit it, in John’s and my previous life, we were pretty tickled at the prospect of a decent sized hail storm as well. For a while, John was the president of a statewide auto collision parts company, and what could be more fortuitous for the body shop industry than widespread hail?

John is convinced that now, when the farm is hit by hail, it’s karma. Cosmic retribution for our callous disregard for all those people whose cars were dimpled by hailstones.

Last Monday evening, the meteorologist claimed that some of the worst storms carried with them hail the size of golf balls. Imagine the angels lined up at the big driving range in the sky, their buckets full of brightly-painted balls, all of them beginning to swing at once. Remember when, as a frightened child, adults would try to ease your mind by telling you thunder is just the sound of angels bowling? And who could conceive of a stray bowling ball careening wildly from the sky? Golf balls, however, are a different story. A few sliced shots here, a few hooks there… Fore, indeed.

As it turns out, though, a hail stone prediction comes with a twist. When the weatherman estimated golf balls, he meant the size of the hail while still in the clouds. He quickly pointed out that by the time the hail tumbled to the ground, it would have shrunken to mere quarter-sized chunks.

Somehow, that didn’t ease our minds. Especially since a late-forming radar blob began morphing over Lakeway and appeared to be heading straight for us. When the meteorologist mentioned Lago Vista as the storm’s potential endpoint, we were convinced the farm was doomed.

I snapped one more photo. And while the resulting color would be lovely on a car, or perhaps a blouse, I wasn’t too enthusiastic about it atmospherically. Farmer John and I prefer our sky a lighter hue.

At the last moment, the storm stalled and started to dissipate. We were treated with one heck of a lightning show as we sat eating our late dinner, yet not one plunk of hail hit our metal roof, or the farm. The tomatoes out in the field continue to ripen, undamaged, and for that, we’re more grateful than words might express.

We can only hope that in the future, if the angels insist on golf (as much as we wish they’d hang out in their celestial bowling alleys instead) they aim away from the farm, and drive those balls straight to the hole.

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Here’s what we’ll be bringing to the farm stand Wednesday (**See a note below, about parking):

LOADS of Early Girl tomatoes (if you’re running late on Wed., don’t worry – we’ll have PLENTY to last throughout the market); oodles of new potatoes — Red Lasoda and Yukon Gold; fresh elephant garlic; bunches of basil; bunches of purple beets and a few golden beets; bulk 1015 onions and Red Burgundy onions; some summer squashes (the next crop is looking good and should be producing hopefully by next week!); fennel; and whatever else we might find ready for harvest.

**We overflowed the parking lot last Wednesday! If you find that there are no more parking spaces available when you show up this week, you can park along the street on Bell Avenue (when you exit the Asian Center, turn left on Jollyville, then make a left at the next street, which is Bell – there’s a nice sidewalk that leads from Bell Avenue directly to the Asian Center). And remember: if it’s tomatoes you’re after, we’ll have lots and lots of them so there’s no need to get there right at 10 a.m.!

Jo Dwyer
Angel Valley Organic Farm