I blame Michael Pollan. Yes, that Michael Pollan, the one who wrote The Omnivore’s Dilemma among other best-selling books, along with several major articles about America’s food supply and the many problems associated with modern agribusiness practices. The small farmer’s hero, our hero, Michael Pollan.

Were it not for Michael Pollan’s recent appearance at Bass Concert Hall, John and I wouldn’t have been in Austin on a Friday night. Yet as it happened, the folks at Edible Austin magazine, who sponsored the event, had invited us to be part of the showcase prior to Mr. Pollan’s speech (which was excellent, by the way). And not being ones to look a gift invitation in the mouth, we enthusiastically agreed to do it.

Thing is, we never go out on Friday nights when our farm stands are open. Saturday mornings are hectic enough without the added stress of staying up too late the night before – especially after the stress of getting everything harvested and packed away, jumping into showers and shoving some sort of an excuse for “dinner” down our throats (hastily grilled cheese sandwiches in this case) before loading the car with a vegetable display basket, business cards and hand-outs, and still making it to Bass Concert Hall before the 6 p.m. deadline.

After all that, followed by a busy Saturday morning at the farm stand, John and I decided we were too pooped to rush around again and drive into Austin to attend some old friends’ open house in the afternoon. Because of that decision, we no longer needed Mary to come close up the henhouse for us Saturday evening.

As soon as we got home from the stand, John gave her a call to let her know she was off the hook. Mary paused for a second, then confessed.

“Well…um…uh,” she stammered, “…I have to tell you. We have some chickens for you, and I was going to bring them over tonight.”

Six pullets, to be exact. Seems I said something to Mary not long ago about how happy we’d be if somebody would just show up with some young hens and put them on our henhouse perches. I don’t remember saying it…but I’ve no doubt that I did. Farmer John and I have been lamenting over our lack of fresh eggs from our five older girls, and have indeed been wanting some new hens.

So Mary, Dana, Vicky and Charles bought us these pullets for Christmas. And the plan was for Mary to bring them over while we were away from the farm and sneak them onto the perch that Saturday night. We were supposed to find them on Sunday morning, as a surprise.

Isn’t that absolutely the greatest gift?

And even more great, is that they bought two Black Sex Links (in memory of Miss Black, whose life was entirely too short), one being the oldest pullet in the group at ten months,

and the other the youngest of the Young’uns, as we’re calling them, at only five months.

The four remaining Young’uns are really interesting in that they’re rare breeds for this part of the world. When I saw these two girls, I yelled out “Barred Rocks like Daisy!”

But oh my no. These little ladies are Silver Cuckoo Marans, whose chocolate brown eggs are known to be standouts.

The last (but not least) two pullets are either Buff Catalanas or Buff Chanteclers.

We won’t know for certain until we find the first egg from one of these girls. The Canadian Chantecler lays brown eggs; the Spanish Catalana’s eggs range from light beige to pink.

And yes, it’s true that now, with eleven birds instead of five, Farmer John and I have still gathered nary an egg from the henhouse. We will, though. We will. I don’t blame the Young’uns for holding out on us so far. It’s almost officially winter, and we’re approaching the shortest day of the year. The lack of sunlight – in addition to the shock of new surroundings, and older hens pecking at their combs at every opportunity – has left these young hens with little desire to lay eggs.

It’s not the Young’uns’ fault. It’s not Michael Pollan’s fault either. It is his fault, however, that Mary’s surprise pullet delivery scheme was foiled…but we forgive him. It’s the holiday season, after all. And while Farmer John and I don’t necessarily have sugar plums dancing in our heads, you can bet we’re dreaming of omelets.

* * *

And mama in her kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

Well, we won’t be settling in for a long winter’s nap, but these lines were recited to me last week and I couldn’t resist repeating them, since Wednesday is indeed our last farm stand for the season. We’ll return the first week in March, so please keep a lookout for my blog!

In the meantime, here’s what we’ll have this Wednesday for our last market of 2010:

Beautiful lettuces – Butterhead, Romaine, Red Leaf and Green Leaf; bunches of golden beets and purple beets; bulk sweet white turnips; spinach; bunches of pink radishes; cilantro; Dinosaur kale and Curly kale; bags of young chard; bunches of Brussels greens; crinkly Savoy cabbage; green onions; bags of arugula…and since it’s the last farm stand of the season, a list of “somes”: some purple cabbage and maybe green storage cabbage; some baby Asian mustard greens; some lettuce mix; some white and purple kohlrabi; some Romanesco cauliflower (which might end up to be more than “some,” but I don’t know for sure yet!); and some of this and that.

**Thank you all so much for your support throughout the year. We wouldn’t be able to continue doing this without you.

Have a truly lovely holiday!
Jo Dwyer
Angel Valley Organic Farm
Farm stands:
Saturdays 9:00-1:00 in Jonestown on FM 1431 at the blinking yellow light; and
Wednesdays 10:00-2:00 in NW Austin at the Asian American Center, 11713 Jollyville Road (1-1/2 blocks north of the intersection of Jollyville and Duval)

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